When we think about barbecue, it’s easy for our imaginations to skip straight to the eating part, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Wood smoked meat is delicious, that’s undeniable - but at Elsmere the real magic happens before it ends up on a plate. Unlike magicians, we have nothing to hide. Our wood cooking techniques aren’t smoke and mirrors, although smoke does play an important role in the process of transforming high quality meat into an unforgettable, wood smoked BBQ meal. Whether you’re a pyromaniac like us, or simply curious about how our BBQ cooker makes meat more magical, we promise to spark your interest and your appetite.
Meet Your Maker
Behind the scenes, and physically behind our restaurant, our BBQ cooker “Mama” does most of the work, while we tend to her fire. Mama isn’t the the sweet, soft-spoken type - she’s a hot tempered, heavy metal vixen with a belly full of flaming embers. Mama is a bit old fashioned, so while other cookers burn gas, she burns only wood. Gas, besides being known to produce less than favorable grilling results, can result in unpleasant flavors which could never come close to rivaling the smoky goodness of natural hardwood.
Oh, Yes We Wood
Since we’re on the topic of wood, cookers like Mama prefer green “under seasoned” mixed with dry “seasoned” hardwoods, and we’ve tried them all as we worked to perfect our wood grilling method. Softer woods tend to hold more sap and resin, so they aren’t ideal. Green wood produces less acrid smoke, imparts moisture into the cooking chamber and burns slower and cooler. We can’t burn exclusively green wood in Mama as it wouldn't stay lit and isn’t as consistent so we use about a 40/60 mixture of green to seasoned wood. Each type of wood produces very subtle different nuanced flavors, unless you are talking about mesquite which is great for grilling but can quickly over smoke your meats. We use indigenous hardwoods like birch, beech, maple, apple, cherry, pear and oak in Mama so our meat has that special New England flavor.
Up in Smoke
Even with the great wood and a cooker as beautiful as Mama, our quality would go up in smoke without careful attention to detail. Our wood cooking technique is all about patience and process. Like all good things in life, you just can’t rush it. The key is keeping Mama’s temperature low consistent and even by monitoring and controlling everything from the amount of air and ventilation, the way the wood is stacked in the fire box to the color of the smoke. More air yields a hotter fire that burns out faster, and finding the perfect amount to let in can be a process of trial and error. Looking at the smoke helps us understand what’s happening, with white smoke indicating that the wood is burning unevenly, and too much smoke often suggesting too much moisture. Our goal is to achieve a thin, bluish smoke which indicates a slow, clean burn.
Burn Baby Burn
By burning the wood down to embers and then maintaining this “coal bed” we are creating a base layer of constant heat and clean, flavorful smoke. Keeping Mama clean is imperative to maintaining our high standards of quality, since regular cleaning prevents the build up of something called “creosote” which is thick, black byproduct of partial combustion. Dreaded creosote has a tendency to ruin meat with a bitter, unpleasant flavor, and other build-up like grease, soot, and ashes can result in a black smoke that smells more like car exhaust than dinner. Making sure that the wood is stacked properly in the fire box with plenty of air space between each log is imperative to avoiding creosote. If we just stacked the logs on top of each other, they would would smolder and not burn, causing billowing clouds of the caustic creosote. By cleaning Mama regularly, and carefully loading the wood we are rewarded with consistently high quality results, and perfectly wood grilled meats that keep our customers coming back for more.
Whether you’re fascinated by fire, intrigued by the science behind your meal at Elsmere, or you’re simply hungry to taste the results of our precise wood cooking process, we know you’ll be wowed! Come visit us, order from our huge menu, and discover real barbecue - the way Mama makes it.