Rib Stack
Adding smoke or grill flavor to meats provides authenticity and complexity to menu items. 

Executive Chef Bryant Anderson of Rack House Kitchen & Tavern, Arlington Heights, Illinois, is known for his traditional meat-smoking techniques and adoration of barbecue flavors. He prides himself on the long hours that go into producing the perfect flavors and tenderized meats that create stand-out dishes, including two types of ribs that “fall off the bone.”

“We dry rub our baby back pork ribs and then hickory smoke them for three hours,” he says. “The beef short ribs smoke for two hours.”

Most smoking takes place using an indoor commercial smoker. That’s how he makes his famous 14-hour hickory-smoked beef brisket that is perfectly caramelized on the surface. The same is true of the corned beef used in the Reuben sandwich.

“The Reuben is one of our top-selling sandwiches. After brining and curing the corned beef, we hickory smoke it for eight hours,” Anderson says. “Most corned beef simply gets boiled.”

Another specialty at the restaurant is the wings, which are smoked for two hours over hickory and oak woods.

“Hickory is a deep, bold smoke that penetrates the meat,” he says. “The oak provides additional flavor nuances that bring the smoky flavor all together.”

The wings get finished with house-made sauces, many of which are made with homemade smoked stock.

“We make beef stock from the smoked beef brisket trimmings,” Anderson says. “And the bone from our oak-smoked pulled pork is used to make smoky brine.”

“We also have a mobile smoker named Bubba that we take to outdoor events,” he adds.

But not every chef has a “Bubba” and in commercial food manufacturing, time and space often prevent 14-hour smokes. That’s when added seasonings and flavors enter the food preparation equation.

“Achieving authentic and consistent smoke flavor [in commercial food manufacturing] presents many challenges, such as the need for a heat source, exhaust capabilities, time, worker safety, etc.,” says Jodi Schwalbe, global marketing manager-smoke and grill for Red Arrow Products.

Brad Weber, smoke and grill technical sales and applications at Manitowoc, Wisconsin-based Red Arrow says, “By incorporating a complex smoke or grill flavor to a seasoning or marinade, you bring a more authentic, consistent eating experience to the consumer.”

The Code of Federal Regulations specifies that when natural smoke flavor is added directly to food, it must be declared as either “natural smoke flavoring” or “smoke flavoring.” Artificial smoke flavoring must be labeled as such. Neither can be grouped with other flavors and declared as simply natural or artificial flavors.