How safe is burning pine to cook over, not the coals but the burning wood itself?
I've always been told not to cook over the burning wood because of toxins in the burning wood. I have also been told that the hot coals are ok.
Generally speaking, pine is not a good firewood choice to cook with. Pine is a softwood that's full of resin. The flammable resins inside the wood work great for starting a fire (as kindling), but as they burn they occasionally give off a black sooty smoke. This sooty smoke will make your food taste bad.
You should never use pine in a meat smoker. Sometimes people think using pine will give the meat a unique wintergreen flavoring but instead you'll just be left with meat that's sooty and tasting like the pitch from a pine tree.
We have about 5 acres of red pine on our property that was thinned out a few years ago. Now, after the logging and occasional severe storm we have a huge supply of pine branches for building campfires. I always walk over into the pines and grab an armful of pine branches to build a campfire with because they create a quick, hot fire.
We make dinner over the campfire about once a week, however, I let the pine burn down and add hardwood to the fire to cook with. I don't know of any scientific research that proves pine is toxic to cook with, but I have to believe the black smoke is not good to consume.
Once the pine burns down a little bit the sooty smoke goes away and the coals actually work pretty good for cooking. When cooking over a campfire the coals (no matter what type of wood you're using) work better for cooking than a big roaring fire.
Overall, I definitely would not use pine in a meat smoker and if you want to use it in a campfire just let the wood burn down a little bit and add a little hardwood before you start cooking. We've done it this way for a long time and I've never had any issues with soot, toxins or foul flavors.
I hope this helps!
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