Fire Starter

Smoke your meat like a Southern pro

We know smoking is bad–except when it comes to food.

As prime outdoor cooking season approaches, we're looking to Sweet Smoke grilling sticks to elevate our game. Sold by CloverFields Farm & Kitchen in Hardin Springs, Kentucky, each bag contains about 20 two-by-six-inch pieces of fragrant, responsibly harvested fruitwoods and hardwoods, including persimmon, sugar maple and wild cherry ($25).

But this isn't your basic kindling: Each piece of wood has been soaked in the farm's sweet sorghum syrup. The complex natural sweetener, which has recently undergone a Renaissance in popularity, imbues the wood with a sweet, vegetal scent.

We used the kindling to smoke everything from butter to a rack of ribs; the former, which we cold-smoked and then whipped with chopped ramps into a compound butter, had a floral, vegetal smokiness at its core. The ribs carried a more pronounced sweetness; rubbed with coarse salt and pepper, they had a hint of the candied flavor of sauce without the mess.

We think this wood is a pretty sweet deal.