Grilling With Smoked Wood

Achieve smoky flavor enlightenment.

All it takes is a little wood to turn your regular grilled meat into a delicious explosion of smoky flavor. But first, there are a few things you need to know.

There is a variety of wood to choose from, with each type imparting its own distinct flavor when properly smoked. There are also three cuts to choose from:

  • Wood chips – This tiny cut of wood ignites quickly and burns out even faster, leaving you with a short window of smoking opportunity. Wood chips are often used in metal wood-smoking boxes, which are then placed on top of the grates of a gas grill. Otherwise, you’re better off not using wood chips unless absolutely necessary.
  • Wood chunks – Most commonly used by backyard charcoal grillers, the wood is cut to the size of a small block that fits in the palm of your hand. Chunks take a little longer to ignite and flame out, but offer plenty of smoke. Just place a half-dozen or so chunks over hot coals. When the flames die down and the wood is smoking, you are good to grill.
  • Wood logs – Logs obviously take up a lot of space, and will burn forever. These should be used for pit-style or offset smokers.

Once you know the cut of wood that best suits your grilling setup, it’s time to decide the type of wood and flavor you want. Flavors can range from mild to strong depending on the type of wood you smoke:

  • Mild – Fruit woods, like Apple and Cherry, have a light smoke that imparts a mild, sweet flavor. These woods are best smoked with “light” meats like fish or poultry.
  • Medium – If you are going for a slightly stronger flavor, Maple, Oak or Hickory will do the job. Oak is commonly used as its subtle smokey flavor blends well with most meats, Maple is more on the sweet end, while Hickory imparts a strong bacon flavor. These medium woods are best smoked with pork or beef.
  • Strong – If you’re looking for a powerful earthy flavor, Mesquite is the way to go. Just know Mesquite is very potent and should be used in moderation. It is best smoked with red meat.

And now comes the fun part: Experimenting! It may take a few tries to perfect, but who couldn’t use a few more excuses to light up the grill? Enjoy!

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