Types of Wood

by Kevin H. on June 19, 2012 · 6 comments

Wood for Smoking Explaination

I probably should have posted this a few months ago, eh?  Sorry.

So, first, there are 3 basic sizes to the wood you can purchase:   chips, chunks & logs.  You can find chips and chunks at most grocery stores.  Logs you will need to go to a specialty store like St. Louis BBQ Store, or purchase online.  OR…go buy a chainsaw and axe and find some trees to cut down and chop.

Many times in my recipes I will reference throwing on a handful of wood.  I’m referring to chips.  They are good for just adding a tinge of smoke while grilling.  They burn out quickly – maybe 10-15 minutes.

When you want a bit more substantial smoke flavor, try chunks.  These will burn a bit longer and are good for a short indirect cook.

Logs are what I use the majority of the time.  These work best for long cooks.  I use these exclusively when smoking larger items like chicken, brisket, etc.  They burn much slower and provide gobs of smoke.

So, what type of wood to use?  Well, you’re always safe with fruit woods.  They go with everything.  Apple, Cherry, Pecan…and there are several other options or mixes out there as well.

Hickory is outstanding and what most restaurants and a lot of competition teams use – but be careful.  Too much hickory can bitter out your meat and actually add too much smoke.  I use a little hickory at the beginning of longer cooks like brisket and pork butts.  I also use a small amount of hickory chips/chunks for short cooks where it can’t add too much.

There are others – oak, mesquite to name a couple – but I steer clear of them for the most part.  They’re just too potent and if you’re not careful will destroy your meat.

So, there you have it.  Wood 101.  If I missed something, shoot me a message or leave a question and I’ll be happy to answer it.

Happy Smoking!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Heath Platt July 30, 2014 at 5:39 pm

What’s your thoughts on Maple wood?

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Kevin August 3, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Heath – SO funny you would ask. I’m about to try maple wood for the very first time this week! I have no personal experience using it, but I’ve talked to many other competitors that use it and love it. I would think mixing this with another type of fruit wood like cherry or apple would be a delicious combination. I’m trying it on brisket and pork this week!

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David Schuh June 21, 2014 at 11:34 am

What do you think of apricot.

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Kevin June 26, 2014 at 8:11 am

I’ve never personally tried it but I’m sure it’s great. A lot of teams down south use peach wood – I would assume apricot would be close to that. I’d love to try it. Try it out and let me know!

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Jonathan March 21, 2014 at 12:34 pm

What is your opinion on soaking? I see a lot of opinions on soaking chips/chunks/logs vs burning dry and am curious on what the different outcome of both methods would be?

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Kevin March 21, 2014 at 2:50 pm

I never soak wood anymore. The main reason you do this is to create a thicker smoldering smoke, and it makes small chips last longer. But as long as you’re being attentive, you can just add in more dry wood if necessary. I’d rather have a lighter smoke than a thick smoldering one, which has a better chance of bittering out your meat.

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