Types of Wood For Your Smoker

Smoking BBQ is a process of cooking meat using smoke. It is an old process, and in the olden days logs were burned until they turned into embers, and the smoke they emanated was what used to cook the meat, and give it flavor. But when using logs to smoke, temperature control is a very delicate art, so it was a method of cooking reserved only for the masters of the craft. Today, smokers come with a two part mechanism: the heating, which can be electric, gas or charcoal, and the smoking, which usually comes from hardwood.

Hardwood is the most commonly used type of wood in this process. Nut woods and fruit woods are included in this category, while softwoods, like fir, pine or redwood tend to be avoided, because they burn fast and leave an unpleasant flavor. Hardwood, on the other hand, or more specifically dried hardwood, has more minerals than softwood, and it burns slower, while giving the meat a much better flavoring.

Hardwood comes in many different forms. One of them is the log, which we’ve already covered, but in case you want to use logs, just remember that they have to be turned to ember before they are any good to you. Then you have chunks. Chunks can be anywhere from the size of an egg to the size of your fist. They burn slowly and two medium sized chunks can provide smoke for a whole lot of food. They are easy to find and they are one of the most popular form of wood used for smoking. Chips are like the cousin of the chunks, or better yet their sidekick if you’d prefer. They are also very easy to get a hold of, but they are good for short cooks, because they burn pretty fast. For longer cooks it is better to just go with chunks.

Pellets are also a main contender, especially since there are cookers using pellets both as a heat source and as a smoke source. Pellets are rods made of compressed sawdust, without any adhesive or glues (if they are food grade pellets, avoid any other). Cookers that use pellets are very versatile because you can control the temperature and the environment that the meat is cooked in by feeding the pellets as you deem appropriate. You can also find specific flavors straight from manufacturers. You can find Jack Daniel’s flavored pellets made from the charcoal and oak from the barrels that held the whiskey.

Pellet chunks are chunks of sawdust compressed until they are shaped like a brick. These also come in a variety of flavors and they are not a bad choice at all. On the same note, you have bisquettes, small puck-shaped chunks of compressed sawdust. And while we’re at it, sawdust itself can be used for smoking, but it is rarely done so, because it burns very fast. There are some smaller smokers out there however that do use it.

Chips or Pellets – Which is Best?

When smoking you have a choice between a lot of different styles of materials to turn to smoke. Actually ‘materials’ might be the wrong word, because they are all hardwood. But it comes in many different forms. You have chunks, chips, pellets, sawdust, pucks and pellet chunks amongst others. Finding which one is best for you to use depends on the type of smoker you have.

Most people use chunks, because they burn slow and they don’t have to be fed constantly throughout the duration of a cook. But, this means that you need a big cooker and a lot of meat to smoke to make the most out of chunks. So for smaller cooks and cookers you have the choice between chips and pellets.

So which one should you use? It depends on what you are looking to do and what type of cooker you have. Most people go with chips, because they are cheap, easy to find and easy to use. You just grab a handful feed it into the machine every now and again and you let the delicious meat smoke. They can also come in various flavors, depending on the tree they come from, or they can even come with coats of flavoring.

Pellets on the other hand have specialized cookers made specifically with them in mind. Pellets are pencil shaped rods of compressed sawdust that can be used for smoking. You don’t need to necessarily have a cooker specifically designed for pellets to use them, but that is one place where you won’t find chips. The main advantage that pellets have is the large variety of flavors that they come in, being available online or in stores. You will find flavors of pretty much anything from cherry to Jack Daniel’s.

As for the question of which to use for your grill, there is no right answer. This depends on your grill most of all. You will have to find out what works best for you, and how each cook goes when using what. For example, a lot of people prefer to use a combination of chunks and chips. Others swear by pellets. In most cases it is simply a matter of taste, or more exactly a combination of smoker and personal preference.

So the best advice in this case is try them out for yourself. Use chips one time, pellets the next, and then compare. If you have an electric smoker, just throw them in the tray. If not, use some aluminum tin foil, wrap it around either the chips or pellets, prick some hole into it, and let it smoke. You can go even further and experiment with pellet chunks, bisquettes or pucks if you like, but as far as the top 3 contenders for best smoking materials go, it’s a fight between chips, chunks and pellets, because they are cheap, good and readily available. Other than that, have a nice cook and never quit smoking.