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.