The optimal choices for smoking wood typically stem from deciduous trees, particularly nut trees like pecan, hickory, and oak, and fruit trees such as cherry and apple. Mesquite, widely used in Hawaii and the Southwest, imparts a potent smokiness ideally matched with red meat. On the other hand, avoid soft woods like pine, as they will lend a tar-like, bitter flavor to the food.
Smoking wood comes in a variety of forms, including logs for “stick-burner” offset barrel smokers, fist-sized wood chunks, and wood chips, the most commonly available smoking fuel at supermarkets and hardware stores. Pellet smokers rely on compressed hardwood sawdust pellets; electric smokers work with coarse sawdust or sawdust disks; and stovetop and handheld smokers utilize pure hardwood sawdust.
The debate continues over which wood pairs best with which food, although most hardwoods produce a fairly similar smoke flavor. Pit masters typically rely on local wood, a practice that explains why Texans use oak to smoke beef, Carolinians prefer hickory for pork shoulder, Midwesterners utilize apple, and Northwesterners smoke with alder and cherry.
Applewood Wood Chips – Perfect for Poultry
Smoking meat with applewood is a timeless method that provides a unique aroma and delicate, sweet taste that elevates poultry. If you’re looking to depart from bland chicken or fowl, use applewood to impart a slightly fruity flavor. Nevertheless, take caution not to smoke excessively as the sweetness may become overwhelming. Moreover, applewood is an excellent choice for pork to enhance its complexity.
Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Barrel Smoking Chips
Besides being a popular brand for other products, Jack Daniels also offers smoking chips that can transform your brisket into a delectable dish for smoking enthusiasts. These chips possess a unique flavor profile, blending oak and Jack Daniels whiskey, and are directly derived from the company’s Old No. 7 barrels. Despite being slightly pricey compared to other smoking chips, where else can you find wood chips made from Jack Daniels’ whiskey barrels for your brisket? These chips also tend to burn quickly, making a few chips enough to elevate the taste of your dish.
Orion Cooker Wood Chips
We have found the perfect wood chip size for optimal combustion and flavor in your Orion Cooker. Through extensive testing, we have created a custom blend of bark-free, 100% hardwood chips, tailored to match a variety of meats, fruits, and vegetables. Our chips are forest-grown and manufactured specifically for use in the Orion Cooker, ensuring the best possible results for your cooking needs.
Cherrywood Wood Chips – A Delicious Experiment
Once you have gained more experience in smoking, you can venture into the world of experimental woods like cherry. With its gentle and delectable flavor profile, it serves as an ideal complement to meats like chicken, turkey, and ham, offering a touch of sweetness that enhances their savory taste.
Cherry also pairs well with other wood chips for smoking, such as oak, to create interesting and complex flavor combinations. If you’re a fan of bold, multi-layered flavors, using cherry wood chips for smoking is essential.
Zorestar 6 Piece Wood Chips Variety Pack
This assortment offers a more balanced flavor profile, featuring some of the same options as our top choice. Instead of the robust and savory taste of hickory, the pack offers apple wood, which delivers a “borderline” flavor, ideal for cooking fish and other delicate dishes. With ample amounts of cherry and apple chips and smaller amounts of alder and oak, each bag is filled with easy-to-burn chips. The wood is sustainably sourced and comes packed in recyclable bags and boxes, making this an excellent option for those seeking a more eco-friendly wood harvest. If the overpowering flavor of hickory is not to your taste, this option with apple wood is a fantastic alternative.
A Comprehensive Guide to Charcoal and Wood Chips for Grilling
The choice of fuel source is a critical decision for any griller. While gas grills are convenient, charcoal grilling offers a unique smoky flavor that cannot be matched. However, choosing the right charcoal can be overwhelming. One must consider their desired outcome, the equipment they have available, and the type of charcoal they want to use.
There are two types of charcoal: lump and briquette. Lump charcoal is made of hardwood charred in a kiln, resulting in irregular chunks of charred wood. It burns clean and hot, making it ideal for quicker grilling. On the other hand, briquettes are a combination of wood scraps, sawdust, fillers and binders, and various chemical additives. They are consistent in shape and burn at a consistent temperature; however, they initially give off a bad tasting smoke due to the chemicals.
While both types have their place, we prefer using lump hardwood charcoal for its quick start, high temperature, and lack of added chemicals. For those willing to spend more, quebracho charcoal is made from denser wood and burns longer. Overall, the type of charcoal used is a personal preference based on one’s desired outcome and available equipment.
Can I use wood chips from pine or cedar trees for smoking?
A. Softwood trees such as pine and cedar are not recommended for smoking because they contain volatile oils that impart an unpleasant flavor when the wood reaches its smoke point. It is much better to use prepackaged hardwood chips or create larger chunks from hardwood logs.
How can I control the amount of smoke the wood chips generate?
A. A quality smoke box or handmade smoke pack should provide some control over the smoke level, but sometimes, a wood chip will ignite rather than smolder. Reduce the amount of available oxygen in the smoker or grill by closing off the vents until the smoke lessens.
Are there meats that shouldn’t be smoked with wood chips?
A. Smoking is considered a low and slow method for cooking “tough” meats such as pork shoulder, beef brisket, and ribs. Higher-end cuts that respond well to roasting or grilling should not be smoked, such as pork tenderloin and lean beef roast.
What is a smoker box?
A. While many home cooks fashion their own smoke packets using perforated aluminum foil, commercial metal smoker boxes are also available. These perforated boxes hold a certain number of wood chips in a specific area of the smoker or can be placed on top of hot coals in a backyard grill. They are generally inexpensive and help produce a steady supply of smoke through the vents.
How can I know which types of wood chips are compatible with various meats?
A. The matching of hardwoods and meats is more art than science, but master smokers have created a list of recommended pairings. In general, the flavor profile of the meat (sweet, savory, beefy, etc.) should be enhanced by the flavor profile of the wood chips. This information is often included with recipes or researchable online.