Let’s take the backyard barbecue to the next level. Get ready to try grilling with wood chips! Charcoal infused grill food is outstanding – and when you add some wood chips to the mix, it just enhances the flavor of the entire menu. Like many things in life (and cooking), there’s more than one way to skin a cat. With that being said, take a look at a great method for grilling with wood.
Before we take a look at the method, let’s get straight on the kinds of wood that can be used. Generally speaking, the types of wood that are best for cooking (or at least the most common) are oak, hickory, mesquite, apple, and cherry. For the record, you can cook on cedar but not with it. Clear on that? Okay, good. Don’t worry, the grocery store sells what you need.
Those are the different types of wood that are commonly used, so my advice is to try all of ’em to get a feel for what you like best. I prefer mesquite, but I definitely cook with each type. The key here is to mix it up; not only will it enhance your cookouts, but each barbecue will take on its own distinct character. And you and your folks benefit from that.
What Size is Best?
Deciding which wood you want to grill with is the first of the three steps. The next choice to make is to decide what size pieces make sense for your cookout. The wood comes in three different sizes, but truthfully only two make sense for our purposes.
- Logs – This is the wood style we all know. Hefty sized chunks of wood like these (which is what you would use in the fireplace) really aren’t well suited for this brand of cooking. Logs are best used for smoking, not grilling. On a grill, it takes too long to heat up & can overpower your food with too much smoke. It’s not the size you need.
- Chunks – These are more like hand-sized bits of wood. In fact, wood chunks are useful as a natural flavoring & not a fuel source (like lump). Although they are indeed both wood, it’s important to know the distinction. For grilling, these wood chunks can burn for a good hour each (or more), so you don’t need more than a couple of them to do the job. I’d say start off with one to test out the flavor & adjust accordingly.
- Wood Chips – Here’s my recommendation, because wood chips are ideal for grilling. Since they are such small pieces, they burn faster. Therefore, their smoke level is much easier to control. I regularly use ’em. Just note that the chips perform best after being soaked. So about an hour before firing up your grill, soak your chips in a bucket (or bowl, or whatever) of water. And if you’re feeling adventurous, soak your chips in….another liquid. They work great!
Cooking With Wood
All that is left is to grill with your wood. To be sure, there are several ways of grilling with the wood itself. But for the sake of simplicity, go ahead and use your charcoal to heat the wood.
To begin, go ahead and fire up the grill the normal way. Give it time to heat up. Once the grill is ready, go ahead and add the wood. Remember when using wood, you will need to factor in that the wood’s going to need time to ignite also. Give yourself some extra time for this if you are cooking for guests.
You’ll definitely notice when the wood is ready to go from all of the extra smoke it puts out. Now that you’re ready, go ahead and grill as you normally would and enjoy the pleasant, smoky taste that it gives all of your food.
Make sure to try out different types of wood flavors and different sizes, so you can find the combination that works best for your parties. Enjoy that smoke folks! And as always,