Best Wood Chips For Smoking:
Smoking has been used since ancient times to add flavor to smoked food. In ancient times smoking was also used to preserve the cooked food. But nowadays we use hardwood for smoking mainly to add flavor. Hardwood is low in resin and high on flavor and adds some, punch and flavor to the meat. Wood smoking is the third important parameter after heat and time. You can use either the wood chunks or wood chips but you must pick the right type of wood. Different woods produce a different type of flavor. Both Wood chunks and wood chips are readily available as prepackaged items. There are various wood chips which can be described as best wood chips for smoking different categories of food. Some flavor may suit smoking pork ribs, lamb and beef etc whereas other wood chips can be used for smoking fish, chicken, and meat. Fruity wood chips like Applewood or cherry wood can be mixed to create a custom flavor.
Wood chunks are the big-sized wood pieces almost closer to 2 inches and they produce smoke for a longer duration. In case of wood chunks, you need not add them very frequently or after every 30 minutes in most of the electric smokers.
Wood chips, on the other hand, are very small pieces of wood. Being small they burn easily and produce a surge of smoke. They can burn easily even if they are soaked in water. Chips must be soaked first, otherwise, they may burn and extinguish before adding flavor to the meat. You can do some experiment here and rather soaking chips in the water you can soak them in beer, wine or fruit juice to add custom flavor.
Which wood chips to use for smoking?
Choosing the best wood for smokers is the next important step. Every wood will give its own unique flavor. It is always better to choose wood based on the amount of smoke it will give and the cooking time required for cooking the food.
We can divide the wood into three categories:
Heavy woods: The wood chips like mesquite is the strongest wood. It produces a lot of smoke and adds a lot of flavors. But if mesquite is used for a longer duration, it tends to make the flavor very bitter. Therefore it is not recommended to use it for smoking for a longer duration. Heavy woods are used for brisket as they can withstand aggressive flavor
Medium woods: The woods like oak, maple, pecan, and hickory are medium class woods though hickory is stronger than others. These woods can be used for pork, beef or the other meats, which can withstand strong flavors.
Mild woods: Fruit-flavored woods like apple, peach, cherry, and pear are very mild woods and create mellow flavor. These woods must be used for long smoking time or else these may not produce the right flavor. These woods are good for delicate meats like fish or chicken.
Experiment a bit:
If you are new to barbecue or if you have not used a particular wood earlier, you must do some experiment. The Best part of barbecue is that you can perform a lot of experimentation to produce flavors to suit your choice. For a new wood, which has not been utilized by you earlier, do not take a risk by smoking for long hours. These may produce the bitter taste and destroy your barbecue, you can start with small quaintly of wood chips on the grill to see the smoking result. If the taste is good, next time you can go smoking the brisket for long hours.
Different wood flavors:
Applewood is mild smoke wood and a very popular flavor. It produces delicate smoke and adds a bit of sweetness. Applewood is Great for pork, fish, poultry and light meat. Being mild it takes long hours to add the flavor.
Similar to Applewood, Alder wood is also a mild wood. It originates from the northwestern USA. It is mixed with other woods to customize the flavor. Being mild it is used for poultry, pork, and fish. This is most favorable for smoking Salmon Fish.
Mesquite is one of the most popular and strongest wood in the south and is very good for grilling. Mesquite is known for its strong and hard flavor. Being strongest it is required to smoke for short duration. It is used for smoking beef, duck, pork ribs and lamb.
Hickory is used to adding strong bacon-like flavor. Being strong it may not be used for longer smoking. Hickory wood is used for sausages, beef, pork, ribs, and lamb.
Maple wood produces a sweet flavor just like fruitwoods and is used for smoking ham and chicken.
Oakwood is medium wood, stronger than fruit woods but not very overpowering. This is a great wood for smoking and producing distinctive flavor in fish, beef, lamb or vegetables.
Cherry wood like other fruitwood adds a sweet and mild flavor that can be mixed with other woods creating a custom flavor. Cherry wood can be used for smoking anything, from vegetables to seafood, beef, chicken or fish.
Pecan produces a sweet, tangy and delicate flavor like Hickory wood but much subtle. It is used for smoking pork, beef or chicken.
Oakwood barrels soaked in brandy are used to make Brandy wood chips. Brandy wood produces an intensely rich flavor for smoking on charcoal or gas grill.
Other than these flavors you can use:
- Apricot wood
- Walnut wood
- Citrus wood
- Grape wood
and many more.
But you must avoid cedar, cypress, elm, eucalyptus, pine, fir, redwood, spruce, Poison Oak, sycamore or any other painted, stained and chemically treated wood though cedar planks are used for smoking salmon
You may check for the best electric smokers here. and if you are new to wood smoking, you may please go through how to use an electric smoker?.