Knowing how to pick the right wood for smoking different meats is an essential skill every Pitmaster should possess. Here are some tips from one of the greatest out there…
Smoking With Wood – How to Choose the Right Wood for Smoking Meat
Probably the most frequent question we get on our Facebook page is… “How do I pick the right type of wood for smoking [x type of meat]?” Well, look no further. These tips from award-winning pitmaster Malcom Reed might be the answer you were looking for!
One thing you will have to look out for when sourcing wood, is dryness. What you want is for any moisture to be seasoned out of the wood, whether it is through aging or through a heating process. Wet wood will not burn clean, and the thick, white smoke produced might ruin the meat. Dry wood will ignite and burn producing clean smoke, the type of smoke that adds flavor to your meal.
When you’re cooking with charcoal or lump briquettes, you will need wood chunks for smoke. Chunks are pieces of wood 2-3 inches in size, center cut or even with a little bark on them (experiment with the difference between the two, as it produces different flavor!)
If you are using wood as your main fuel/heat source, you’ll obviously want bigger pieces. For this, splits -10 or 11 inch pieces of wood- are great for the job. Hard, dry wood will burn longer than soft wood.
The 3 most common wood species used in BBQ are hickory, pecan and cherry. harder woods, like pecan or hickory work great with larger cuts, like brisket or whole pork shoulders. Cherry on the other hand does wonders for anything that’s thinner and doesn’t need a ton of smoke – like pork ribs or chicken. A rule of thumb is, the more delicate the meat, the lighter the smoke you should use. This is where fruit woods, or species like sugar maple come in.
The great thing about using wood for smoke is that you can experiment all you want, as long as you’re using properly seasoned wood. Source your wood locally if you can, and once you become comfortable with the basics, try combining wood types and see how it affects your food.
Finally, always remember to have fun cooking!