Wood For Smoking Tips for Choosing the Best
We do not just burn wood. We also use wood for smoking our food. Yes, you read it right.
People use wood for smoking food that anyone who loves grilling and smoking meat will surely love. You may be one of those who have a little knowledge about cooking wood and its affects on meat. It may also be that your generation are now using stoves that are easier to heat and cook food with. Most people burn wood just to warm their living rooms during the cold season. But what we don’t know is that wood can also add spices to our food as well. The smokiness coming from the wood can enrich the flavor of the meat. However, not all the types of wood can produce the same levels of smoke that can complement with other kinds of meat.
So why is it necessary to choose the best wood for smoking food? First, let me give you brief details about wood:
Hardwood is the best choice of wood for smoking food. You must have known that some hardwoods have pleasant aromas and produce a lesser smoke when it burns. However, in terms of choosing the best hardwood for cooking, this is not simple. All kinds of hardwood contain different substances which we call Syringol and Guaiacol. Syringol is responsible for the aromatic scent released by the wood while Guaiacol creates the smokey taste when the wood burns. These two substances primarily provide that sweet-swelling taste to specific foods
Advantages of Choosing the Best Wood for Smoking Food
There are two good reasons for choosing the best wood for smoking food: First, cooking wood can help improve the taste of the meat. If you choose the right wood to smoke a particular meat, you can produce an authentic flavor on your food which you can’t find on other foods that were cooked on gas or electric stoves. All smokey woods can produce that distinct smell and taste on food. That’s why you have to consider wisely the right wood that would suit your taste. If you pick a wood that cannot complement well with the meat like brisket, this delicious part of beef can taste sour.Second, choosing the best wood will give you the right amount of smoke to get it absorbed by the meat when you smoke it. One common issue with cooking wood types is that they can have different smokiness when burned. So if you want to have tasty food from smoking meat, you should always check the smokiness of the wood before burning it.
Popular wood used for smoking food:
The Red Oak has a strong flavor but its smoke doesn’t overshadow the taste of the meat. This is also the best choice of wood in smoking meat like lamb meat, beef, pork, fish and brisket.
Hickory has that sweet, bacon-like smell of flavor on its smoke. This flavor gets better when you mix it with wood that produces mild wood flavors. However, avoid smoking your meat too long with hickory because the smoke can overpower the taste of the meat. Hickory wood is the best choice of wood to smoke pork and ribs.
This wood burns easily and can give an earthly taste on meat. Like Hickory, it can also give a powerful flavor on meat when it’s left for too long. Yet, this wood is excellent for smoking steak, lamb meat, and chicken.
Choosing Wood For Flavorful Smoke
The ideal wood for smoking should always enhance the flavor of the meat but should not overwhelm its taste. So you have to know which wood can be best for smoking for a particular meat. Here are some tips on how to choose the type of wood that exude certain smoke flavor to complement the meat
Mild Flavor Woods
These woods develop slight smokiness and can offer that sweet and fruity taste. Examples of mild wood flavors include apple, alder, and grapevine. They are a good option when matched with softer meats such as poultry meat and fish. The mild smoke from these woods can quickly infuse their flavor in these meat.
Medium Flavor Woods
These kinds of woods have powerful distinctive taste that infuses well with the medium-sized beef. Its smoke is heavier than the smoke from the mild wood flavor woods but does not overpower the flavor of the meat. The popular choices of cooking wood are the Sugar Maples and Pecans. Their smoke is exceptional in bringing great taste when grilling meat and create that subtle sweetness on the meat without losing the actual taste of the meat. The smoke from the medium flavor woods can taste well with beef, pork, and other poultry meat.
Strong Flavor Woods
When we talk about the type of wood with the strongest smokey aroma, we know it could be the Mesquite which is best for flavoring the meat. Mesquite wood can produce that intense, earthy smoke and burns faster compared to the other wood with flavorful smoke. It also adds redness to the meat color after smoking. This wood can be used for steak, beef, and pork. However, it can overwhelm the flavor of milder foods such as poultry meat and fish.
Cooking Wood With Modern Smokers for Indoor and Outdoor Use
There are no specific types of cooking wood for indoor and outdoor use. You can use any type of hardwood as long as the wood creates clean smoke and does not suffocate us. However, the choice for wood for cooking has changed over the years. In the old days, we only smoke food outside the house, but now we can smoke food indoors using indoor meat smokers. Meat smokers are the modern alternatives to the old school grillers but they have covers to prevent smoke from spreading inside the house and they can be used both for grilling and smoking meat.
The advantage of using an indoor meat smoker is that it can be used regardless of the weather. Unlike smoking meat outside which is not possible during snow or rain, the meat smokers are more versatile. They also take a little space and only require a small amount of wood to smoke the meat. We can also control the level of their smoke, temperature, and moisture of the meat to get that mouth-watering taste from your food.
If you plan to buy a meat smoker for indoor and outdoor use, there are two types to choose from. One that uses electricity but also needs wood chips for smoke flavor and another is more like a stove type where wood chips are also used for flavor. So you must also consider buying wood chips for smoking food to get that sweet taste from wood smoke. The nice thing about the wood chips is that they can be purchased from many stores or ordered online. Compared to the wood chunks, wood chips smoking is much cheaper because chips come in large supply.
The Two Popular Sizes of Wood for Smoking
In terms of choosing the wood for smoking, you should also consider the wood size and the duration in cooking your meat in a smoker. If you can estimate the number of hours the meat will be cooked, then you can determine the wood size that can complement on how long you should cook your meat. There are different kinds of wood sizes, but people generally choose wood chunks and wood chips because these are widely used for smoking.
Wood chunks are like a fist-size pieces of wood that can burn in a smoker for several hours. These pieces of woods are ideal for cooking on wider grillers and so they are the better choice than the wood chips. Wood chunks may also be used as fuel or for heating sources. They are mainly used for long, slow cooking of meat such as ribs, pork butts, and brisket. You can reuse them also if they have some wood remains after cooking. Wood chunks can be burned either in direct or indirect heat.
Wood chips are small forms of wood that can be used both for indoor and outdoor smoking. They are readily available in many different stores that sell stoves. Wood chips ignite quickly, they tend to burn faster than wood chunks. They can be used for food that are quick to cook and smoke such as pork barbecue, burger, fish, and chicken. However, you have to regularly refresh them when cooking because they burn quickly. Unlike wood chunks, wood chips must always be placed in indirect heat, and far from the burning coal, to make the wood chips smoke slowly.
Tips on Using Wood Chips for Smoking
Wood chips can be bought at a fair price and learning to use wood chips for smoking is easy. If you’re going to do wood chip smoking, you’ll need a small container to place your wood chips under the smoker. If you don’t have a steel container, you can use aluminum foil and poke holes on the top to allow the smoke to spread inside the smoker.
When you have your chips container with wood chips, light the charcoal. Preheat the smoker then place your container under the smoker. Make sure the chips container is a bit far from the charcoal so the wood chips won’t burn faster. When the wood chips start producing smoke, you can now start grilling the meat. Take note that the wood chips burn quickly so you have to refill the container every 30 minutes to get the flavor you prefer.
If you’re looking for a wood chips flavor, I’d go for the hickory mixed with apple wood or cherry wood. Hickory gives a nutty flavor to the meat, while the fruit woods regulate the pungent taste of hickory and add sweetness to the meat. The mixture of these two wood flavors can provide excellent taste both for red meat and steak.
Should We Use Wet Wood for Smoking?
If you’re a meat smoker, you may have read about the arguments among meat smokers using wet wood for smoking. And it goes like this to keep the wood from smoking a lot, you need to soak the wood first on water. But some meat smokers are against this. So we did our own research and we’ve found out that the smoke that comes from the wet wood is only the steam which means the water itself. The steam, however, will not add flavor into the food.
We also know that if you burn wet wood, it’s likely that you only delay the complete burning of the wood as the water will evaporate first. Soaking wood chips, despite these are easy to burn, will show no difference from using dry chips. Thus, there’s no magic in soaking the wood at all.
If you want to get the smokey flavor from your wood, you can tell by the color of the smoke. There are different types of smoke you need to differentiate. White smoke is actually steam, which does not add flavor to the meat. Black and gray smokes give a bitter taste and are unhealthy. Lastly, what we want to achieve is that pale blue smoke. This smoke adds flavor to our meat. To achieve the blue smoke, you should use the dry wood, not the wet wood.
Wood to Avoid for Cooking and Why
Now that you know the best wood for smoking, let’s focus on what type of wood we need to avoid. There are several kinds of wood that work effectively but are not recommended for smoking food. Softwood
This type of wood is part of the family of conifers such as cedar, fir, and pine trees. They are known for their uncoated seeds which are composed of needles. These woods are not recommended for smoking food, particularly indoor smoking, because they create creosotes when we burn the wood. The wood gives an unpleasant taste to the meat and makes people sick.
This wood can be newly harvested and still has a high-water content. It has to be seasoned before it can be used to fire the log. It will take many months to a year to season the wood until it dries out. However, if you mistakenly burn green wood, the fire will burn less and release creosotes that are toxic. Like softwood, greenwood also gives the meat a poor taste and can make people get sick.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Wood for Cooking
Smoking meat can be fun when you know how to properly use the wood for smoking. You can explore different kinds of wood flavors and mix them together to create an excellent taste with your meat. The smoke coming from the wood will provide a distinct flavor that will be infused into the meat. If you want to grill indoors, use wood chips for smoking and not large size wood.
Using wood for smoking takes longer than using a stove or an electric griller for cooking meat and this can be a bit frustrating to some people who want to grill their meat. But the taste from wood cannot be matched by any modern appliance when producing that natural smokey flavor which you want with your meat. That’s why some of the modern grillers today are capable of using wood chips to still get that flavorful taste and aroma with the food.
Another downside of cooking wood is that it can be hard to manage its smoke when cooking indoors. Unlike with the cooking devices that you can control the level of smoke, in wood smoking you have to watch out how your wood burns or your meat may get that bad smoke flavor or get burned badly.
Wood for smoking is an essential way to cook your meat. It can give you that unmatched flavor that no cooking accessories can match. Wood does not produce harmful chemicals unlike with gas. Yes, cooking or smoking using wood takes longer but once your food gets cooked, it can be heaven. With regards to wood chunks and wood chips, both have their respective uses. Wood chips produce light smoke and burn easily while wood chunks burn longer. Also, wood chunks are preferred for beefy meats than wood chips.
For our next topic,
We will learn more about the best wood for brisket. Why brisket? Because briskets are one of the most delicious parts of beef so it deserves to have the best wood for cooking or grilling it.