With the grilling season right around the corner, it is time to learn a few tricks to master your backyard, such as learning how to grill with wood chips. Grilling is a fine art; anyone who has spent enough time to understand how the perfect temperature can transform a piece of meat into a succulent dinner can tell you that. Their trick is to use wood chips, too! Wood chips add another layer of smokiness that generally could only be achieved by letting your meat sit in a smoker for hours on end. Now, you can have all that smoky goodness infused into your next grill out with minimal hassle, so you can look like a pro even if you’re just starting out.
The Art Of Grilling
Grilling is an art form when every piece is at its pinnacle; you will have ribs falling off the bone, burgers that are juicy and flavorful, or perfectly grilled T-bones. Having the most select pieces of meat is not always feasible. In this economy, it is okay to cut corners. The way food is prepared can take it above and beyond the expected results, as long as you do it correctly. One way to transform rather bland meat, if you were only able to get a cheap cut for a steak, is smoking it.
Smoking: Grilling with Wood Chips
Smoking typically happens in a vessel where wood chips are burned, creating thick, enveloping smoke, which the meat absorbs and takes on the flavors of the wood. With that being said, using wood chips specially designed for the purpose of human consumption is important! Not all wood products are acceptable, meaning your strange uncle should not convince you that a fence post is good smoking wood. It’s not! Instead, there are several options for you to choose from depending on the flavor you are looking for.
Types Of Wood Chips
Alder– This wood is very hard to get your hands on! However, many say it is very delicate which makes it ideal for fish, pork, poultry, and small game birds.
Almond– One of the best all-around smoking woods. Great for just about all meats as it gives off a sweet smoke.
Apple– Fruity and sweet wood that pairs well with pork and most poultry. It gives a mild, sweet flavor.
Cherry– Another very popular wood chip that most BBQ masters choose first. The smoke is mild and fruity. Cherry is good for smoking all but fish; it tends to make it bitter on delicate fish. Wood from chokecherry trees may produce a bitter flavor.
Hickory– When you are looking for a thick, flavorful wood, hickory is the only way to go. Most often, it imparts a bacon flavor to the meat, making it perfect for most pork products and beef.
Mesquite– Strong earthy flavor that gives off a very thick smoke and burns quite hot. It can be difficult to master due to the high heat required. You can use mesquite for all of your smoking needs and not be disappointed.
Oak– When you want a very thick smoky flavor, all varieties of oak will do well. Be sure to check which varieties are available in your area.
Pecan– Sweet and mild, which is similar to hickory. Gives poultry, beef, and pork excellent flavor.
While some of these woods are rather exotic and very costly to get a hold of, it is nice to know your wood chip options should you ever stumble across them. If you are just starting out, hickory, mesquite, cherry, and apple are your best bets.
On To Smoking
There is some debate on the methods of smoking using charcoal or gas grills. If you are using a charcoal grill, remember the taste of the charcoal will give the grilled item its own flavor, so keep that in mind when choosing wood. Not to mention it takes time to cook food over charcoal, as you cannot crank the heat as you would in a gas grill. Instead, you get a more even cook through “radiant heat,” which is a fancy word for cooking it indirectly to avoid a chewy touch piece. With gas grills, you get the advantage of having a clean slate since the gas does not produce its own smoke, so the flavor is entirely yours. However, you also have very high heat options, which is great for short cooks and smoking sessions, but other than searing the meat, low and slow is the way to go!
For the most part, you want to keep it clean since wood chips require special attention, but putting them in a container of some sort solves the problem easily. With either of these methods, most experts recommend soaking the chips for at least a half hour before lighting, as this allows more flavorful results. Depending on who you ask, they will tell you to either use the chips wet or dry.
One of the easiest ways to create a quick smoke for your backyard barbecue is to make an aluminum pouch and cut slits in the top for the smoke to escape. Once you have the chips sealed up nice, you can place it on the back of your grill, or on the grates since sliding it under the burner can be a hassle. One important note is that these pouches with a good handful or two of wood chips will last for about 15-30 minutes. After which, the “optimal” smoke range has passed and may need to be replaced. For the most part, you do not need to worry about that. In my family, we have used a single well stocked pouch for about an hour before black smoke began being released. Obviously, for longer grilling sessions, you can make multiple smoking pouches and just trade them out when most of the white smoke is gone.
Amazon Project– GrillPro 00150 Cast Iron Smoker Box
Some may call it cheating; others call it convenient. When you need to replace wood chips or clean out the ashes, this heavy little box keeps everything in place. Not to mention it is very durable and cost effective. The holes in the top are designed to smother the flames just enough to give you a beautiful smoke for your grill. Simply set it on the grates or in the coals, and you will have delicious smoky meats in minutes. You can pick this up on Amazon for around $16 or at your local hardware store.
Overall, when you are trying a new skill, remember that practice makes perfect. The more you try your hand at smoking on a gas or charcoal grill, the better the results will be. We would love you for you share your stories and pictures of course or your grill set up.