We have been cooking outdoors with wood ever since that day so long ago. Around 1920, Mr. Henry Ford changed the way Americans cooked outdoors.
He founded Kingsford Charcoal. He discovered a process of taking charcoal and binding it with lime and borax to form briquettes. Back then, many automobiles had wood bodies. Mr. Ford would use the wood scraps from his auto production and make charcoal. This new invention was so convenient that many quit cooking over a wood fire. One of the drawbacks was a noticeable loss of flavor. The meat just didn't taste quite the same.
Introducing wood chunks and chips! By placing small amounts of wood on the coals, the wood would smolder and recreate that cooking over a fire taste. Today, there are three sizes of wood that are used for cooking outdoors and I'll briefly cover all three.
That covers the sizes that are available but what about the different types? I'm glad you asked, because we are going to delve into that next. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of species of different trees. We are only going to concern ourselves with a few of the more popular ones that are actually good for smoking our meats. There are two general type of trees that we are after, deciduous and fruit. Deciduous trees loose their leaves each year and include such trees as oak, hickory, pecan, mesquite, alder, maple, apple, cherry, etc. So that rules out pine trees thankfully. Can you imagine what a pine tree smoked chicken would taste like? Ugghh....
Most of these woods are sold as chips or chunks in bags up to 10 lbs at your local hardware store. There are also a growing number of merchants online that carry these and other sought after woods and they will ship them to you. I'm lucky, my Lowe's carries at least Hickory, Mesquite and Apple, which is plenty for me. Now you might be asking yourself, which wood is best to use? and the answer would be all of them! Each wood has different flavor characteristics and qualities. Let's take a look at the more popular woods and point out their uses:
There is no right or wrong wood. It is all a matter of personal preference. I suggest that you just try them out, experiment for yourself and find what you and your family like. I have had people tell me that they cannot eat smoked meat, then they turn around and demolish some ribs smoked in apple and pecan. More then likely, they had a past experience where mesquite was used or the wood was green. Even my buddy's girlfriend who used to never touch true BBQ loves his outdoor cooking now, because he experimented and found what they can both enjoy. The majority of people love smoked foods. Grocers even carry this stuff called liquid smoke that people add to foods to try and fool ya. Imagine that, liquid smoke!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via email by clicking on my signature below or the contact me link on the right side bar. Until next time, Keep Smokin!!