Up Your Game and Grill with Wood

Grill Tips, Grilling, Kelly B's 101, Smoking

The type of wood chunks you choose to grill with can enhance the entire flavor of a meal. Our ancestors knew what they were doing by cooking over a pile of wood. Take notes. Your BBQ game is about to change.

How The Heck It’s Done

Start by soaking your choice of wood chunks in water for 30 minutes. This way, the wood won’t all burn up soon after you light the grill. Place the wood chunks on the coals before you grill your meat. If you are using a gas grill, use wood chips. And, most importantly, invest in a small wood chip box. This accessory holds your wood chips and sits next to your meat, releasing the flavors without getting chips everywhere. Allow 3 to 5 minutes for the wood to release its smoky flavor before placing meat on the grill. It’s just that simple.

How the Wood Chips You Choose Affect Your Meat

  • Hickory – a fan-favorite
  • Oak – mild but smoky — good heat source, as well
  • Maple – sweet and smoky
  • Mesquite – very strong profile
  • Cherry – not too strong but a little bit sweet
  • Apple – light and fruity
  • Alder – mild and a little sweet
  • Peach – sweet but not overpowering
  • Pecan – not too strong and a little nutty
  • Pear – mellow and smoky

Feeling creative? Mix and match wood chunks/chips to experiment with the various profiles and find what works best for you.

Wood That Will Make Your BBQ Taste Funky

You can’t just toss any wood on the coals. Some will leave your meat with a strange smell and chemical flavor. A good rule of thumb? Stick to hardwoods/fruit woods only (nut trees, like Oak and Pecan, are considered fruit trees). Avoid pine, spruce, redwood, cypress, fir, hemlock, and cedar. They won’t taste great and might end up dripping sap all over your precious grill. Yuck.

Here’s What Pairs Well

  • Applewood and Cherry chunks complement chicken, turkey, and (you guessed it) bacon.
  • Hickory pairs well with pretty much any meat. This wood is a real all-star.
  • Mesquite wood chunks give off a strong flavor, making it perfect for red meat. Use this wood when grilling steak.Do not smoke for an extended period of time with this one. The strong flavor is great for steak, burgers, and chicken in moderation.
  • Maple wood chunks can be sweet. Pair them with a ham or turkey painted with a cranberry glaze.
  • Cherry wood can be sweet but is generally mild. Try it out next time you grill chicken breast.
  • Pecan wood is mild but can give off a nutty flavor. This makes it a unique, smoky addition to baked goods. Grill a pecan pie and double that nutty goodness.

Don’t forget the toast!

Here’s an Irish favorite.

“There are good ships,
and there are wood ships,
The ships that sail the sea.
But the best ships, are friendships,
And may they always be.”