Not all wood is created equal when it comes to BBQing. Knowing what wood to use is important because it changes the flavor of your dish and how much smoke you’re getting from the wood. Each type of wood emits a different type of smoke with its own unique aroma and flavor. Here’s an intro into wood and the different types of wood you will be using during your cooks.
What is Green vs. Cured Wood?
Green wood is wood that has been recently cut down. Green wood hasn’t been cured for a long period of time and still retains a lot of moisture. These woods will burn long and slow and will bring a lot of smoke to your cooks. Keep in mind that when using green wood, the wood will not come up to temperature as quickly when comparing it to cured wood.
Seasoning wood means that you are drying out the wood’s internal moisture. According to International Timber, green wood is considered to have a 100% moisture content. Dried wood is considered 20% moisture content — the wood must be seasoned or dried to achieve this moisture level. Seasoning wood can happen in a few different ways; you can air dry the wood or you can kiln dry it. Air drying the wood is pretty self-explanatory– you leave the wood out to dry in the air rather than manually applying heat in order to remove moisture. Most pit masters like to stack their wood and leave it for 6 months or 12 months before using. The 6 month old wood that has naturally dried will bring a lot of smoke and will provide a well-rounded heat. The 12 month old cured wood will burn longer and cleaner and provide nice smoke. Typically your store bought wood will be kiln dried making it burn more quickly than air dried wood and will provide a lot of smoke to your cook.
Hardwoods or Fruit wood?
Each type of wood will bring a different aromatic quality to your food so it’s important to choose your wood carefully. Typically hardwoods are used for smoking, but fruit trees are also very popular. Hardwoods are trees with broad, flat leaves, they are not coniferous or needled trees (like pine trees for example). Some examples of hardwood trees include hickory, maple, oak, and walnut. Fruit woods are more popular for competition BBQ. You can use these woods green, they’ll have a lot of smoke, and they won’t have an overpowering flavor.
The most popular types of wood you will use are oak, hickory, mesquite, apple, cherry, and pecan.
Read our article on all the different types of wood you can use while BBQing and Smoking. We cover all of the need to know details about smoke flavor, types of meat to pair the wood with, etc. so you can go right into your next cook knowing what wood you want to use.
How To Use The Main Types Of Wood While Smoking
It can be overwhelming trying to learn whether you’re supposed to use logs, chunks, chips, or pellets. We’ve got you covered.
Logs are typically up to 18 inches long and are going to be used if you have a large, offset smoker like the Oklahoma Joe’s Longhorn Reverse Flow Smoker. This isn’t going to be something you consider for your smaller grills or pellet grills; it simply won’t work well. You can use logs to create smoke as well as heat to cook your meat. We usually use logs in our offset smoker for longer cooks. Pay close attention to the type of wood you’re using if you choose logs; some types of wood work better for long cooks than others.
When you buy chunks, expect pieces of wood that are a maximum 3-4 inches in size. This type of wood is ideal for small, offset smokers. You can also use for water, ceramic, gas, or barrel smokers as well or on gas grills. These chunks produce smoke more quickly than logs and are easy to find in your local homegoods store like Lowe’s or Home Depot (any store that sells BBQ supplies or equipment will probably have these on hand). Chunks are nice because they don’t take up too much space and they come in manageable bags. Don’t soak.
These are little pieces of wood that are about an inch wide by an inch long and only should be about 1/4 to 1/6 of an inch thick. People like using chips for gas and electric grills rather than offset smokers (chunks work way better for offset smokers, skip the chips). You may also use these on charcoal grills. These are super easy to find as well at your local homegoods store like Lowe’s or Home Depot. The bags come in manageable sizes which is nice because if you get tired of one type of wood, you can easily buy and store another. Like the chunks, you don’t soak these. If you want to extend the length of the smoke being produce, wrap these chips in tin foil, poke a few holes, and toss into the smoker or grill.
These are small pellets that are usually about a 1/2 inch in length, maximum. You’re going to use pellets in pellet grills like the Traeger Renegade Elite Wood Pellet Grill (which we have and love!) All pellets are not created equal and we are definitely fans of the BBQr’s Delight Pellets. They are hands down the best quality pellets we have used so far. We like combining the Apple and Pecan to make Candy’s Contest Mix. Pellets and pellet grills are super convenient and produce smoke easily. Do not soak.