|Don’t let all the fuel options and soaking liquids scare you away from smoking meats, veggies and cheese. Keep a few simple guidelines in mind as you mix and match woods and soaking liquids for that perfect culinary combination.|
The first step to bringing out the robust flavor of ribs, brisket and other meats is selecting the best meat smoker and deciding which fuel option — charcoal, electric or gas – works best for you.
Smokers are fueled by propane gas, electricity or traditional charcoal briquettes. The fuel in turn heats wood that generates smoke.
The mysteries of pallet-pleasing smoking are revealed in wood type and size selection.
Secrets to Selecting Meat Smoking Materials and Woods
1) Use woods to generate lots of smoke and to get the best smoke flavors and proper burn times.
2) Steer clear of charcoal impregnated with lighter fluid. Not only is it dangerous to use, it makes smoked meats taste foul. Turn to natural charcoals instead.
3) Follow the basic wood-selection rule: Heavier hardwoods (oak, maple, hickory or mesquite) for heavier/hardier meats (beef or pork) and lighter woods (cherry, pecan, alder or apple) for lighter meats and fish (chicken or salmon). For example, try Jim Beam Flavor Smoking Bisquettes made from Jim Beam barrels for venison backstrap or Camp Chef’s Applewood BBQ Pellets for duck.
4) Refuse to be intimidated by the close to 30 types of wood (see wood chart below) and four wood sizes available – pellets, chips, BBQ cooking chunks and smoker pucks/discs. Wood choices are pretty easy to understand at a glance. The bigger the wood, the longer it smolders and smokes. Big slabs of meat smoke well over bigger chunks of wood.
5) Beware – some smokers only use one type of wood. So, read your smoker’s directions.
6) Consider the debate about soaking all woods. Liquid isn’t always a good thing. Most agree soaking wood, especially chips, is a good idea, to lengthen burn rate and add flavor with a nice wine or other flavored liquid soak. However, pellets and large chunks may not absorb the liquid, so you could be spinning your wheels.
7) Move beyond smoking only meats. Veggies and cheese smoke well, too. A water pan full of herbs and spices (not wood) can put the yummy mojo on veggies.
8) Dive into smoking, mix and match woods and soaking liquids, and have a blast. Everyone in the family will have fun getting involved and helping the end product disappear.
Guide to Smoking Woods by Weber
Bass Pro Shops offers a full selection of meat smokers, wood materials and accessories.