“Which Wood Should I Use?”

Ever wonder which wood to use on your grill?  Treat your wood like an ingredient and try to match it with your flavor profile.  The smoke can make or break your entire meal!

There is…in NO way…any right or wrong answers, but this is how I’ve experienced using wood on various smokes:

Wood Description Meat Cut Profile Impact
Jack Daniels Bourbon Barrel Wood Chips This heavy oak is actually created from the barrels used in the Jack Daniel’s Bourbon aging process. Beef

Bison

Turkey

Steak

Skirt

London Broil

Ground Beef

Ground Turkey

A deep, rich smoky oak flavor with a hint of whiskey.  This wood should be paired with dark, soy-garlic based marinades and steak house seasoning. VERY STRONG
Tabasco Wood Chips Tabasco (like Bourbon) is aged in oak barrels.  These woodchips are made from the barrels used in that process. Chicken

Pork

Fish

Shrimp

Wings

Breast

Whole Chicken

Pulled Chicken

Sausage

Whole Fish

Shrimp

 

Smoky oak with a “creeping heat”.  The first few bites are safe, but you’ll burn by the end.  For flavor, fight fire with fire if you like heat…or use a sweet marinade for a sweet and spicy effect. STRONG
Pecan Wood Chips Cut from the wood that bares pecans. Turkey

Chicken

Salmon

Shrimp

Whole Turkey

Turkey Breast

Ground Turkey

Whole Chicken

Chicken Breast

Salmon Filets

Shrimp

Mild smoke that adds a sweet/nutty flavor to your meat.  This smoke does a great job of complimenting a sweet honey or teriyaki marinade. MILD
Cherry Wood Chips Cut from the wood that bares cherries. Pork

Chicken

Pork Chops

Pulled Pork

Pulled Chicken

One of the sweeter smokes, this wood should pair nicely with white meats basted in BBQ sauce.  I’ve found this wood too sweet for beef or chicken breast, but it shines through pulled pork and chicken. MILD
Apple Wood Chips Cut from the wood that bares apples. Pork Pulled Pork

Ribs

A sweet-tart smoke, this wood is a match made in heaven with pork.  This smoke shines with pulled pork, but blinds with ribs.  It really compliments KC sauces, but lifts SC sauces tremendously. MILD-STRONG
Apple Wood Chunks Chunked from the wood that bares apples Pork Pulled Pork

Ribs

The same flavor as the Wood Chips, but better equipped for low-and-slows.  Throw chunks in for a SUPER thick smoke ring! MILD-STRONG
Peach Wood Chips Cut from the wood that bares Peaches Pork

Chicken

Salmon

Pulled Pork

Ribs

Chicken Breast

Salmon Filets

A mild sweet smoke that adds extra umpf to an already sweet marinade.  This would pair nicely with honey-based Asian marinades, and any white meat. MILD
Orange Wood Chips Cut from the wood that bares Oranges Chicken Chicken Breasts A tangy sweet smoke that pairs nicely with orange marinades.  I’ve had difficulty pairing this with many other flavors so use with caution MILD-STRONG
Hickory Wood Chips Cut from a Hickory Tree Beef Steak

Brisket

London Broil

A versatile hearty smoke that compliments traditional Texas Beef BBQ and most other dry-rub BBQs.  You can use Hickory for other low-and-slows…but I typically prefer the sweet fruit smoke for pork and chicken. MILD-STRONG
Mesquite Wood Chips Cut from the Mesquite Tree Beef

Pork

Poultry

Stir Fry

Shrimp

Steak

Brisket

London Broil

Pulled Pork

Pulled Chicken

Sausages

Shrimp

The most versatile of smoking woods, this can be used for almost any meat.  It has a strong smoke presence, so you may want to limit your marinade and hold it to dry-rubbed meats…and molasses based BBQ. STRONG
Cedar Plank A Plank of Cedar Wood Fish Salmon Filet

Whole Fish

Shrimp

A strong cedar flavor is cooked into the meat.  This is largely attributed to the fact that the meat is actually placed directly on the smoking wood.  This is a versatile flavor that works particularly well with seafood. MILD-STRONG

In regard to usage:

ALWAYS soak wood chips in water for 30 minutes at a minimum.  I usually soak my chips in a small piece of Tupperware.  When using wood chunks or planks, soak for a minimum of 3 hours in your kitchen sink.  This will ensure that your wood does not catch fire and burn the smoke out too quickly.  Once the wood is soaked, you may place the wet wood in your charcoal (or on the grate if you’re using a wood plank).

In regard to quantity:

I usually do a large handful for small-medium meats… and two large handfuls for large meats. As is the case with Brisket and Turkey… I’ll do a double dose of smoking, or use wood chunks rather than chips.

To double-dose, I distribute once when I first put the meat on (two large handfuls)…and again right before it’s ready to take off (another two large handfuls).

There are certain foods that you may want to use less… or never want to use wood chips on (of course). This will be to personal preference.

For myself… I NEVER use wood chips on pizza. The cheese and dough absorb WAY too much smoke and it can be over-powering. Hope that helps!

3 Comments

  1. Russ Sauers
    December 23, 2013

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    Question, where did you buy the Tabasco Wood Chips in GA ( live in the Johns Creek area). I wasn’t sure if you could buy local or had to order online. Thanks.

  2. Russ Sauers
    December 23, 2013

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    I was hoping you could find locally, thank you for the info, that helps.

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