Grilling with wood chips takes a little time to master when you learn how to barbecue. When done right, it offers a great way of adding a wonderful smoky aroma to your backyard barbecue. The next time you fire up the grill, keep the following tips in mind for a successful smoke.
Choose Your Chips Wisely
Different chips offer different types of flavors to complement your choice of meat. Applewood chips, for example, offer a sweet and fruity flavor that works best for chicken and pork. Pecan wood chips offer a mild and nutty flavor that works well for beef, chicken and pork. Hickory adds a strong, sweet flavor with hints of bacon that goes great with any red meat.
You'll Still Need a Little Charcoal
Just because you're using wood chips in your charcoal grill doesn't mean you won't need any charcoal at all. You'll still need a layer of charcoal to kick-start your grilling. Set the charcoal alight and wait until it burns white-hot before adding your wood chips.
If you're using a gas grill, make sure it comes equipped with a dedicated smoker box. This way, you can add your wood chips and be on your way.
To Soak or Not to Soak?
There's plenty of debate from veteran pitmasters about soaking wood chips. Some say it's a necessity for getting the best flavor out of your wood chips and it helps the chips last longer. Others say that soaked wood produces more steam than smoke and that it actually lowers the temperature of your fire.
In the end, it's up to you to decide whether to soak your chips or go dry. You can also take a third option by wrapping your wood chips in an aluminum foil packet before placing it on the coals. Be sure to poke holes in the foil beforehand.
Low and Slow Wins the Race
The last thing you want is for your wood to burn too quickly, as it'll produce too much smoke and give your meat an acrid flavor. To avoid this, you'll want to adopt a low and slow approach to grilling. Keep temperatures around 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and make sure there's proper air flow in your grill.
Change Your Chips Often
Replacing your wood chips helps maintain the rich, smoky flavor you want in your meats throughout the cooking process. So how do you know when it's time to change out your chips? A surefire sign is when the smoke thins out more than usual. You can also use a cooking log to keep track of how long you use your chips.
Conventional wisdom says that you should change out your wood chips after approximately five or six hours of cooking. In the meantime, don't hesitate to add an extra cup of chips to maintain the quality of your smoke.