If you own a smoker of any kind, whether it is for a barbecue or a grill, you are probably looking for wood chips. After all, wood chips for smoking food produce an incredible flavor that really cannot be beat. If you have never tasted smoked meat, fish, or even vegetables, you are missing out on a real taste sensation.
However, if you have not been smoking food for very long, the sheer variety of smoker wood chips on the market and the number of different options can be pretty overwhelming. Let us take a look at all the different kinds of smoke wood chips available and what foods they work best with.
While it is possible to learn how to make your own wood chips for barbecue use, the vast majority of people choose to purchase readymade smoker wood chips instead. Wood chips for smokers are readily available, and you will see plenty of lists about the chips available, which meats go best with which chips.
That’s great if you already happen to have a bag of cotton wood smoking chips and don’t know what to cook with them, but it’s less useful if you know what meats or vegetables you want to cook and don’t know which wood chips to buy.
Smoking is the practice of keeping the amount of oxygen available to the fire low, so it produces a lot of smoke. That smoke flavors and cooks the meat or vegetables while the fire is burning. Most people choose green wood, since it produces more smoke than wood that has been properly aged, and it takes a while to burn.
However, you can use aged wood. It is just not as effective. Make sure you soak all smoking wood chips before using them (about half an hour will do it) to produce the right amount of smoke.
Apple wood chips and mesquite wood grilling chips are among the most popular types for use in smokers. They are classic choices, with apple being best for pork, and mesquite best for beef (especially ribs). However, these are not the only options available.
Try cherry or almond for sweet tastes, or pecan for a strong flavor. Oak wood chips are very heavy and strong, and are best for beef. Lemon and grapefruit have fruity notes that work well for red meats in general. Lilac wood is surprisingly good on lamb.
If you are planning to cook pork, in addition to apple you should try hickory, maple, or plum. Poultry cooks well with alder (sweet), birch (earthy and strong), or fruitwoods. Citrus woods are especially good with poultry. Apple wood smoking chips are once again prized for game, as are walnut (watch for bitterness), oak, mulberry and pear barbecue wood chips.
Smoked fish should be done with woods like alder or apple if you want something sweet, lilac or ash for a light and subtle flavor, or oak, for fish that needs to be smoked very heavily.
Last but not least, vegetables can smoke well in strong, earthy woods, like mesquite and maple. Of course, this is just a rough guide to choosing wood chips. Experiment a bit with different woods, and you will find the one that is your favorite.
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