You should be able to get good quality smoke wood locally. Many hardware stores and sporting goods stores sell chunks, chips, and planks. Some manufacturers like Weber and Char-Broil sell aluminum pans with perforated covers and the wood flavor of your choice. Kingsford makes a compressed wood briquet.
A great source is a local cabinet maker or flooring installer. They often have a wide range of delectable scraps of kiln dried, tight grained chunks, chips, and sawdust. You want hardwoods like oak, cherry, and maple. If you thank them with a slab of ribs now and then you might have a lifetime supply of free wood. Just make sure the wood is pure, untreated, and unstained.
If you want logs, there are also usually small companies selling to homes with fireplaces. They usually sell wood in cords and face cords. A cord is 128 cubic feet or a neatly stacked pile perhaps 4' high, 8' long, and 4' deep (usually cut into 2' lengths). A face cord is 1/3 of a cord, about 42 cubic feet, perhaps 4' high, 2' deep, and 5' long.
You want a reputable dealer who can be trusted when he says the wood is apple, cherry, or whatever. You can buy smaller bundles in hardware stores, at campgrounds, and even convenience stores, but you really can't be sure what is in the bundle.
You may be able to scrounge good wood from orchards who will let you gather dead trees, branches, prunings, etc. Just make sure you get clean wood, free of spray residue, mold and mildew, with a low percentage of bark. Beware of pesticide sprays, almost all orchards use them.
You want dry wood for cooking. Wood is dried two ways, by leaving it stacked outdoors for at least a year, or dried in an oven called a kiln. Kiln drying uses a lot of energy so this method is usually used only for quality lumber for construction, not for firewood.
If you wish, you can buy freshly cut wood and dry it yourself. If you can put it under an overhang or cover that will keep the rain and snow off. Some folks cover wood piles with tarps. Try to get it off the ground. Old pallets are perfect for the job. Properly stored, firewood can be kept for years. Don't bring it indoors. There are bugs in there.
For more on wood and how it produces flavorful smoke, read my article on the science of wood and smoke. I discuss the popular wood types there, too. But remember, hickory from Arkansas tastes different from New York Hickory, and there are many different species of hickory. Don't get obsessive over wood.
Hardwood logs, chunks, chips
Here are some suppliers you might want to check out:
- A1 Firewood in Chicago sells a wide range of woods and they can kiln dry to the moisture level of your preference.
- 57 Smokehouse
- Barrel & Vines Wine Smoking Chips. They make wood chips from used wine barrels.
- Baxters Original Premium Smoker Wood
- B&B Charcoal
- Carolina Cookwood
- Druidswood in the UK
- Firewood.com and 1-800-FIREWOOD
- Fruita Wood Chunks
- Fuel And Flame
- Guava Wood Farms Hawaii (also sells kiawe)
- Maine Grilling Woods
- Mark's Tree Farm
- Ole Hickory Pits. They sell square logs called squogs.
- Pimentowood.com specializes in Jamaican pimento wood chips, charcoal, planks
- Pimentowoodproducts specializes in pimento wood sticks and chips and more
- Smokey Bear's Wood Chunks
- Vaughn Wood Products
- VineSmoke sells grapevine cuttings
- Western Red Alder Wood Smoking Chunks
- Wiley's Cooking Woods