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Add Smoke To Your Grill With Wood From These Sources

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Here’s a guide to the best resources for wood chips, chunks, pellets, planks, and logs.

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:

Hardwood foodgrade pellets

Pellets can be used as fuel in pellet smokers or added to charcoal, gas, and electric smokers for flavor. Made of compressed sawdust. That’s all. No glue. A major advantage is that you can add pellets precisely from a measuring cup, so you can get the right amount for your smoker and no more.

Most pellets are a blend of oak and the “flavor” wood. Manufacturers do this to maintain a consistent burn, and because they say that pure varietal woods are too strong. Methinks price is also a factor.

There are a number of companies supplying pellets. My favorite supplier is BBQrs Delight brand. They have a wide range to experiment with: Jack Daniel’s, sugar maple, cherry, pecan, black walnut, oak, orange, sassafras, mulberry, alder, and savory herb.

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Published On: 12/12/2016 Last Modified: 10/20/2022

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  • Meathead - Founder and publisher of AmazingRibs.com, Meathead is known as the site's Hedonism Evangelist and BBQ Whisperer. He is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller "Meathead, The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling", named one of the "100 Best Cookbooks of All Time" by Southern Living.

 

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