We have already looked at the different ways to cook on your BBQ in previous articles however there is another element that can be added to each of these methods and that is smoke! Smoking has really taken off in the UK in recent years and has become something any backyard BBQ’er can do.
I didn’t mention smoking in my previous article series as it is such a wide category I felt it deserved it’s own series. So in this article we’ll look at what smoking is and why you might want to try it then in the next few articles we will dive into smoking on different BBQ’s and how to get started.
What is smoking?
In the broadest sense, smoking is simply using different woods to add flavour to your food. It can include anything from grilling over lumpwood charcoal to cooking low and slow in a wood fired offset smoker.
As different woods burn, the smoke they generate adds a different flavour to your meat. Some woods such as Oak or Hickory have a strong flavour whilst woods such as Apple or Cherry have a milder flavour.
When you are starting out it is best to simply treat these different woods as ingredients in your recipe to help you achieve different flavours.
Can you smoke on any BBQ?
The short answer to this question is ‘Yes, depending on what type of smoking you want to do.’ If you want to simply cook directly over a wood fire then a simple hole in the ground and a few logs is all the gear you need to get started. Similarly, cooking directly over a quality lumpwood charcoal will give you equally tasty results on any charcoal BBQ.
Adding wood to your fuel source will ultimately generate smoke and flavour your food. If you are roasting a chicken on your Weber kettle, adding a few wood chips or a chunk of wood to the coals will add a smoky flavour to your chicken and give it a beautiful colour.
So what about gas BBQ’s? There are ways to add wood chips to your gas BBQ that will slowly generate smoke and add flavour to your meat. We will talk about the different ways to add smoke on a gas BBQ later in this series.
What is the difference between dust, chips, pellets and chunks?
I have already mentioned that cooking over a wood fire or lumpwood charcoal is the most basic way to add wood smoke to your cooking but there are 4 other common forms of wood that can be used.
Most woods used for smoking are available in dust, chips, pellets and chunks. These different forms have slightly different applications but all serve the same purpose.
Dust is most commonly used for cold smoking. As the name suggests, it is a very fine form of wood. When packed into a container tightly, it will smoulder slowly, generating very little heat and a fine trickle of smoker making if perfect for cold smoking
Wood chips are a slightly large form of wood that are commonly soaked in water and place directly onto the coals. As the chips are wet, they burn slowly generating smoke. Chips are also used for smoking on a gas BBQ. They are placed inside a container and placed directly above one of the burners. As the chips heat up they will start to burn and produce smoke.
Pellets are used as a fuel source for pellet cooker which we will look at later in this series. They can also be used for cold smoking as they are compacted tightly and will smoulder for a long period of time inside something like a smoker tube but will generate very little heat.
Wood chunks have a similar application to wood chips however they will give you a slightly longer smoke when placed into the coals. They are not really suitable for smoking on a gas BBQ but one or two chunks added to the charcoal is generally enough to give you an hour or so of smoke.
Smoking with different woods?
As I mentioned above, different woods will give you a different flavour. Some of these differences can be very subtle but matched with a certain type of meat and they can make a big difference.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that whilst most hardwoods are suitable for smoking, there are some woods you should avoid as they can be harmful. These woods are Redwood, Pine, Fir, Elm, Liquid Amber, Cypress, Spruce, Sycamore and Cedar. You should also avoid wood that has been treated with any kind of preservative.
To help you understand the different wood flavours and what food they can be used with I’ve put together a chart with some of the most common woods showing their strength and what they work well with. This list isn’t exclusive and there are many other woods out there that can be used but as a beginner this will give you a broad spectrum of flavours to play with. The chart is in A4 size so feel free to download it, print it, share it with your BBQ friends!
I hope you find this chart useful and it helps you understand some of the basic flavours of different woods and how you might use them.
In the next few articles we will look at how to smoke of different BBQ’s and some of the different forms of smoking. Be sure to sign up to become a FREE member below to receive my exclusive email content that I only send to my members. I will also keep you updated on what’s happening on the website and exciting things that are coming up.