Many barbecue enthusiasts would agree that wood chips are an essential ingredient for adding flavor and a smoky taste to food while cooking. But what does this mean exactly?
The answer lies in understanding how aromatic wood chips actually enhance the quality of your barbecued food.
Wood chips, also known as “wood pellet” or “pellet smoker” chips, are made from compressed sawdust or other biomass materials. These pellets are then used to smoke meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, and more. The pellets are generally about the size of a small grain of rice and can fit inside a conventional grill grate. They are designed to have a long shelf life and retain their freshness over time.
While there is no shortage of charcoal grills these days, many people still prefer using gas grills because gas has its own unique benefits. Gas grills are not only less expensive than those fueled by coal or wood but they also produce less smoke and smell when compared to charcoal grills. However, some people believe that you can get better results if you use wood pellets instead of traditional charcoal briquettes. The truth is that it depends on which type of these pellet smokers you use..
Types of Wood Chips
There are two main types of wood chips available: hardwood and softwood.
Hardwood chips are usually extracted from trees like apple, cherry, peach, poplar, maple, birch, and oak. Softwood chips include pine, fir, spruce, cedar, and cypress. Some people might be surprised to learn that bamboo, hemp, grasses, and straw are also classified as hardwoods, since they’re commonly found in nature.
When choosing between hardwood and softwood, experts recommend going with hardwood. Hardwood gives off a stronger aroma and smoke so it’s ideal for enhancing the taste of barbecued foods.
Here are some reasons why you should consider buying hardwood chips for your grill:
They provide a longer shelf-life at room temperature. This means that you can keep them for up to six months without having to refrigerate them. If you need to store them for a longer period of time, you can freeze them until needed.
They add a deeper smokiness to your food. In fact, hardwood is known to give off more intense aroma compared to softwood. It means that you can create a more intense smoke flavor by adding a few hardwood chips to your grill.
Which Type Of Wood Pellets Should I Buy?
You’ve probably noticed that there’s quite an array of different wood pellets available nowadays. So, which one should you buy?
The best option is always going to depend on personal preference. If you want a quick answer, we suggest looking at the following factors before purchasing wood pellets:
This will help determine whether you want your grill to produce a lot of smoke or just a moderate amount. If you want a strong smoke flavor, get a high smoke producer.
Hardwood pellets tend to cost more than softwood pellets. So, if you’re looking for something affordable, go with softwood.
Most wood pellets stay fresh for about three months at room temperature. So, if you plan to cook often, make sure to buy enough pellets for at least three months. If you only plan to use your pellets occasionally, buy them in bulk so you can extend the shelf life even further.
How To Use Wood Chips For Smoking
So now that you know which type of pellets to use, let’s move onto the next step!
To use wood pellets for smoking, just follow these simple steps:
Step 1 – Place the pellets directly on top of the heat source (usually a metal pan) in the middle of the grill. Do not place them directly on the burners.
Step 2 – Close the lid of the grill. Leave the vents open and allow the grill to preheat for 15 minutes. Keep the vent completely closed once the grill is hot. Make sure you leave the lid slightly open after 10 minutes to release the steam.
Step 3 – Once the grill is ready, place the food on the grill rack and close the remaining vents. Cook for about 2 hours.
Remember to check the internal temperature periodically. This way, you’ll know when the meat is done. For most types of meats, it’s recommended that you set the internal temperature to 165 degrees Fahrenheit for rare meat and 170 degrees Fahrenheit for medium-rare meat.
If you don’t have a thermometer, you can use a food fork to pierce the center of the meat and see if the juices run clear. Remove the meat from the grill to rest. Afterward, you can serve it immediately or wrap it tightly in foil for storage until needed.
Tips for Using Wood Chips With Other Cooking Methods
If you already enjoy barbecuing but you’re interested in other cooking methods such as roasting and braising, you may want to try out wood chips as well. Here are a few tips you should know before using wood pellets in other cooking methods:
Use the same rules as mentioned above.
Do not fill the pan completely. You need some air space for proper airflow.
Keep the pan away from direct flame sources.
After roasting/braising, let the food cool down to room temperature.
Store the wrapped food in the fridge until needed.
Now that you’ve learned how to use wood chips for various cooking methods, you’ll be able to add additional flavors to your favorite dishes.