Smoking with Wood, Shreds vs Chunks

Why shredded wood is a better smoke flavor enhancer

Wood shreds are an innovative use of natural wood. When shreds are used, much more wood surface is exposed to heat to produce smoke as compared to chunks or chips. Wood shreds will yield a more intense smoke more quickly which seals the food, locking in natural moisture and adding smoke flavor exactly when it's needed.

The normal way of using wood smoking chunks or chips is to soak them in water and place them on the coals. Once they catch fire, some smoke is released that flavors the meat on the grill. However, shredded wood is better in that more wood surface is exposed to heat, producing a more intense smoke in much less time. If you're going to be smoking meat for a longer period of time, simply use two pouches, one with dry shreds, the second pouch with shreds that have been soaked in water for 20 minutes. The dry shreds get things going right away, while the wet ones give you the legs to go the distance, adding more moisturized smoke during the longer cooking times.

Shredded wood is much more economical than traditional chunks or chips, too. Because a more intense smoke is released from the pouch, much less shredded wood is needed to produce better results. The cost per use is much less for wood shreds than any other form of smoking wood chips.

How To Use Shredded Wood For Smoking

Wood burns when heated. If you starve wood of oxygen when you heat it, it smokes rather than burning to ash. Wood shreds sealed in an aluminum foil pouch will produce an intense smoke that will flavor just about an steak, burger or poultry you place on the grill.

A pouch made of heavy duty aluminum foil with just one very small hole in one side works great to provide smoke in just about any outdoor cooker. To make the foil pouch, cut a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil 6" by 12" and fold in half making a 6"x6" square. Fold the side edges at least twice, pressing each fold firmly along the entire side. Put 1/2 of a cup of shredded wood in the pouch and fold the top to seal. Poke a hole in one side of the pouch with a toothpick or saftey pin.

Place the pouch on top of your charcoal briquettes or above the gas flame. When the smoke starts coming out of the hole in the pouch, put your food on the cooking grate and close the cover of your cooker. Smoke should last up to 30 minutes depending on the temperature of your cooker. Remember, one small hole is all you need.

For best results, soak your wood shreds for 20 minutes in water, shake excess water off before placing in the foil pouch.

David Tinney
All my smoking woods are from trees in the Honey Creek basin of Grand lake of the Cherokees, located in northeast Oklahoma. I only harvest from limbs that have fallen from a tree or a tree that has already been cut down. My smoking shreds are completely natural and contain no chemicals, coloring, additives, preservatives or anything else. Just plain old country wood that smells great when used to smoke your favorite meat or in your chiminea!

Little know fact: Dogwood is a preferred wood for making charcoal. It's hard and produces a subtle smoke flavor. Use alone or mix with cherry or hickory for a unique flavor.

Types of wood for smoking

Cherry - beef, burgers, pork, poultry, fish

Apple - lamb, pork, poultry, fish

Maple - pork, poultry, fish

Oak - beef, burgers, lamb, poultry, fish

Pecan - beef, burgers, lamb, pork, poultry, fish, game

Hickory - beef, burgers, pork, poultry, fish

Mesquite - beef, burgers, lamb, pork, poultry, fish

Dogwood - beef, burgers, pork

Oak - Heavy smoke flavor--the king of smoking wood. RED OAK is good on ribs, WHITE OAK makes the best coals for longer burning. All oak varieties reported as suitable for smoking.

Pecan - Sweet and mild with a flavor similar to hickory. Tasty with a subtle character. Pecan is an all-around superior smoking wood. A mellower version of hickory.

Hickory - Sweet to strong flavor. Probably the most commonly used wood for smoking.

Mesquite - Strong earthy flavor, one of the hottest burning smoking woods.

Cherry - Mild and fruity. Some say the cherry wood is the all-around best wood for smoking.

Apple - Very mild with a subtle fruity flavor, slightly sweet.

Maple - Delicate with a hint of sweetness, maple produces a mild and mellow smoke that imparts a sweet flavor that is traditional for smoking ham. Also good with poultry, pork, and seafood.

Dogwood - Medium smoke flavor, mixes well with fruity woods.

Useful Tips for smoking meats on your BBQ grill

Your barbecue grill can also be used as a smoker by using a smoke box and aromatic wood shreds. There are two approaches to take, depending on what you are grilling. One is to mix equal parts dry and wet shreds, soaked in water or wine for at least 20 minutes, together. This works best for chicken, ribs, roasts or anything that will be cooking for more than 20 minutes. The dry shreds get things going right away, while the wet ones give you the legs to go the distance, adding more moisturized smoke during the longer cooking times. For grilling steaks, fish or anything that will be on the grill a relatively short amount of time, use dry shreds only in a foil pouch. This will maximize the smoke flavor acquired by the food during the short amount of time it is on the grill.

A pan of water placed on the grill during long periods of smoke cooking will not only help keep the food moist, but will help maintain lower cooking temperatures as well.

When smoking, low temperatures (between 200 and 250F) and longer cooking times will result in more intense smoke flavor and also more tender meats. Always use a meat thermometer to ensure meat has cooked all the way through to the right temperature. Smoke flavor that is created by a selection of wood shreds is usually a matter of personal preference. Some people will even create a blend of several flavors to satisfy their own preference.

Never grill or smoke over woods such as cottonwood, willow, pine, or poplar. These woods are high in resins and are unsuitable for grilling or smoking meats.

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