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A BBQ wood guide to level up your grill skills

A product shot of Big K BBQ wood chunks in a bag set against a background of burning wood in a drum smoker

The BBQ experience is so rich and diverse. Whether you’re deep in the grill or enjoying all the perks of being a guest, there are infinite moments to savour. Take cooking for example; we have so many incredible tools and products at our disposal. Each one takes our BBQ adventure to another level. Yes there are incredible charcoals out there, but that’s not all. BBQ wood is the perfect way to start adding more depth and complexity to the flavour of your food. So join us on a walk through the wood(s) as it were.

What is BBQ wood?

Ok we get it; this seems like stuffing some of the super obvious into your brain. However, we believe that you can never be too clear. And as we always say, clarity leads to understanding and understanding leads to positive action. So BBQ wood is simply wood that we use for cooking or smoking. It comes in many different forms, from logs and pellets to chips and chunks more on this later.

How does BBQ wood create flavour?

This is where things start to get interesting. When we ignite BBQ wood, we produce heat for cooking, as well as smoke. These wispy, misty plumes hold a hidden and flavourful secret.  If you travel into the smoke you’ll find trillions of microscopic particles, from gases and vapours, to organic matter and natural chemical compounds. It is these amazing compounds (think Cellulose and Lignin) that create all the smoky aromatic flavour to tempt your tastebuds. So how does the process work exactly? Let us explain: when we burn the wood, all the chemical compounds circulate around, and are absorbed within, your food. This is BBQ flavour infusion. 

A top down shot pf BBQ wood chunks in a bag

Four tips for using BBQ wood

  1. Match to your meat

Common sense dictates that each species of wood will impart its own unique flavour into the culinary mix. Therefore you should consider the flavour of the food you’re cooking and find a wood that offers a complimentary flavour to elevate the taste. For instance, the sweety rich smokiness of hickory is ideal for heavier meats such as pork and ribs, while mesquite works a treat with beef.

Not to worry though. You don’t need to become some kind of wood flavour connoisseur. Here’s a quick guide to make life niece and easy.

Fruit woods

Pork butt, ribs, chicken, fish, seafood and wildfowl.

Oak wood 

Seafood, fish, lamb, brisket, pork and sausages.

Hickory

Ribs, pork, red meat, chicken, turkey or goose.

Mesquite

Red meats, ribs and other strongly flavoured meats

Pecan

Pork, beef, poultry and cheese. Side note – Pecan is powerful stuff, so don’t use too much. You can also mix Pecan with some oak or maple to reduce the richness.  

We couldn’t list all the wood types here. But here are some more honourable mentions – walnut, black walnut, alder, maple, mulberry, cherry, lemon, citrus and whiskey. The choices are truly mind boggling.

  1. Explore and experiment with your BBQ wood

Mix and match your BBQ wood to find you fave flavour. Just a quick note here peeps; these rules aren’t set in stone. To be honest, how you use your BBQ wood comes down to personal preference. Experiment, explore and have fun. You’re sure to find the right blend of wood and food to melt your mind with deliciousness.

  1. Choose quality wood  

Here’s the Golden Rule: quality always determines taste. So higher quality BBQ wood will produce top quality flavours.  Basically just ensure that you’re using high-quality hardwood for your cooks. Defo stay away from softwoods like pine or cedar as they produce a bitter taste. 

Don’t know where to buy your BBQ wood? We’ve got you covered!  You’re in the presence of BBQ wood pros as we’ve been at this for decades. So check out our full range of top calibre chips, chunks pellets and more. No chemicals. No hidden nasties. Just honest, quality wood you can trust.

A top down shot of BBQ wood chips

Chips. Chunks. Pellets.

Again there are no commandments etched on stone tablets. Ultimately you decide on the right type of BBQ wood for you! A mix of preference and culinary aims should determine your decision. If all this talk of chips, chunks and pellets is frying your brain, just relaaaax; they all pretty much work in the same way. They mainly differ in terms of mass, size and composition. Chips and pellets are the smallest forms of BBQ wood and they are popular due to ease and convenience of use. You can simply grab a handful and add to your grill base or fire box. Smaller pieces also offer more control over the smoky flavour infusion, as you can top up incrementally in small amounts.  Chunks and logs have a larger mass, meaning less customisation when it comes to the cook   

  1. Soak your wood?

There are soaking advocates and others that don’t think it’s necessary. The pro-soakers believe that soaking your BBQ wood chips and chunks in water creates more smoke and slows down the burn. However, the anti-soakers believe this thicker smoke is simply a higher amount of water vapour evaporating from the wood. We’re not picking sides on this. Try both ways and see what works for you.

Short. Sweet. And to the point. Just enough info to add some smoky depths to your next dish. Take care and we’ll talk to you again soon.