Where would we be without trees? They purify the air, give us shade, spoil us rotten with an amazing assortment of colourful fruits and provide glorious wood chips to smoke in our barbecues. Ok we have jumped a head a little. Let’s pump the breaks for a second and reflect. Man has relied on wood since the earliest temporal epochs. This relationship extends into the BBQ subculture too. As BBQ purists, we at Big K would like to pay homage to this most precious, yet underappreciated resource. We’d go so far as to call wood very soul of BBQ itself. Wood is our pixie dust. It’s the alpha and omega. The charcoal life-giver. The BBQ genesis. Wood gives life to our sizzling passion – and it’s something every well-meaning BBQ enthusiast should treat with respect.
We would need to create the blog equivalent of War and Peace to fully explore the world of wood Unfortunately we don’t have the time, meaning we will narrow our focus. So put on your flannel shirt on and get ready to channel your inner BBQ lumberjack because we’re going to chip away at the woody cornucopia, focusing on wood chips. Let’s unravel the mystery together.
Depending on how they are used, wood chips can help transform your BBQ from a forgettable “meh”- to a sublime tantalizing taste sensation. These little by-products of ex-trees help add flavour to all kinds of BBQ smoking and grilling techniques. Knowing a thing or two about the importance of the size of your wood chips and the kind of wood chips you’re using can take you on a scrumptious, round trip to Nom Nom town. Since we’re on the topic of wood chips, let’s start with this: how does smoking make everything taste so damn good?
Smoking and Flavour
Unlike the fabled and failed art of alchemy (that endeavoured to turn ordinary matter into gold) smoking meats really does help manifest flavourful gold. What we witness as ephemeral wisps and plumes of smoke are actually trillions of atomically tiny particles of gases, water vapour, and organic matter. These particles are basically just by-products of combustion. To explain a little deeper, chemicals within the wood, such as lignin and cellulose, break down into small compounds that engage with our sense of smell as aromas. In fact, the flavour of most BBQ wood chips is down to aroma rather than taste – despite conventional wisdom saying the contrary.
Different Grades of BBQ Wood Chips
When it comes to a wood’s aroma and ‘flavour’ size comes into play. It’s the very act of chopping wood that differentiates different sized BBQ wood chips, chunks, and dust. Chunks are effectively cut to size, whereas chips and dust are gradings of the by-product of the cutting process. Understanding the how different sized wood pieces affect flavour is key to unlock your inner griller’s full potential. Let’s dig.
This is the smallest particle of wood that could be used for BBQ smoking and is similar to sawdust. Due to its minuscule size, it is easy to ignite and emits minimal heat upon smouldering, making it perfect for a cold smoke generator. You can use wood dust to cold smoke cuts of cheese and delicate proteins such as fish and chicken breasts.
Pro Tip – Use some sugar maple smoking dust to cold smoke your choice of cheese.
Wood chunks are thicker, hardier bits of wood. These chunks burn for longer and are recommended for longer cooks. Used with charcoal smokers and grills, wood chunks can be placed directly onto the coals or on the cooking grate directly over the heat source. Always remember – the bigger the size, the longer it will smoulder and smoke. You can use wood chunks to flavour thick cuts of meat like brisket.
Let’s get to the main focus in our current treatise. BBQ wood chips can be added to charcoal, gas or electric BBQ grills. The size of wood chips may vary from less than an inch to 2 inches in size. And these wood chips for smoking come in many shapes and forms. Wood chips aren’t as hardy and dense as a wood chunk. They combust with ease and confer the goodness of their smoky flavour almost immediately. For gas and electric grills, wrap the BBQ wood chips in foil. You can either leave the ends of the wrap open – or use a knife to puncture some holes in your foil parcel. Place the parcel over the burner, wait for the smoke and when it starts to appear, it’s time to start cooking.
How to use wood chips in a charcoal BBQ
Although it’s not common to use wood chips in a charcoal BBQ it’s definitely not unheard of. Besides, it’s much easier than making a smoking wood pouch to use in your gas or electric grill. With a Charcoal grill, you merely throw in a handful of wood chips directly onto the coals and let it do its magic. To test this method, we will be using a delicious rib-eye steak.
How much wood chips do I need for smoking?
Firstly, light up your coals in a topped up chimney starter and lay them down in a small Webber styled charcoal grill. Then take a big handful of woodchips of your choice and place them directly on the smouldering coals. This will make the wood chips ignite in a matter of seconds. This will produce very clean and fast-burning smoke. The cooking time of our rib-eye steak is approximately 8 minutes. This is the perfect time for the amount of smoke to take this steak to the next level. Cook the seasoned steak 4 to 5 minutes on each side and check the internal temperature to see if it has reached at least 60C. Wood chips ignite fast, so it’s perfect to cook meats, fish or poultry that require fast cooking.
How to make a BBQ wood chip smoker packet?
A smoker packet is a contraption to hold the wood chips while it smoulders away from the direct heat and releases its smoke through cut up or poked out holes. To start, you will need some top quality foil. We suggest getting a heavy-duty one to withstand the intense temperatures of a BBQ grill. Lay down 2 big squares of double-layered foil. Afterwards, take a big handful or 2 of smoking chips and place them in the middle and fold it up into a square. Make sure the sides are nice and tightly closed. Once you are confident you have sealed all the sides, take a household fork and put some holes in the top of the packet. This helps all that great flavour to escape from the wood chips, directly onto your food.
How long will a packet last you may ask? Great question, as a rule of thumb. This smoker packet would last around one hour on your BBQ grill. If you were cooking a rack of ribs for 4 hours, low and slow, then you would need 4 packets for the 4 hours of cooking.
How to use woodchips in a BBQ smoker?
So we’ve covered regular barbecues, but where do smoking chips fit in within the BBQ smoker equation? Relax: it’s all super straightforward. Follow these steps below.
- Pick the wood chip flavour (such as cherry, hickory or mesquite) that will compliment your dish
- Now it’s time to fill up your smoker box with the wood chips or make a foil pouch as described above.
- Light the fire. Then place the smoker box on the grill if appropriate.
- Simply wait until the chips begin to smoke.
- Position your meat on your grill and cover.
BIG K Flavour Profiles of Wood chips
Charcoal gives a distinct flavour to any food on the grill. However, adding wood chips to your grilling session may be a game-changer, adding additional flavour complexity. We’re deep in the wood chips game so check out what we have to offer.
BIG K Hickory Wood Chips
Hickory chips don’t come any better than the BIG K 100% Natural hickory wood chips. A crowd favourite among wood chips, Hickory imparts a sweet and smoky flavour to food. These smoking chips are perfect for longer smoking cooks adding a deep and hearty flavour to your meat. Hickory is also great to pair with other types of wood too. Pairs well with any meat, poultry, bacon and cheese.
You could get your own BIG K Restaurant grade hickory wood chips delivered to your doorstep within 48 hours.
BIG K Oak Wood Chips.
Oak wood sits on comfortable middle ground in terms of flavour. It’s lighter than hickory and mesquite but not as light as the fruitwoods. Oaks secret to success is that it pairs well with almost any meat.
You will surely want to get your hands on BIG K Restaurant grade Oak wood chips made from 100% natural oak wood. This natural flavour enhancer adds depth to any cut of meat you will grill. Use these versatile chips to blend with smoking chips of cherry or apple; you could also soak it in whiskey, wine or water to further enhance the smoke.
BIG K Apple Wood Chips
Apple is one of the mildest smoking woods, imparting a sweet and mild flavour. These wood chips are great for smoking white, delicate meats like fish. They are also widely used for ham, bacon and sausages, giving a fruity infusion to the flesh.
BIG K Restaurant Grade Apple Wood Chips impart just the right amount of fresh and fruity flavour. Suitable for hot and cold smoking. Blends well with hickory, cherry and oak.
BIG K Cherry Wood Chips
BIG K Cherry Wood Chips give vivid notes of sweet, tart, fruity and mellow flavour. This is a mild smoking chip to use, meaning the flavour won’t over power the natural flavour of the meat. Pair it with gamey meats like Duck, Venison and Turkey.
How to make wood chips for smoking?
Super easy to do people so no worries. The good news is that you can make wood chips from just about any kind of wood. Basically the goal is to obtain small pieces of wood that you can use for smoking. So it’s a chopping process. You can use an axe or saw or simply put your wood through a wood chipper. Too easy!
We have come to the end of the smoking chips journey. Now there’s no excuse to not get your BBQ smoke on using your chip of choice. You know the science, you know the size considerations and you know the flavour possibilities. The only thing left to do is to go out there and make your masterpiece. We salute you brave griller!