When we think smoke flavor, we immediately think of the BBQ classics ribs, brisket and pork shoulder cooked over low temperatures.
But you can easily add smoke flavor to just about anything you grill, even if you only are planning for a quick cook. Burgers, fish, vegetables, even chicken breasts benefit from a good dose of smoke. Best of all, that smoky flavor is not difficult to achieve.
Historically speaking, this is the wood of choice for much of Southern barbecue. Hickory imparts a rich, slightly sweet flavor that pairs perfectly with the staple of the South: pork. It’s paired with traditional favorites like ribs, pork shoulder, hams, and pork chops. But it also goes great with chicken and beef.
The pecan may be the official tree of Texas, but mesquite is the official smoke of its pitmasters. Mesquite wood provides a strong flavor that pairs wonderfully with the richness of Texas beef and spicy rubs and sauces.
Fruitwood imparts a lighter, slightly fruitier but still smoky taste. It’s much more subtle than the bold flavors of hickory and mesquite. Apple is very popular, followed by the wood of stone fruits like cherry and peach. People even smoke with citrus woods. The lighter smoke flavor makes fruitwood ideal for more delicate meats like poultry and seafood.
Ways to Add Smoke
One common way to add smoke is by adding wood chips to a bed of already-lit charcoal. Just add the desired flavor of wood chips to the top of your already-lit coals. With wood chips it’s important to soak the chips in water for 30 minutes to prevent the chips from burning up too quickly, so they produce more smoke for a longer period of time.
Larger wood chunks that burn slowly are a favorite of many pitmasters. Chunks work perfectly when combined with Kingsford® Charcoal to provide plenty of smoke for long cooks. Just add the wood chunks to hot coals. Wood chunks typically are not soaked before using. However, unsoaked chunks can burn, so watch the grill temperature after adding.
Wood flavor profiles
Whereas all kinds of hardwood, fruit, and even citrus woods can be used for smoking, three flavors are most common in the barbecue world: hickory, mesquite and fruitwood.