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Tip: Fuels & Fires Pt. 1 - Fuel

One of the most important aspects of slow cooking barbecue is the fuels used to produce the heat and smoke. Many times I have seen people use low quality charcoal or green wood in their cooking chambers, resulting in poor tasting barbecue and/or cookers dripping something similar to the blob escaping from the movie theater in the classic movie. This can result in some long and laborious cleanups. Everyone, at least, once has over smoked a piece of meat in some fashion leaving a taste as bitter as a year old gym sock. See, woods are made up of cresols and phenols and other noxious -nols that make great preservatives for the wood but don't taste very good when they come in contact with meat. However, let it be known that picking the right types of woods can produce taste tingling results. Just follow a few simple rules.

The first rule to remember is if it bears a needle don't cook with it. Pine and other resinous woods will do things to a smoker that make me shudder. Oh yeah, and if you eat this stuff the effects from the tar and resin will probably give a good old gut ache. The second rule is that if it bears a fruit or a nut it is okay to cook with. There are some limitations and guidelines to each type of wood but for the most part this rule holds true. Lets look at some common types of wood for smoking.

  • Oak- This is an excellent wood for smoking large pieces of meat. Oak is the most versatile of all hardwoods.

  • Pecan- My personal favorite. This wood produces a mild fruity taste and is similar to hickory wood, just a milder, smoother taste.

  • Hickory- Every great Southern BBQ tradition started with Hickory smoke. Hickory in moderation produces a sweet to strong hearty taste. Just remember, moderation.

  • Apple- This tree produces a mild and fruity taste. It is especially good for turkeys and chicken.

  • Mesquite- This is the bad boy of woods. Be careful, this can cause strong flavors quickly. It is best used in grilling and not in smokers.

Practice makes perfect when smoking meats. Always write down what you used and how much. In time you will have established which woods work best for you.


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