If you plan to use a smoker instead of a barbecue grill, be prepared for some of the most incredible tasting food around. Smoke has been used for thousands of years to add flavor to foods and today, that process continues. In addition to enhancing the flavor of meats and vegetables, a smoker also helps fight bacteria during the cooking process. In addition to buying a quality smoker, it is also imperative that you choose the right type of wood.
Keep in mind that wood scraps found in the backyard do not qualify for a barbecue smoker. Instead, you need to purchase prepackaged wood chips or chunks designed specifically for a smoker. This means your food will be flavored with smoke and nothing else. Remember, some types of woods are chemically treated, which would obviously not be what you want in your food. Therefore, always choose quality wood when smoking food.
Now, even if you use a gas smoker, you can add wood chips or chunks that have been soaked in water in the smoker box. The result will be much the same as if using a full wood burning unit. On the other hand, a charcoal smoker is designed for the wood to be placed in the smoke box or directly onto the coals, your choice. We suggest you try it both ways with a charcoal smoker to determine which flavor you like best.
The best type of wood for a smoker is hardwood, which would be void of resin. The rule of thumb used by professionals is that any fruit-bearing tree is an excellent choice for the barbecue smoker. Oak and hickory produce a rich, heavy bodied smoke flavor while peach and apple are mild and slightly sweet. However, if you wanted something strong, you would go with mesquite. No matter how mild or potent you like your smoked foods, always buy quality to avoid a bitter taste.
At first, you might start with one quarter to one half cup of soaked wood chips or chunks to determine the level of smoky flavor you prefer. If this is too much, then reduce the amount but if not enough, add more. In fact, many experts suggest you try your first smoked technique on a regular barbecue grill. Then once you determine if you like and the level of smoke you like, you could purchase your very own smoker.
You can find wood chips and chunks at your local gardening center, home improvement store, grill and smoker store, and online. While some of the woods will be straightforward, others are infused with other flavors to include merlot wine and bourbon. Try various flavors and chances are you will end up with a wood flavor for each type of meat, pork being great with oak, beef with hickory, and fish with apple wood.