Thursday, June 2, 2011

Charcoal Smoky Heaven

Since I'm a newbie on BBQ smoking, I'm trying to soak up as much information as possible. There are some websites out there that go into so much detail, it's mind boggling. I came across this post today on the OC Weekly blog, talking about some of the differences between various types of wood and charcoal. It nicely summarizes most of what I've read in a nutshell:
  • Charcoal briquettes: the way to go for low & slow smoking, consistent burn times
  • Lump charcoal: burns very hot, inconsistent burn times, perfect for searing/grilling at high temps
  • Natural charcoal briquettes: burns hotter and quicker than normal briquettes
  • Pre-treated "match light" charcoal: yucky, has nasty chemicals, do not use for low & slow smoking (ok I admit it, I still have some of this stuff in storage)

For my WSM, the original Kingsford charcoal briquettes is the way to go. It's relatively cheap, easy to find, and is perfect for low & slow smoking. Regarding types of wood, there's so much info out there -- everyone seems to have their opinion on what works best. That's the fun part of BBQ, everyone does it differently, and it's good to experiment. Here are some common BBQ wood types and flavors:
  • Apple: slightly sweet but denser, fruity smoke flavor
  • Oak: versatile, mild smoke with no aftertaste
  • Hickory: pungent, smoky, bacon-like flavor
  • Mesquite: sweeter, more delicate flavor than hickory
  • Cherry: slightly sweet, denser, fruity smoke flavor
For now, I bought a package of apple wood chunks to start things off. It seems like it's one of the more popular and versatile woods, and people like to combine it with stronger flavored wood like oak, hickory, or mesquite. One thing I've always read is, do not over-smoke. The smoke flavor should be a subtle flavor in the background while eating the meat, not overpowering.