What You Need to Know About Wood Before Lighting the Grill

Chandra Ram

Your custom grill is only as good as the wood you use to fuel it. Here are a few things to keep in mind before you hit up the woodshed.

A single type of wood isn’t the best solution. 

First, grill with hardwood; softwoods like pine are too smoky. You’re better off with a mix of wood: one with a high BTU, like white and red oak, dogwood, pepperwood or eucalyptus; one that lights easily, like cedar or cherry; and one that burns for a long time, like black locust, oak or cherry.

You need a variety of sizes and shapes.

Wood chips help you start your fire quickly, and small chunks of wood help keep the fire going long enough to get logs burning. 

Consider the flavors your wood will impart to the food.

Fruitwoods, like pear, apple and cherry, will impart a little sweetness to the food from the smoke they produce. Tannic wood, like oak, will add a note of astringency. Deeply flavorful wood, like hickory and mesquite, will overwhelm light food, so use them only when you mean it.

Your wood needs to be seasoned.

Seasoned wood has a lower moisture content, so it lights easier and burns better. For best results, it should be seasoned by your supplier for at least three months before you buy it. Once you bring it in, be sure to stack logs with space between them, so that they have room to breathe/stay dry.

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