Whether you’re cooking on a gas or charcoal barbecue, you’ll be able to enhance the natural smoky taste that grilling food al fresco creates. Using a food smoker adds a greater depth of colour and flavour to every type of dish including meat, fish and vegetables – and allows you to add your personality to your barbecuing also, as each wood type produces a different aroma and final flavour.
Smoking food is a tradition that dates back to ancient times when it was used to preserve meats. Nowadays, it’s often used to add flavour to barbecued food.
With charcoal barbecues you have the choice of placing pre-soaked wood chips inside a smoke box and adding this to the charcoals or simply sprinkling a few wood chips onto the hot coals, according to personal preference. For gas barbecues, you just need to soak your chosen wood chips in water – or beer, wine or fruit juice for added zest – before adding to your smoke box. As an alternative to the smoke box you can always use some aluminium foil, which you wrap loosely around the wood chips and pierce with a few small holes so the smoke can escape.
Each wood type gives off a distinctive aroma for an individual flavour, and the amount of wood you add to the BBQ will depend on how strong you want the flavour to be. Some wood types work better with certain meats and fish than others, and it’s a good idea to experiment with the flavours to discover your favourites.
These are some of the most popular wood types that can be used in your food smoker:
- Oak – this wood has an attractive aroma that complements a number of different meats including pork, poultry and beef as well as fish.
- Alder – this wood produces a delicate flavour that goes well with fish, especially salmon, and chicken.
- Hickory – strong and smoky, this wood is ideal with dominant flavours like cheeses, beef, pork and game. As this wood is so pungent, though, you need to take care not to use too much or it’ll overpower the foods.
- Mesquite – sweeter and more subtle in flavour than hickory, this wood is good with meats including beef and vegetables.
- Cherry – with a sweet flavour, this wood adds extra depth to poultry, pork and game birds.
- Apple – subtly sweet in flavour and works wonders with poultry and pork in particular.
- Maple – smoky and sweet, this wood works well with corn on the cob, ham and poultry on the barbecue.
- Pear – this wood is sweet and goes nicely with poultry and game birds in particular.
- Birch – with a similar flavour to maple, this wood adds sweetness to meats like poultry and pork.
- Grape vines – aromatic, this wood is especially good with lamb.
- Chestnut – nutty and sweet, this wood goes well with most meats.