Wood and the smoke that emits from burning logs differentiate BBQ from any other type of outdoor cooking. BBQ traditions vary by location. Usually, BBQ is done using hardwood logs. However, too much heat and smoke and using the wrong type of wood can ruin the meat. There is a variety of wood to use for BBQ from Hickory to Pecan. As the pitmaster, you should already know how to burn the wood effectively. You can also enhance the texture and taste of your food by basting or rubbing to create the perfect meal.
Geographical BBQ traditions
Different geographical areas in the United States have different traditions for BBQ. These traditions have come about due to the local flora, as availability of wood for BBQ depends on it. Traditionally, most places tend to favor hickory, mesquite, oak and even grapevine cuttings to flavor meats while barbecuing and smoking.
Types of wood to use for BBQ and smoking meats
If you want to become a great at-home pitmaster, you should be aware of the best wood for BBQ.
Hickory is popular among Southern and several Midwestern states, giving strong flavor to the meats. However, be careful while using hickory, as too much smoke can cause meats to taste bitter.
Out of all the oaks and hardwoods, red oak is considered the best, especially for smoking meats. Oak is strong, but it does not tend to overpower the taste and texture of the meat. If you are cooking or smoking beef or lamb, this is the best hardwood to use.
Restaurants tend to favor mesquite, which is naturally oily and tends to burn hot and fast. Mesquite is not the best choice for hosting long and lazy barbecues.
Use Grapevine cuttings for BBQ beef, poultry and fish to give your meats a nice and delicate flavor. The downside of grapevine cuttings is the vast amounts of pungent smoke.
Apple wood imparts a mild flavor and sweetness to meats. It would be best to only use this wood for BBQ pork, especially ham, and poultry.
Cherry wood is ideal for barbecuing pork and beef, and gives a vibrant mahogany color to the meat. You can balance cherry wood by mixing it with hickory, oak, or pecan.
The Pecan tree belongs to the hickory family. This wood is great for long barbecues, as it burns slowly, and gives meats a delicate flavor. Also a wonderful smoking wood, but pecan tends to be pungent and is best used in moderation.
Other woods that are popular to use for BBQ and smoked meats include maple, alder ash, pear, and plum. Herb woods such as rosemary, thyme and basil are popular as well.
There are some woods that are not recommended to use for smoking and cooking meats. These woods include spruce, redwood, sycamore, cedar, cypress, elm, pine, fir, and eucalyptus.
The knowledge of the pitmaster
A good pitmaster knows not only about wood, but also how to burn it effectively and control flare-ups. You also need to know about the different cuts of meat. Some meat cuts require more heat to cook thoroughly, while others need less.
Enhancing texture and taste with basting or rubbing
As you barbecue and smoke meats over wood, you will need to baste the meats to prevent it from drying. Basting has an effect on the texture, and also the taste. When you slowly BBQ or smoke meats, rub the meat with a dry mix of spices. Rubbing this mixture of spices onto your food is all that is needed to keep juices intact and enhance the taste.