All smoking requires some kind of flavorful wood, unless you only prefer the lighter taste of charcoal alone. Oak, cherry, hickory, apple, and even cedar planks are all widely used for smoking. You can apply these fragrant woods as pellets or chips, depending mostly on the size and style of your smoker.
Wood pellets are the easiest to use, take up little space to store, and provide a strong enough flavor if you choose the right variety. They burn evenly and are hard to smother unless your smoker malfunctions. Since the pellets can burn at a higher temperature, they work with all meats. Most people choose pellet smokers today, especially now that flavored pellets are widely available and tend to cost the same as wood chips.
Wood chips can produce a stronger flavor, but they create less heat and are better used for thinner and smaller cuts of meat. Larger bone-in roasts and racks of ribs can take too long to safely cook over chips, not to mention something like a whole chicken or turkey. They also require more attention to stay burning evenly without getting too hot with little smoke or smothering out. Yet many people swear that the flavor is superior, especially from more delicate woods with less assertive flavors. Chips are also more widely available and can be less expensive than pellets. Many smoking fans end up getting a smoker for each method so they can enjoy both styles.
If you want to try making your own supplies, make sure you’re identifying the wood properly. Cut all chips and logs by hand rather than with a chainsaw to avoid getting oil and gas on the wood. In most cases, you’ll likely find it’s easier just to buy prepared smoking woods.
Make this summer the season you master smoking meats in your own backyard. Pick up a smoker, some wood chips, and the right tools and you’ll be on your way to a perfect brisket.