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What is The Best Wood For Your Barbecue Grill?

What is wood?

Wood is the means a tree uses to transport water with nutrients from the roots to the leaves.  Think of it as the life blood of the tree.  When a tree is cut down, the wood is full of these nutrients and water.  Fresh firewood therefore produces a lot of steam when it burns as the water evaporates and it gives off an acrid tasting flavor caused by the sap and nutrients in the wood.  The resulting smoke flavor is not pleasant or good for grilling.  In order to convert freshly cut wood into good firewood, it needs to dry out or “season”.  The minimum time to season wood is at least 6 months to let it dry out.

When talking about grilling with wood, we typically only talk about actual hardwoods like mesquite, cherry or hickory.  Softer woods like pine are not suitable for grilling as they produce an unpleasant smokey flavor.   Wood from fruit trees is mostly used when grilling lighter meats like fish, pork or chicken.  These lighter meats absorb the lighter smoke easily and the resulting flavor is great.  Heavier red meats like beef are better suited for heavier smoke.  You should use the smoke flavor just like you use seasoning.  Each type of meat or dish is seasoned differently so it also combines with smoke differently.

Why use seasoned firewood?

Seasoning firewood dries the wood so it is suitable for grilling.  Wood that was just cut or is “Green” will have a moisture content between 60% and 120%.  Yes!  120% moisture content means there is more water than actual dry wood!  You are shooting for a moisture content below 40%.  Many professional grillers use wood with moisture content of 20%.  Just be aware that the lower the moisture content, the quicker the wood burns and the harder it is to keep an every temperature.  A moisture meter will make it easy to see the moisture content of your wood.

When seasoning your own wood, it is important to split it first into even pieces.  This will season the wood much quicker and evenly.  Make sure you allow air to flow around the wood and avoid the wood from touching the ground.  This wood pieces that do touch the ground can form mold.  Moldy pieces should not be used for grilling!

Best Types Of Wood For Grilling

Here is a list of the various wood types best for grilling

Applewood: sweet and somewhat fruity in flavor, this is great for beef, pork, lamb, poultry and some seafoods.

Alder: this is often the go-to wood sort as it is generally well liked by everyone.  It is sweet, delicate and has an overall great taste.  Great for seafood or vegetables.  Good overall wood choice that is sure to please everyone.

Cherry: mild and fruity in flavor that pairs well with all meats and won’t overpower the taste of seafoods.

Hickory: sweet, strong and distinct flavor, almost bacon like. Because of this, it is the go to for many grillers.  Great for pairing with pork or chicken.

Maple: sweet, light and very mild in flavor.  Great for poultry.

Mesquite: very distinct strong earthy flavor that pairs well with dark meats like brisket.

Oak: Medium strong, classic smoke flavor, works well with just about every type of meat.

Pecan: Sweet, rich and nutty, similar to what hickory tastes like.  Also great for poultry.

Walnut: strong, intense heavy some flavor that can push being bitter tasting, good for wild game.

Wood smoke is like seasoning.  Enjoy playing with it and see what combinations work best for you.  Also remember that trees are living, breathing forms of life that absorb all the nutrients from the soil.  As soil is different in each location, don’t be surprised if one type of wood can be dramatically different from one location to the next as well!  Exploring these variables can be a lot of fun.

Arteflame grills are perfect for grilling with wood.  Because of the solid cooktop, the fire of the wood never touches your food yet adds that delicious smokey flavor in abundance.  It gives you the best of both worlds.  You can grill directly over the open fire or use the griddle.  The griddle allows you to cook food impossible to grill on anything but an Arteflame.  Try bacon, veggies, crepes or eggs.  Grilling burgers or steaks on the plancha makes for the juiciest food you will ever try.