When it comes to barbecue, there are myriad grills and multiple fuel sources one can use to make that succulent smoked deliciousness. These include ceramic cookers, offset grills, vertical smokers, gassers, and kettles. Fuel sources run the gamut from electric, charcoal, propane, natural gas, stick burners, and on and on. But the one constant that binds them all together is smoke. Before you scoff at combining smoke and a gas grill, know that I smoke on my gas grill all the time. It can be done. But to get smoke, you first need wood. But what type of wood and what format? Hardwood? Fruitwood? Cedar? Chips? Chunks? Planks?
Let’s start with the main types of wood. There are dozens of smoke woods that can be used, but I’m going to focus on the top woods in terms of popularity and availability:
Hickory is the most commonly used wood to smoke with. It works particularly well with pork and ribs and imparts a sweet and strong flavor with notes of bacon. Hickory is often used as the measuring stick for other woods, used to describe where they fall on the flavor scale. For example, other popular woods such as apple, mesquite, peach, and pecan are a little sweeter and milder than hickory is, whereas cedar can have a strong, nearly overpowering flavor if used to grill for too long.