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How to Use Smoking Chunks When Grilling Meat

Based on their name alone, you may assume that smoking chunks are only useful for smoking meat. While smoking chunks can certainly be used for smoking, you can also use them for grilling. You'll still need some other type of fuel to produce heat, such as charcoal or cooking wood, but the smoking chunks will infuse your meat with an out-of-this-world flavor.

The Basics of Grilling Meat With Smoking Chunks

Before we go into the step-to-by-step process, let's first discuss the basics of grilling meat with smoking chunks. This alternative cooking method involves the use of a hot fire and high-quality wood chunks. Meat is typically smoked using low heat over a long period. Ribs, for example, may require up to six hours of smoking at a temperature of just 225 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Grilling, on the other hand, is a faster and hotter cooking method. It may take the same rack of ribs just 20 or 30 minutes to cook when grilled. Therefore, you'll need to create a hot fire when grilling meat with smoking chunks.

The heat produced by the burning wood or charcoal will cause your smoking chunks to smolder. When this occurs, they'll release smoke that's absorbed by your meat. Using only charcoal means your meat won't be exposed to this flavorful smoke.

Why You Should Grill Meat With Smoking Chunks

You might be wondering what benefits, if any, smoking chunks offer when used to grill meat. Well, the biggest benefit is the flavor. As you may know, charcoal doesn't offer much in terms of flavor. It can help you cook meat with a crispy exterior, but it won't infuse your meat with flavorful compounds. Smoking chunks, however, are designed specifically for this purpose. Consisting of medium-sized blocks of flavorful hardwood, they release a substantial amount of flavorful smoke when burned.

In addition to better flavor, grilling meat with smoking chunks is also faster than simply smoking meat. As previously mentioned, it can take up to six hours to smoke ribs. Some cuts of meat take even longer to smoke. But with grilling temperatures often reaching or exceeding 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, it will allow you to cook your meat in less time.

What You'll Need to Get Started

You'll need a few basic items to grill meat with smoking chunks. This includes a grill, high-quality smoking chunks, and either cooking wood or charcoal. You shouldn't use just any type of smoking chunks, however. For the best flavor and performance, choose a variety that will complement the natural flavor of your meat. Cherry smoking chunks are a popular choice for chicken and turkey because of their semi-sweet and fruity flavor, whereas hickory is an excellent choice for beef and pork because of its hearty bacon-like flavor.

Cherry and hickory are just two of many flavorful varieties of smoking chunks. Other popular choices include oak, pecan and pizza cut. Each variety has its own unique flavor, so choose a type that's appropriate for your meat. With that said, you can experiment with different types of smoking chunks to create unique flavors. Oak and hickory is a popular combination because oak offers a relatively mild flavor, whereas hickory offers a stronger and more robust flavor. Combining the two helps to create a more balanced flavor that works well with most cuts of meat.

Step #1) Prepare Your Grill

When you're ready to get started, go ahead and prepare your grill by cleaning and oiling the grate. Using a wire grill brush, scrub the grate to remove any hardened food particles and debris. When finished, apply a light layer of heat-tolerant cooking oil to create a nonstick surface. You can then add charcoal or cooking wood to the bottom of your grill, and once the fuel is in place, light it.

Keep in mind that charcoal will typically heat up more quickly than cooking wood. Assuming you use lump charcoal, it should turn glowing white in 15 to 20 minutes. If you use cooking wood, it may take up to 30 minutes. To make your cooking wood or charcoal heat up faster, open all the dampers on your grill. Most grills have a top damper and a bottom damper. With both dampers fully open, more air will flow into the fuel compartment, resulting in a hotter fire.

Step #2) Add Smoking Chunks

After your charcoal or cooking wood has turned glowing white, you can add your smoking chunks. The easiest way to do this is to simply toss your smoking chunks directly on top of the coals. They'll heat up quickly to create lots of flavorful smoke. The problem with this method, however, is that it causes smoking chunks to burn a little too quickly. As a result, some pitmasters add their smoking chunks to the side of the charcoal. By placing your smoking chunks next to the charcoal rather than on top of the charcoal, they'll smolder at a lower temperature, allowing for a longer burn time.

You can also use a smoker box to insulate your smoking chunks when grilling meat. A smoker box is perforated metal box -- typically made of stainless steel or cast iron -- that's used to store smoking chunks. Just open the lid, add your smoking chunks, and then place the smoker box on top of the coals. Its enclosed design will insulate your smoking chunks so that they don't burn too quickly.

Step #3) Add Meat

Now it's time to start grilling your meat. With the coals nice and hot, add your meat to the cooking grate. Ideally, meat should be placed on the hottest part of the grate, which is typically directly over the coals. The smoke produced by your smoking chunks will still reach your meat, regardless of where it's placed. If your meat is placed on a cooler part of the grate, though, it won't achieve the same crispy exterior that's commonly associated with grilling. For the best flavor and texture, place your meat on the hottest part of the grate.

Step #4) Flip Meat Regularly

Because grilling involves hot, direct heat, you'll need to flip your meat regularly. It's a common myth that you should only flip meat once when grilling. The reality is that it's perfectly fine, and even beneficial, to flip it multiple times. Flipping your meat regularly helps it cook more evenly while also ensuring that it doesn't stick to the grate.

Depending on the type of meat you are grilling, as well as other factors like the amount of charcoal or cooking wood you use, it may take anywhere from five minutes to 30 minutes to fully cook. When you believe your meat is ready, use a probe thermometer to check the internal temperature. Beef should be cooked to at least 160 degrees; pork and chicken should be cooked to at least 165 degrees; and lamb should be cooked to at least 145 degrees. Assuming your meat has reached its minimum safe temperature, you can remove it from your grill.

Find the best quality smoking chunks by visiting wood chunks for smoking today. Cutting Edge Firewood offers a variety of high-quality smoking chunks, including white oak, hickory, cherry, pecan and whiskey that you can use in a smoker box when grilling meat. We offer complimentary shipping for our smoking chunk products across the United States.

About The Author

Leroy Hite

Leroy Hite is the founder and CEO of Cutting Edge Firewood, an ultra-premium firewood and cooking wood company located in Atlanta, Georgia. Leroy's mission is to give people the experience of the perfect fire because some of life’s best memories are made in the warmth of a fire’s glow. He founded Cutting Edge Firewood in 2013 with a goal to provide unmatched quality wood and unparalleled customer service nationwide. The company offers premium kiln-dried firewood, cooking wood, and pizza wood in a wide variety of species and cuts to customers around the country.