If you're planning to smoke ribs in the near future, you might be wondering what type of wood to use. Smoked ribs offer the perfect combination of mouthwatering flavor and fall-apart tenderness, which is why many people prefer them over baked and grilled ribs. But you need to use the right wood. Otherwise, you may discover your ribs are less tender and less flavorful.
How Wood Affects the Flavor of Smoked Ribs
When you smoke ribs, you'll expose the meat to flavorful smoke created by the wood. Charcoal consists almost entirely of carbon, so it produces minimal smoke when burned. Therefore, you must add wood to your grill or smoker to fill it with flavorful smoke. As the heat inside your grill or smoker builds up, it will cause the wood to release smoke that rises up and into your ribs.
There are over 60,000 species of trees in the world, however, each of which has its own unique characteristics. As a result, different types of wood produce different flavors when using to smoke ribs. Some types of wood have a bitter flavor and should be avoided, such as pine, whereas others have a savory and sweet flavor that complements the natural flavor of ribs. Using the right wood will help you smoke better-tasting ribs
Wood Logs vs Smoking Chunks vs Smoking Chips: Which Is Best for Ribs?
You can use one of three types of wood to smoke ribs: cooking wood logs, smoking chunks or smoking chips. Cooking wood logs consist of flavorful varieties of wood cut into small- to medium-sized logs. Smoking chunks are blocks of flavorful wood (usually less than 2 inches long). And smoking chips are thinner and smaller pieces of flavorful wood. Of those three options, cooking wood logs typically burn the longest, but they won't produce as much smoke as smoking chunks or smoking chips. If you're going to smoke ribs with cooking wood logs, add either smoking chunks or smoking chips as well for the best possible flavor and tenderness.
Hickory Wood for Ribs
Whether you prefer cooking wood logs, smoking chunks or smoking chips, you can't go wrong with hickory when smoking ribs. Hickory offers a particularity strong smokey flavor that works well for ribs. It complements the natural flavor of ribs to provide a flavor that's simply out of this world. And like most other hardwoods, hickory is relatively dense, so it holds less moisture than softwoods. For these reasons and others, hickory wood is an all-around great choice for smoking ribs.
Pecan Wood for Ribs
In addition to hickory, another excellent type of wood for smoking ribs is pecan. Technically, pecan wood is a variety of hickory. Pecan trees (Carya illinoinensis) grow natively in certain parts of the Southern United States as well as Northern Mexico. While most known for the nuts they produce, their wood is equally prized. Pecan wood is used to make everything from hardwood floors and cabinets to chairs and building materials. Additionally, it's harvested and used as cooking wood because of its mouthwatering flavor. Pecan wood is milder than its hickory counterpart and, not surprisingly, as a nuttier flavor.
Other Types of Wood for Smoking Ribs
Hickory and pecan are just two of many types of wood that you can use for smoking ribs. Other popular types of wood used for smoking ribs include white oak, cherry, apple and whiskey grilling. Of course, each type of wood has its own flavor, so you should conduct your own tests to determine which flavor you prefer best. You may discover that pecan offers the best flavor, or you could find that milder white oak is better for ribs.
Can I Use Multiple Types of Wood?
If you're struggling to choose a specific type for smoking ribs, you can always use multiple types. For example, you can combine hickory wood with white oak wood to achieve a milder yet still deliciously smokey flavor. Pecan wood by itself may be overbearing for some people. By mixing it with white oak wood, though, you'll achieve a milder flavor with your smoked ribs.
Regardless of which type of wood you use to smoke ribs, remember to add more so that your grill or smoker remains full of smoke. Even if your charcoal is still hot, your wood may burn to ash. And if you don't add more wood, your ribs won't be exposed to a sufficient amount of flavorful smoke. Every half-hour or so, check your grill or smoker to see if the wood is still smoking. If it's not, add more cooking wood logs, smoking chunks or smoking chips to achieve the best flavor for your smoked ribs.
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