When grilling or smoking meats or veggies, you'll want to use a flavorful variety of wood. Unlike charcoal, wood contains natural flavor compounds that are absorbed by food. As the wood begins to smolder, it will release smoke that both cures and enhances the flavor of your food.
You've probably noticed that there are two common types of wood used for smoking and grilling: wood chunks and wood chips. In this article, we make the strong case that wood chunks offer a superior flavor and experience over wood chips. Let's get to it.
WHAT ARE WOOD CHIPS?
Wood chips, also known as smoking chips, are small pieces of wood meant to release flavorful smoke. They typically come from hardwood trees like oak, hickory and cherry. The wood is essentially pulverized into small, thin pieces, which are colloquially known as wood chips. You place the smoking wood chips inside your smoker -- preferably next to the charcoal so that they aren't directly exposed to the fire -- at which point they'll begin to smolder and release flavorful smoke.
WHAT ARE WOOD CHUNKS?
Wood chunks, also known as wood chunks for smoking, are larger pieces of wood. Like wood chips, wood chunks originate from hardwood trees, and they are also used to create delicious smoked food. They are called "wood chunks," however, because of their significantly larger size. Wood chunks are also placed in your smoker and should be spread evenly around the smoker. It's fine to expose them directly to the fire because they will burn for much longer than wood chips.
HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WOOD CHIPS AND WOOD CHUNKS
Wood chunks and chips both usually come from hardwood trees, and people use both to smoke meats and veggies. The main difference is size, which makes it very easy to distinguish between wood chips and wood chunks.
Wood chips are very thin, with most chips measuring less than 0.25 inches thick. In comparison, wood chunks from Cutting Edge Firewood can measure up to 4 inches thick. Wood chips are essentially wood thin shavings, whereas wood chunks are thicker blocks of wood. By inspecting the thickness, you should be able to tell whether a piece of smoking wood is a wood chip or wood chunk.
Just because wood chunks and chips are made from the same source material, doesn't mean they offer the same level of performance for smoking. The nuances between their varying sizes can affect the outcome of your smoked foods in several ways.
WHY WOOD CHUNKS OUTPERFORM WOOD CHIPS
If you're serious about smoking or grilling delicious meats and veggies, you should choose wood chunks over wood chips. With their larger size, they outperform wood chips to provide a superior smoking experience.
Here are some of the top reasons to choose wood chunks over wood chips:
- Because they are thicker than wood chips, wood chunks offer a longer burn time. With wood chunks, you won't have to continuously add new wood to your smoker.
- Wood chunks produce more smoke and, therefore, better flavor. Although they come from the same varieties of hardwood trees, most pitmasters will agree that wood chunks are more flavorful than wood chips because they burn and smolder for a longer period of time. Wood chips are so small that they turn to ash very quickly and do not add much flavor.
- It's also worth mentioning that using wood chunks will trap more flavorful smoke inside your smoker. Their long burn time means you won't have to open the lid to regularly add more wood. You can keep the lid on your smoker or grill closed so that the smoke remains trapped inside with your food.
- You may be able to reuse wood chunks. Wood chips will almost always burn to ash when placed inside a smoker. Wood chunks, on the other hand, may still be intact after being used in a smoker. If some of your wood chunks are still whole, store them in a safe area so that you can reuse them the next time you smoke food.
- 2-3 is all you need: Because wood chunks are so large, 2-3 pieces is all you will need for a flavorful cook.
- More Variety in flavor: Wood is composed of both heartwood and sapwood, and the best possible flavor is only achieved when both of them are together. Chunks provide both in a single piece.
CAN I USE WOOD CHIPS?
This is a free country, so you can use whatever you want to cook your food, but don't expect wood chips to work as well as wood chunks. Since they are thinner and smaller than wood chunks, they will quickly turn to flavorless ash. With a shorter burn time, they won't release as much smoke.
For the best flavor and overall smoking experience, you should use smoking chunks. They have the perfect size for smoking in popular kamado style smokers. They aren't as big as full-sized wood logs, but they are still thicker and larger than wood chips. This size makes wood chunks the perfect choice for smoking delicious meats and veggies.
DO WOOD CHUNKS REQUIRE SOAKING?
One very popular myth is that you should soak your wood chunks. The truth is, wood chunks never need soaking.
Many people claim that soaking the wood chunks enables them to create more smoke, when they actually just create steam. Furthermore, wood is very resistant to soaking up water - there is a reason they build ships out of wood! The only thing you will achieve by soaking wood chunks is to cool down the temperature of your fire, delay the release of flavor, and add a bitter taste.
Don't waste time soaking wood chunks, use them when they are dry!
CAN YOU USE WOOD CHUNKS FOR GRILLING? OR JUST FOR SMOKING?
Another popular myth is the idea that wood chunks should only be used for low and slow cooking. Some people have argued that wood chunks won't add flavor when grilling steaks or burgers because there isn't enough time for the meat to absorb any flavor.
Clearly, those people have never tried cooking with some Cutting Edge Smoking Chunks in their grill! Next time you decide to grill, try throwing a couple chunks of hickory on the fire and see if you can taste the difference.
WHAT FOODS PAIR BEST WITH WHICH FOODS?
The essence of smoking and grilling goes beyond just heat — it's about infusing the soul of the wood into every bite. To ensure the flavors of your meal are properly accentuated, understanding the nuances of wood and food pairing is key.
For lighter meats like poultry or fish, the gentle and slightly sweet smoke of cherry wood or apple wood is a match made in heaven. The notes of this wood enhance the tender textures of these meats, wrapping them in an aroma reminiscent of ancient open-air feasts.
Moving on to red meats, hickory plays a star role. Its natural smokiness and depth accentuate the rich flavors, especially in dishes like brisket.
Oak wood, with its versatile and mild nature, can be paired with almost any meat, offering greater consistency in flavor.
For those who love to experiment, Savanna Heat’s subtle sweetness can be a delightful surprise. Best used with pork or poultry, it introduces a flavor reminiscent of the golden leaves of autumn.
Incorporating these woods ensures that every meal becomes a symphony of flavors, taking diners back to the roots of open-air cooking where the ancient alchemy of wood and fire ruled supreme.
HOW DO YOU PROPERLY STORE WOOD CHUNKS?
Ensuring that your wood chunks remain in optimal condition is key for a top-notch grilling experience. Storing smoking wood chunks correctly ensures that they retain their natural essence, offering you the intoxicating aroma of natural wood every time you light up your grill.
We recommend storing wood chunks in the boxes they arrive in from Cutting Edge Firewood. These boxes are specifically designed to protect the wood from external elements, retaining their quality.
Keep these boxes in a dry location, shielded from direct exposure to moisture. Dampness can alter the wood's properties, affecting the flavor they impart to the food.
WHAT TYPE OF SMOKER SHOULD YOU USE?
In the realm of culinary smoke, charcoal and wood grills reign supreme, setting them apart from their gas and electric counterparts. Charcoal grills, such as Weber, Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, Primo, and Kalamazoo, exude authenticity, delivering an intense smoke flavor that narrates tales of ancestral cooking. You can use wood in most charcoal grills by simply placing wood instead of charcoal.
While gas grills and electric smokers boast convenience, they often falter in delivering that genuine wood-infused flavor.
While the smoker type does play a role, the real magic lies in the wood. From California to Texas, the right wood, like the varieties we offer at Cutting Edge Firewood, will ensure your smoked dishes are a cut above the rest.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT WOOD CHUNKS: WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
The evidence is clear: wood chunks outperform wood chips when grilling or smoking meats and veggies. They burn longer, produce more smoke, offer better flavor and more. To reap these benefits, though, you must choose the right type of wood chunks for your smoking activities.
Avoid using wood chunks with a high moisture content. Unless the wood chunks have been kiln dried, you shouldn't use them. Kiln drying refers to an advanced wood-drying method in which the wood is baked inside a large drying kiln. Here at Cutting Edge Firewood, our wood chunks are kiln dried for 48 hours. By extracting the moisture, kiln dried wood chunks light quicker and burn cleaner to produce better flavor.
You should also consider the species of tree from which the wood chunks were harvested. Hardwood varieties like oak, hickory, cherry, pecan and white oak offer better flavors than softwood varieties. But each variety has its own unique characteristics:
- White oak, for instance, is a mild hardwood variety that's highly versatile and can be used to smoke nearly all meats and veggies. It's also a great heat source if you only want to cook over wood.
- Pecan, on the other hand, is a stronger variety that offers a unique nutty flavor.
- Cherry is a fruit wood that offers a sweet, smoky flavor.
- Hickory provides the strongest flavor and is a classic choice for BBQ and Grilling enthusiasts.
Find the best quality wood chunks for smoking by visiting our online store today. Cutting Edge Firewood offers a variety of high-quality smoking chunks, including white oak, hickory, cherry, pecan and whiskey, all of which will allow you to smoke delicious meat. We offer complimentary shipping for our smoking chunk products across the United States.
The best food deserves the best flavor!