It’s no secret that charcoal is the most popular type of fuel used for grilling. Whether you’re grilling hamburgers, steaks, chicken breasts or any other food, you can rest assured knowing that charcoal will provide a sufficient amount of heat. With that said, you might be wondering whether you can use cooking wood as a substitute for charcoal. In this post, we’re going to explore the growing trend of grilling with cooking wood, revealing its unique advantages and disadvantages.
Yes, You Can Grill With Cooking Wood
Contrary to what some people believe, charcoal isn’t the only type of fuel for grilling. It’s perfectly fine to grill with cooking wood. By definition, grilling is a cooking method that involves the use of direct heat — usually in excess of 500 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit — to sear the exterior of food. Consisting almost entirely of pure carbon, charcoal is an effective type of fuel for grilling. Once lit, it quickly heats up to the aforementioned temperature. But cooking wood can also heat up to an appropriate temperature for grilling. As a result, you grill using either charcoal or cooking wood as fuel.
People have been grilling with cooking wood for centuries — long before charcoal was used for this purpose. Briquette charcoal, in fact, didn’t appear until the end of the 19th century. In 1897, Ellsworth B. A. Zwoyer filed a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for briquette charcoal. In the years to follow, other entrepreneurs took notice by designing and releasing their own briquette charcoal. Prior to the inception of modern charcoal, though, cooking wood was used almost exclusively for grilling.
Advantages of Grilling With Cooking Wood
Grilling with cooking wood offers several advantages. When compared to charcoal, cooking wood offers a better flavor. Charcoal doesn’t necessarily produce a bad flavor. However, most people will agree that grilled food tastes better when cooking wood is used as the fuel rather than briquette or lump charcoal. As the cooking wood burns, it will release flavorful smoke that’s absorbed by your food.
Cooking wood is also all-natural, so it won’t expose your food to potentially harmful fumes or substances. Some types of charcoal, for example, are pre-soaked in lighter fluid. If you use pre-soaked charcoal such as this, it may leave your food with a harsh and bitter flavor. Even non-soaked charcoal may contain substances that produce an unpleasant flavor when burned. Briquette charcoal, for instance, contains sawdust and wood scraps that are bound together with a filler ingredient like cornstarch. Cooking wood, on the other hand, consists of all-natural wood without any fillers or additives, making it a safer and more desirable type of fuel for grilling.
Let’s face it, charcoal is messy. When preparing your grill with charcoal, you’ll probably get the black particles on your hands and clothes. If left unchecked, charcoal can permanently stain your clothes. You can handle cooking wood, however, without worrying about staining your clothes. All high-quality cooking wood is clean and devoid of any stain-causing compounds.
You’ll probably discover that cooking wood produces a pleasant aroma when burned. Each species of wood offers a distinct aroma. The smell will engulf your patio or outdoor living space to create a more enjoyable grilling experience.
Disadvantages of Grilling With Cooking Wood
What are the disadvantages of grilling with cooking wood? Well, some pitmasters may struggle to light their cooking wood, especially if it’s damp or moist. If there’s too much moisture within your cooking wood, you won’t be able to light it using a match.
Some grills may also lack the space to accommodate cooking wood. If you’re using a small grill, such as a portable camping grill, you may not be able to fit long pieces of cooking wood into the fuel compartment below the grate, in which case you’ll have to resort to using traditional lump or briquette charcoal. Aside from these minor issues — which can be addressed by using the right cooking wood — there aren’t any real disadvantages of grilling with cooking wood.
Choosing the Right Cooking Wood for Grilling
If you’re going to grill with cooking wood, you need to choose the right type of cooking wood. As previously mentioned, damp or moist wood is difficult to light. Therefore, you should choose dry, well-seasoned cooking wood. Here at Cutting Edge Firewood, we offer a wide variety of kiln dried cooking wood. Being that our cooking wood is kiln dried, it contains significantly less moisture than fresh, green and even air-dried cooking wood.
Don’t forget to consider the species of tree from which the cooking wood was harvested. Hardwood species are preferable over softwood species because they contain less moisture and resin. As a result, cooking wood from hardwood trees — oak, cherry, hickory, etc. — are better suited for grilling. They burn more cleanly to produce better-tasting food.
How to Grill With Cooking Wood
When you’re ready to grill with cooking wood, prepare your grill by arranging the wood logs in the bottom of the fuel compartment below the grate. Depending on the size of the logs, you may be able to fit anywhere from three to six pieces into your grill. After filling the bottom of your grill with cooking wood, you can proceed to light it. Just place some tinder and kindling underneath the cooking wood, at which point you can light the tinder with a match. As the tinder ignites, the kindling should catch fire, allowing your cooking wood to heat up and catch fire as well.
Here are some tips to follow when grilling with cooking wood:
- Wait until the cooking wood has turned white with a glowing flame to add your food.
- Because charcoal burns hotter than wood, you need to ensure your food is placed directly over the fire.
- To turn up the heat, open your grill’s dampers all the way. You can also make your grill hotter by gently blowing into the center of the wood fire.
- As your cooking wood burns to ash, add new pieces of cooking wood to maintain stable grilling temperatures.
- If you prefer a more smokey flavor, try partially closing your grill’s dampers. The temperature will likely drop with the dampers partially closed, but it will also trap the smoke to promote a more smokey flavor.
- Experiment with different types of cooking wood to see which varieties offer the best flavor.
- Don’t use lighter fluid on your cooking wood.
- Don’t soak your cooking wood in water. Although this sounds like an effective way to extend its burn time, soaking cooking wood in water will only inhibit its combustion while creating excess steam in the process.
- Like when grilling with charcoal, remember to flip your food on occasion to ensure it cooks evenly on both sides.
Don’t assume that charcoal is the best type of fuel for grilling. While you can always grill delicious meats and veggies using charcoal, cooking wood offers several key advantages. Among other things, cooking wood produces a better flavor and doesn’t expose your food to potentially harmful fumes or substances.
Become a grill master by choosing Cutting Edge Firewood’s premium kiln dried cooking wood. Whether you choose hickory, pecan, white oak or cherry, it will allow you to cook delicious, restaurant-quality food.