To smoke flavorful meat that’s tender enough to pull apart with a fork, you must use the right type of fuel. By itself, charcoal is generally a poor choice of fuel. While perfect for grilling, charcoal cooks meat too quickly and with too much heat. For smoking, you must use a different type of fuel, such as wood pellets or smoking chunks.
Both wood pellets and smoking chunks will release flavorful smoke when burned. Whether you’re smoking a beef brisket, pork shoulder, ribs or any other meat, it will absorb some of this flavorful smoke, allowing you to cook mouthwatering dishes from the comfort of your patio or backyard. Although they both consist of wood, however, wood pellets aren’t the same as smoking chunks.
What Are Wood Pellets?
Wood pellets are small pellet-sized and -shaped pieces of ground-up wood and organic matter. They originated during the early 1980s as an alternative to oil. During this time, the United States faced a severe oil shortage, which prompted entrepreneurs to explore alternative fuel sources for stoves. Soon thereafter, the world’s first pellet stove was released. Pellet stoves use electricity to ignite pellets and produce heat. While the United States no longer suffers from an oil shortage, many households continue to use pellet stoves during the cool fall and winter months.
In addition to being used in stoves, wood pellets are also used in smokers and grills. When lit, they create a hot fire that produces lots of smoke. However, the wood pellets used in smokers and grills isn’t the same as those used in stoves. Stove wood pellets often contain a combination of both hardwood and softwood, whereas grill and smoker wood pellets typically consist entirely of hardwood.
What Are Smoking Chunks?
Not to be confused with wood chips, smoking chunks are medium-sized pieces, or “chunks,” of hardwood. They typically measure about two inches long and are harvested from hardwood trees like oak, hickory and cherry. After a hardwood tree is cut down, the wood is cut and processed into smoking chunks.
Unlike wood pellets, smoking chunks are used exclusively for smoking. You can place them in either a grill or smoker, and when heated, they’ll produce flavorful smoke while cooking your meat at a low temperature. It many cases, it only takes a small handful of smoking chunks to achieve the perfect environment in which to smoke your meat. When the smoking chunks heat up, they’ll release smoke that’s absorbed by your meat while it cooks.
Benefits of Using Wood Pellets
What are the benefits of smoking meat with wood pellets? Well, some smokers are designed specifically for wood pellets. Known as pellet smokers, they feature a hopper in which wood pellets are poured. The hopper guides the wood pellets to an oven compartment where they are exposed to direct heat. If you own one of these pellet smokers, you should probably stick with wood pellets.
Wood pellets are also inexpensive and readily available. You can purchase them locally as well as online. After purchasing a bag of wood pellets, you can toss them in your grill or smoker to smoke delicious meat. With that said, you may want to skip the wood pellets and, instead, use smoking chunks.
Benefits of Using Smoking Chunks
Smoking chunks burn more slowly than wood pellets, making them ideal for smoking meat over a long period of time. If you use wood pellets in a non-electric grill or smoker, they’ll burn to ash shortly after being lit. And once the wood pellets have turned to ash, you’ll have to add fresh wood pellets to maintain a stable temperature. An easier and better solution is to use smoking chunks. Since they are larger — and not made of ground-up wood — smoking chunks burn more slowly than their wood pellet counterparts. Of course, this is important because it means you won’t have to open your grill’s or smoker’s lid as frequently as you would when using wood pellets, allowing for more stable cooking temperatures as well as preserving the flavorful smoke inside your grill or smoker.
When using smoking chunks, you can rest assured knowing that you aren’t exposing your meat to potentially harmful substances. Food-grade wood pellets generally consist entirely of ground-up and compressed hardwood. Stove wood pellets, on the other hand, often contain hardwood and softwood as well as a binding agent. Stove wood pellets are safe to use in a stove, but you shouldn’t use them in a grill or smoker. If you happen to use stove wood pellets in your grill or smoker, you may inadvertently expose your food to harsh chemicals. By sticking with smoking chunks, your food will only be exposed to natural, flavorful wood smoke.
Smoking chunks are also dried to lower their moisture content. Some smoking chunks, including those sold here at Cutting Edge Firewood, are even kiln dried. An advanced wood-drying process, kiln drying involves placing smoking chunks or other wood in a large oven-like kiln. As the smoking chunks sit in the kiln, heat and pressure is used to extract moisture from their pores.
You don’t need a dedicated smoker to use smoking chunks. Even if you only have a charcoal grill, you can still use them. Some pitmasters actually use a combination of charcoal and smoking chunks in their charcoal grill. Assuming the smoking chunks are placed next to the charcoal rather than directly on it, they’ll smolder at a low temperature while releasing lots of flavorful smoke in the process.
What About Wood Chips?
Another type of fuel that’s used to smoke meat is wood chips. Like smoking chunks, wood chips consist of hardwood that’s used to smoke and grill food. The difference is that wood chips are smaller and thinner. Wood chips are still available in many of the same varieties of smoking chunks, so they can create a flavorful environment in which to smoke meat. But because of their smaller size and thinner shape, wood chips burn more quickly than smoking chunks.
Wood chips can actually produce too much heat, resulting in dry and overcooked meat. While smoking chunks smolder, wood chips tend to ignite and burn. Like wood pellets, the wood chips will quickly burn to ash. So, if you’re going to use wood chips in your grill or smoker, remember to check your fire frequently and add more as needed. If there are no solid wood chips in your grill or smoker, you won’t be able to achieve an appropriate smoking temperature.
You can smoke delicious meat using wood pellets, smoking chunks or wood chips. For the best smoking experience, though, it’s recommended that you stick with smoking chunks. Consisting entirely of medium-sized blocks of hardwood, they offer the perfect smoking experience. High-quality smoking chunks will enhance the flavor of your meat, all while cooking it slowly and at low temperature. Feel free to experiment with other fuel sources when smoking meat, but when in doubt, you can’t go wrong with high-quality smoking chunks.
Find the best quality smoking chunks 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.