|Oak||A heavy smoke flavour. Any oak will do. The second most popular smoking wood.||Red meat, pork, fish, and some wild game.|
|Hickory||Strong, smoky taste. The most common smoking wood.||Good with any meat.|
|Mesquite||Sweet, light taste. My personal favourite.||Great with all meats. Especially good with ribs, lamb, and vegetables.|
|Pecan||Nice taste. Lighter than hickory.||Good with almost anything.|
|Apple||Apple wood is very mild, with a subtle fruity flavour, slightly sweet.||Poultry, wild game, fish, and pork.|
|Cherry||Slightly sweet fruity flavour.||This flavour goes good with poultry, beef, fish, and pork. Especially good for ribs.|
|Birch||Slightly sweet.||Good with pork and poultry.|
|Alder||Very delicate. Slightly sweet.||Fish, pork, poultry.|
|Ash||Burns fast. Light, but distinct flavour.||Red meats and fish.|
|Maple||Maple has a smoky, mellow and slightly sweet taste.||Great with poultry, small game, vegetables, and cheeses|
|Pecan||Pecan wood is a cool burner, nutty, mild, and sweet with a flavour similar to hickory, tasty with a lot of subtle caricature.||Use on steaks & ribs. Also good with poultry, pork, and cheese.|
Most barbecue woods are cut from hardwood's, fruit woods, and nut woods, but never pine and softwoods that have a lot of turpenes and sap. Some cooks throw whole logs into their pits, but you must have the right pit and skill set to pull this off. Done improperly this can easily ruin your meat. For this reason we do not recommend it.
Wood chunks from golf ball to fist size are fairly easy to find in hardware stores. Chunks burn more slowly that chips, and often a chunk or two about the size of an egg weighing 2 to 4 ounces is all that is necessary for a load of food. Because they are slow, steady sources of smoke, they are in many ways, the most desirable. When you use chunks, you can add one or two at the start of the cooking cycle and you don't need to keep opening the unit and mess with the equilibrium in the cooking chamber's atmosphere.
About the size of coins, chips are also common and easy to find. They burn quickly and you may find that you need to add them more than once during the cooking cycle. Chips are fine for short duration cooking, but for long duration cooking, chunks are better.
Pellets are made by compressing wet sawdust and forming them into long strips. They are then broken into small pieces of about 1/2" long. Food grade pellets contain no binders, glue or adhesives, so that, when they get wet, they revert to sawdust immediately. Some smokers use pellets as the main fuel, for both flavour and heat, which means that pellet cookers do very well in competitions. Because they can be fed into the fire in a very controlled manner, pellet cookers are usually regulated with a thermostat, making them very easy to control. They burn very hot and clean.
Sawdust can also be used for flavour, but it burns quickly and is rarely used. It can be used effectively on thin, fast cooking foods like fish fillets or minute steaks.
TIP: If you are just learning the art of smoking your meat, start off using a small amount of wood to see how you like the flavour. You can then add more wood to increase the smoky BBQ flavour. Don't overuse it. It is possible to get too much BBQ smoke flavour over long cooking periods, this could make your meat bitter. This is particularly true with the heavier wood flavours like hickory and oak. Mesquite and the fruit woods just don't seem to do this to your meat because of their lighter smoke flavour. The rule of thumb is 1 to 2 cups or 1 to 2 handfuls.
TIP: Meat that has been smoked tastes even better on the second day. The smoke flavour seems to get better with time. So, your leftovers just taste better the second and third days. Always cook some extra meat as it is just fantastic the next day.