Outdoor grilling is one of the hallmarks of summer in the United States. Many Americans enjoy grilling as a way to prepare meals without heating up the house. Grilling also lends a unique flavor to meats, vegetables, and other foods for backyard barbeques and other social gatherings.
Wood chips help provide complex flavors for vegetables and meats and can make the difference between a good meal and a great one. Fortunately, using wood chips is a fairly simple process, whether you’re using a gas or charcoal grill. You can perfect it in only a few tries, depending on your personal tastes.
How to Use Wood Chips on Your BBQ
Place Wood Chips in a Foil Pouch
One way to use wood chips is to simply place the chips on a piece of foil, fold the foil over the chips, and roll up the foil ends to tightly seal the pouch. This method allows the chips to catch fire and smolder, giving your meats and vegetables a distinct smoke flavor commonly found in Tuscan cuisine.
Soak Wood Chips in Water
Another common method is similar but involves soaking the chips in water for 15 minutes to one hour before placing them in the foil pouch. This method creates a milder smoke flavor, perfect for grillers who prefer delicate hints of smoke rather than intense smokiness.
Soak Wood Chips in Beer, White Wine, or Cider
You can also soak wood chips in another type of liquid to alter the flavor of your grilled foods. Beer is a popular choice, although white wine and cider are also useful options.
Find the Right Place for Your Wood Chips
If you are using a charcoal grill, you can either place the foil pouch on the hot coals or on one corner of the grilling grate. If you are using a propane grill, you should place the foil pack on a corner of the grilling grate.
Using more wood chips will typically result in a more intense smoky flavor. Most grillers use about 1 cup of chips for every pound of meat or vegetables.
Which Type of Wood Chips to Use
The type of wood chips you use will also affect the flavor of your grilled foods. Grilling purists commonly use only one type of wood, such as mesquite or hickory, in foil pouches. Although this simplifies the process of using wood chip pouches for grilling, you may opt to fine-tune your flavors by using a mixture of wood chips.
Wood Chips Blends
Certain blends tend to work well with specific types of grilled foods. For example, apple and cherry wood chips provide a light smoky taste that is well-suited to foods such as grilled vegetables, shrimp, and fish. Adding a small handful of alder chips to your foil pouch creates a more complex smoke that helps bring out the natural flavors of these foods.
A blend of apple and hickory wood chips can help provide a complex barbecue flavor for pork chops, ribs, and other pork dishes. Hickory has a distinctive smoke flavor that blends well with most cuts of pork. For a sweeter, more mellow touch, you can add a few maple chips to your foil pouch. This pork wood chip blend can earn you accolades and keep guests coming back for more at your next backyard barbecue.
Mesquite Wood Chips
If you are looking for a truly robust smoke flavor, consider adding mesquite wood chips to your foil pouch. Mesquite pairs particularly well with beef cuts, including veal, prime rib, and t-bone steaks. It also works well when blended with oak chips. You can add mesquite and oak to a base of hickory chips for a smoking pouch that will bring out the hearty flavors of beef.
Of course, you can experiment with your own blends when creating foil pouches for grilling or smoking. Through a bit of trial and error, you can create your own secret blends to impress guests at your next backyard barbecue or other social gatherings.
Store Wood Chips in a Dry Place
However you choose to use wood chips for smoking or grilling, make sure you store the chips in a cool, dry place. Keep containers tightly sealed to prevent insects from destroying your wood chips.
Experimenting with wood chip foil packs offers nearly endless possibilities. It also allows you to greatly enhance the flavor of your foods and your enjoyment of your grilling experience.