Tips & Tricks: Working with Wood Chips
Smoke wood comes in all shapes and sizes. You have full logs with which to light an offset smoker, chunks (these blocks are slightly smaller and perfect for smoking in a bullet BBQ or a Kamado) and chips.
The latter are a bit more difficult to use and when I look around on different forums I see that there are a lot of questions about this. I will try to answer these in these tips & tricks.
What are smoke chips?
Smoke chips are actually a type of pruning waste that has been passed through a wood chipper. These chips are then dried until they are dry enough to be used for smoking.
You can use these chips in different ways and each of these ways has its advantages and disadvantages.
You often read in a recipe that you should soak your chips in water for half an hour to an hour, this prevents rapid combustion and gives off a lot of smoke. I think this method is the most used method.
Because you have soaked your smoking wood, the moisture percentage of your wood has increased enormously, so the water in your wood must first evaporate before the wood itself starts to smolder. In this phase, an enormous amount of vapor comes out of your BBQ, but it actually does nothing with your dish, because this vapor does not give off any flavor.
In the second phase of this process, your wood will start to smolder itself, now there is smoke from your BBQ that does add value to your dish. This smoke gives off a lot of flavor.
The way in which you are going to soak your smoke chips is important. I often read messages where people give tips on how to soak your chips in apple juice, beer, etc. However, I do not recommend this. Because the moisture first evaporates from your wood and because this vapor is tasteless, these liquids do not give any added value.
If you are going to soak your chips, it is best to just do this with water. Your scraps in a bowl, add some water until they are all nicely covered and then let it soak for half an hour to an hour.
Your wood burns up less quickly
The temperature of your BBQ is tempered by the moisture
The first phase does not add value
If you have smaller chips, they will still burn up quickly without releasing any flavor
Personally, I prefer to put chips dry between the coals, this way they immediately give their full flavor to your dish and you don't have to worry about the water evaporating.
If you throw the chips into the coals immediately, they will burn up immediately, you can solve this by using a smoker box or making a smoke bomb yourself. Both methods ensure that there is a kind of barrier between your coal and your wood, this slows down the combustion process but extends the smoking process so that you can smoke for longer and therefore bring more flavor into your dish.
Making a smoke bomb is very simple. All you need are smoke chips and a sheet of aluminum foil. You put the smoke chips on the sheet and make a ball. Afterwards, you poke some holes through which the smoke can escape.
With this method, your chips will act like a chunck, as it were.
No water vapor in the first stage
You get more flavor in your dish
No temperature dip when you add the wood
Your wood burns up faster (if not using a smoke bomb)
Both methods have their pros and cons and it's not up to me to decide which one to use for myself. Of course everyone does what he / she thinks is best.
I myself would recommend making a smoke bomb so that your wood will behave like a chunk, this gives off the most flavor in my opinion.