Which wood flavor used for smoking creates the best flavor, pink ring and taste all at the same time? Well, that is a good question.
Before we can get into that discussion, however, it is important to understand the important role that wood flavors play in smoking. It is the wood that gives the food a smoky flavor and it is the smoky flavor that separates barbecue from ordinary cooking. In the family of woods, there is a broad range where your lighter wood flavors for smoking in the fruit family such as apple, peach, cherry and pear create a sweeter taste but can be used on poultry, fish or pork. You can kick up the wood flavor you use for smoking and use birch – it is just a little bit heavier and dresses up salmon like you could never imagine.
The next category of wood flavors for smoking is what we categorize as intermediate. This is the hickory, maple, pecan and oak. They freely take on beef as a challenger and can do some amazing things to pork. Use of these wood flavors for smoking give a little more than a hint but are still considered restrained compared to mesquite. Using mesquite wood flavors for smoking is ln a league of its own. The wood has so much flavor that it has to be used carefully – we know that too much of anything is bad but believe me when I say – too much use of mesquite wood flavor for smoking can produce what some may consider an excessively smoky taste.
But how do I know what type woods to use, you ask? Well, for the meats that smoke quicker, or if you just want a slight infusion of smoke, wood chips are the way to go. They are small slivers of wood that generally have little to no bark. Although wood chunks take longer to catch fire, they do not burn out as easily making them perfect to cook low-and-slow meats such as brisket and ribs.
Now that we are familiar with some of the different wood flavors used for smoking, let’s talk a little bit about what how to use the wood in the art of smoking. It is a myth that if you over-smoke the meat, it will infuse an enhanced flavor because of the prolonged exposure to the wood. If that was true, then it would be true that over-salting food makes it tastier. Even people that enjoy barbecue food the most still want to taste the meat – not just a lot of smoke. With that being said, I want to emphasize that the key word to smoking is moderation. A little bit goes a long way.
And then there is the trademark of authentic barbecue – the pink ring. The pink ring is usually 1/8 to ½ inch thick and is formed as a result of the nitrogen dioxide released when wood is burned dissolving on the wet surface of the meat. The smoke captures and protects the pink color. We always say if it ain’t smoked it ain’t barbecue. Well, I am going to add to that now – if it ain’t smoked with a pink ring, it ain’t barbecue.
At Streetside BBQ, we use a mix of hickory, pecan and apple woods for the majority of our meats. It presents the boldness of the hickory, subtleness of the apple and the moderation of the pecan flavor. This is why our meats are smoked to perfection.