It's in the WOOD

Which WOOD is BEST

Cooking outdoors was a necessity along the cattle drives. Although, outdoor cooking has many advantages, whether today you cook on a grill, a fire pit or fireplace.  Wood adds great flavor and aromas to your grilled foods. So which wood is best becomes the question which most ask.

Hard Wood:  The use of hard and soft wood means simply the density of the wood. Hard being heavier, stronger when used in building or carving, but when burning a hard wood, it burns hot and slow. This is due because it has more wood matter and are choice woods for out door cooking. Oak is always among favorites while pecan, elm, ash, hickory and mesquite too are often selected with added aromas.

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See Wood Selection:

Why Cook on Real Wood 

Soft Wood:  Being lighter and less dense, soft wood will burn very fast. The ash is cooler and lights easily. Often using a soft wood such as cedar or pine for kindling and getting a fire started. Cooks along the trail drive often kept a few pieces of soft woods like firs, pine or spruce to use adding smaller kindling woods before setting a piece of oak or mesquite on to the fire.

Aroma: Wood from fruit trees often are use grilling to adds aroma from the smoke because it provides a sweet smoke taste to the grilled items. Fruit woods such as from apple trees, peach, almond, pecan or cherry trees provides superb wood for this aroma effect complementing food.

Oak does provide a strong smokey flavor but does not give the sweet aroma taste which come from fruit trees. Many top Barbecue chefs will combine secret blends of their selection which they believe are best. In reading types of woods " See Wood Selection: " the list will help you select perhaps what will be best for you. Most of my cooking is done over mesquite. It's a great wood that is hard but full of aroma. Sometimes, I might add some other woods to help blend aromas or create something completely new.

If you are looking for stronger flavors, Hickory and mesquite work best. If milder aroma and a touch of sweet is in your desires, then select something from the fruit trees. 

Word must be dry otherwise it pops, smokes heavily and burns uneven. Soft woods often have resins, saps which can be toxic and do not combine for flavoring good taste upon foods. As a starter, using shavings is acceptable but for grilling, I not only avoid them but will not use them pass kindling.

Cowboy Fire Spit Chuck Wagon Cooking

  • Some Tips and Facts to Help Choose the Best Fire Wood for You:
    1. Softwoods burn fast and cool, good for starting a fire, but bad for heat and cooking.
    2. Avoid resinous woods, like pine, willow and juniper, for cooking.
    3. Wet wood burns colder than dry wood but burns longer. It is harder to light. Generally avoid wet wood for cooking.
    4. Use "seasoned" firewood because it is dried out completely so that it burns slow and hot and is easier to light.
    5. Heart wood burns hotter than sapwood in general. Sometimes wood is labeled as one or the other.
    6. Wood embers (and charcoal) burns hotter than the fire of the fresh wood itself. Therefore, for maximum heat for cooking, let a bunch of logs burn completely until they are embers before adding food. The embers give off much more heat than the fire itself. You can get coals faster if you use smaller pieces of wood to begin with. More can be added as needed to maintain the heat.
Alfonso Ramos, KING RANCH, Texas