A. Cort Sinnes

Wood Chips


One of the easiest ways to add flavor to gas-grilled food is to add wood chips to the inside of the grill when you cook. If you do decide to experiment with wood-smoke flavoring, you'll add a whole new dimension to your grilling repertoire, and, with practice, you'll even be able to approximate the skills of a venerable Southern pitmaster. To get you started, here are the more common types of wood available, along with the foods with which they go best:

ALDER: Traditionally pairs with seafood, especially salmon. Also excellent with pork and chicken.

APPLE: A sweet flavor very good with ham and sausage, and good with other pork dishes, along with poultry and game birds.

CHERRY: Great with duck and very good with chicken and turkey. Pairs handsomely with lamb and venison, too.

HICKORY: The traditional wood for Southern-style pork barbecue, but perfectly appropriate for beef and poultry as well.

MAPLE: Traditional, of course, with cured or cold-smoked ham, and very fine, too, with grilled ham. A good complement for turkey and some vegetables, such as squash.

MESQUITE: Not a traditional barbecue wood, but popular in recent years, to say the least. Use sparingly and not over a long cooking time, to avoid a bitter flavor. Goes well with pork or lamb chops, beef steaks, and swordfish, and used modestly with vegetables.

OAK: Great with steaks and other beef dishes, and does nice things for duck and all manner of pork.