Nothing tops a warm summer night than firing up your grill and preparing a nice grilled meal. It’s easy enough to choose the right type of grill for you depending on the type of fuel you prefer. You can either chose a gas grill or a wood/charcoal grill.
Charcoal and wood are some of the most preferred fuels in grilling. This is because of the production of that delicious coveted woody smoke that enhances the look and taste of your food when grilled.
But which one do you opt for? And why?
There’s lots of debate on which fuel is the best; cooking with charcoal or wood. Both of them have their differences (use, versatility, and cost) and according to that, you can choose the best option for you. Of course, what’s best for you isn’t the same for the other person.
If you’re confused about the difference between the two, don’t worry, all will be cleared.
Bags of charcoal in people’s backyard barbecues are a pretty common sight. This type of fuel is best for your typical backyard grilling which uses direct heat with foods like hot dogs, steaks, chicken wings, corn on the knob, etc.
Charcoal is made from wood that has been burnt in a low oxygen oven or silo until it’s pure carbon. It has more aptitude when compared to wood with its high steady temperatures, ability to burn for long, produce less smoke, and lesser dangerous vapors.
With charcoal, you can easily control spots of direct and indirect heat which can be helpful when cooking large cuts of meat over a long period. This would help seal in the juices and keep it tender.
Just like wood, when buying charcoal, there’s an option to chose from; briquettes and lump charcoal. Briquettes are recommended for casual barbecue and are usually made of charcoal and an added binder while lump wood is just hardwood that is burned down to charcoal without additives or shaping.
Do you know that you can buy a hefty bag of charcoal briquettes for just or even less than $20? They are usually sold at low cost and are easy to find at the grocery stores or even home improvement stores.
However, like wood, they are particularly messy and you’ll end up having to clean grease, smoke stains, and ash from your grill.
Wood isn’t recommended for direct heat. You’ll probably end up with charred or burnt food instead of the perfect flame-kissed appearance. Let me explain why. When using wood for fuel, there are lots of flames produced because the wood catches fire and combusts. Therefore, there are lots of flareups that make it hard for temperature control if you’re not using a large and specific grill that was built/made for a wood fire.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t use wood for outdoor grilling. In the grilling world, wood is the best important and distinct fuel for smoking. This method uses indirect heat over many hours to instill that woody smoky flavor in your food.
When it comes to grilling with wood, there’s an entire world of flavors you can choose from, and hence the type of wood matters. Different types of woods instill different tastes and levels of taste. For example; Fruitwoods like cherry and mulberry add a hint of sweetness, nut woods such as pecan and walnut add a rich and savory flavor. The type you’ll choose depends on you. However, the most preferred woods are; mesquite (has a sweet scent), hickory (impacts a mild, smoky flavor), and oak (produces denser, powerful smoke, and is best for beef and pork) because of their great flavor.
The disadvantage of wood is that too much wood smoke would create too much flavor that might overpower the food’s natural taste instead of merely adding to it. They are additionally slow to heat and are difficult to work with and master.
NB: Be careful about which type of wood you are planning to use. Stay clear of moldy or treated wood because it can release harmful substances in your food when cooking. Also, you can’t just chop down a tree and start cooking with it. Fresh cut down wood usually has lots of water in it that would cause lots of steam and release a weird tasting smoke when burnt. The wood used is usually seasoned and air-dried for at least six months.
Wood and Charcoal
Do you know that you can use both charcoal and wood at the same time? I mean, why choose when you can have the best of both worlds? Wood charcoal lumps are created to give you both the smoky flavor and the charcoal cooking power. For more on the topic, check this video out: Barbecue Basics; Charcoal vs Wood.