Using properly seasoned wood to smoke barbecue is one of the keys to having great flavored meat. As a long-time contributor to the “Wood and Smoke” panels for the Foodways Texas Barbecue Summer Camp and Camp Brisket, Dr. Nick Nickelson of Fort Worth brings years of experience and technical knowledge to the subject of wood and smoke, and he always adds so much to the discussion of all things barbecue.
One of the points that Dr. Nick makes is that it is important to use seasoned wood when smoking. When green wood is used, so much of the fire is required to drive off moisture during the burning process, and along with this is where some of the undesirable flavor compounds are generated.
How do you tell when wood is properly seasoned? Dr. Nick purchased a wood moisture meter and visited Riscky’s Barbecue, Fort Worth to take some moisture measurements on different batches of wood destined for immediate or future use. Below are photos of three batches of wood from the restaurant.
It is clear that the photos reveal a change in the wood from a brown color in the greener wood to a silver-gray color in the seasoned wood. Dr. Nick also pointed out that it is important to split the wood into small enough pieces that the drying will be fairly uniform. On some of the greener wood, he found that the surface was relatively dry, but once he scrapped down below the surface, the moisture content was much higher.
Paying attention to the quality of the wood used for smoking is one of the keys in preparing great barbecue. Whether you use oak, mesquite, hickory, pecan or any other wood to smoke meats with, it is important that it is properly aged or seasoned to produce the best quality of smoke possible.