Using hard wood chunks as a fuel source and wood chips for your flavoring is the only way to go. When I’m using wood chunks or wood chips as my source of fuel I soak them for a minimum of 1 hour and if time permitted over night. By soaking your wood it will generate a lot of smoke resulting in better quality meat. If you’re going to use wood chips soak them in water using a foil quarter or half pan depending on how much meat you’re barbecuing.
There are many different liquids, spices, and herbs to achieve the flavor that you desire. Some examples are beer, bourbon, wine, apple juice for your liquids. For spices and herbs add cinnamon sticks, whole, nutmeg, tea leaves, citrus peels, rosemary, bay leaves, and garlic to mention a few.
Once your water pan is seasoned the way you want it, place it directly into divided coals or on the side of the gas burner (under the grate) if you’re using a gas grill. There aren’t really any rules just a little creativity and testing to please your taste.
Types of Woods:
Hickory Wood Chips: Pungent and smokey flavor…..Great with pork, chicken, beef.
Pecan Wood Chunks: Similar to hickory with a milder and rich flavor, burns cooler…..Works well with pork, chicken, lamb, and fish.
Mesquite Wood Chips: Burns much hotter than hickory or pecan so use carefully, sweeter in flavor…..Works well with most meats and vegetables.
Oak Wood Chunks: Burns hot and can be a little strong, but has a pleasant flavor…..Great with beef, poultry, pork.
Peach Wood Chunks: Slightly sweet and has a woodsy flavor…..Works well with poultry, game birds, and pork.
Grape Vines: Similar to fruit woods…..Great with turkey, chicken, beef
Please Note: There are certain hardwoods that when over used may cause your finished meat to have a bitter taste. Mesquite, Black oak and Hickory are few to be aware of. Meat really only needs to be smoked for about 4 hours and then you run the risk of over smoking your meat. Play around with any chunks or pieces and adjust to your liking as you learn how to cook with wood.
Half the enjoyment I get out of grilling and smoking is experimenting with a different combination of woods, liquids, spices and herbs with various meats to achieve a different alternative to our family and guests. I encourage you to do the same and see what surprises you come up with.