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Pellets, Wood Chips or Sawdust. What Should You Choose?

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Smoking foods is actually an old time tradition that was once used mainly to preserve meats. Through various techniques smoking has expanded into a method of adding rich, penetrating smoke flavor to various foods. The process can be done using a smoker or grill, but the concept remains the same. A key component when smoking is the form of wood being used. Depending on what foods you are smoking and the type of equipment you are working with, it’s important to know the distinctions between the choices of wood.

Pellets: 

Wood pellets are made from finely ground hardwood that has been pressed and formed into a cylinder shape, then cut into small pellets. Wood pellets can be used for hot or cold smoking. Pellets burn hotter and more slowly than sawdust or woodchips, which make it easier to control temperature especially when cold smoking. 100% natural wood pellets supply a more consistent smoke with very little ash or creosote build up. When choosing wood pellets, be sure to purchase a brand that does not contain additives. Brands that use fillers or binders can cause tainted flavor and inconsistent temperatures.

 May Be Used In:

Woodchips:

Running hardwood through a shredder breaks the wood into consistently sized pieces. These wood pieces or “chips” provide a burst of natural smoke flavor to foods and come in a variety of flavors. Wood chips burn faster than sawdust or pellets. Soaking wood chips in water for about 30 minutes generates steam that adds moisture and heat to the smoking process. This method also prolongs burning time. The key with wood chips is to deny the wood of oxygen so it smolders and smokes. Burnt wood chips will generate a bitter smoke.

May Be Used In:

  • Smoke generators
  • Electric, gas & charcoal grills
  • Smoke boxes

Sawdust:

Sawdust is a relatively inexpensive raw material to use for smoking. It burns more slowly than wood chips, but faster than wood pellets. Sawdust can be used for hot or cold smoking and produces a nice, even smoke. However, sawdust offers less heat than chips or pellets. You will find that they need to be replenished fairly often. Sawdust is often used for smoking sausage, fish and various meat cuts. Always work with dry sawdust because it won’t burn if it’s soaked.

May Be Used In:

  • Portable smokers
  • Electric & gas smokers
  • Smoke boxes

Keep in the mind that the type of wood you choose may depend on the model smoker and rate of burn you require in order to get the intensity of smoke you want to achieve. You also have a choice flavors ranging from light woods containing fruit essence, to dark woods that provide a more rich smoke flavor. If you are less experienced, be sure to do some research and preparation before beginning the smoking process.  

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