Long before the advent of charcoal briquettes and propane people were cooking their meals over wood fueled fires. From the days of cave-men to less than one hundred years ago wood was the fuel of choice when it came to cooking. In this modern age, we are constantly looking for a faster, cleaner and easier way to do everything, including preparing our meals. This has led to the development of larger accessory laden gas fueled grills lining the aisles of home improvement stores and showing up in our backyards.
But for the barbeque purists out there nothing tastes quite the same as preparing their favorite barbeque dish over a wood fired grill.
Why is this? What could possibly work better than the latest and greatest in barbecue technology?
Depending on the type of wood used the “Grill-Master” (that guy who hovers over the grill creating barbecue master pieces) can create flavors in the meat, poultry or fish that just can not have a more modern gas fueled grill. This flavor can further be adjusted just by the amount of wood used, how hot the fire is, and how much smoke the meat is allowed to marinate in.
There are several types of wood fired barbeques on the market today. They are sometimes referred to as smoker grills.
The offset firebox is the one most of us are used to seeing. These come in all sizes, from small family sized units to large trailer born monsters capable of feeding several hundred people. The distinguishing character of the offset firebox is, well the offset firebox. Set off to the side and slowly below the main cooking chamber is the firebox. This separates the food from direct heat and allows for a nice slow cooking temperature.
The bullet style smoker is not actually a smoker but more than what is called a cold smoker or water smoker. They use a pan of water between the heat source and the meat, thereby blocking any direct heat that would cause any overcooking. In a sense, they are not really considered a barbecue because of the way they work.
The main chamber cooker is the third type of wood fired barbeque. These are barrel shaped and allow the fire to be built off to one side with the meat offset from the wood allowing for an indirect cooking method. You do need to be careful with how large of a fire gets built because there is no physical separation between the heat source and the meat. The fire needs to be kept small and tended in a timely manner through the cooking process.
Of course, all this is a moot point if you do not select the right type of wood. For a wood fired barbecue nothing works better than a fruit bearing hardwood such as oak, hickory, pecan, maple apple and of course from Texas mesquite. Do not use softwoods or the wood from evergreens or conifers. Aside from burning at a lower temperature, they are loaded with sap which will leave a bad taste on anything you cook.
Cooking meat over a wood fire has been something humans have been doing for thousands of years. With the newer and more modern wood barbecue smokers on the market today it is possible for just about anyone to enjoy real wood fired barbecue.