Grilling with Wood Chunks

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When it comes to grilling, using ready-made charcoal is convenient, but nothing beats the mouth-watering campfire flavor created when you use chunked wood as your fuel instead. And the best part of all is that the wood chunks are free for the taking from windfall branches or prunings from around your place.

Here’s how it works. First you need to collect branches, limbs and/or trunks from species such as pear, apple, cherry, hickory, maple or any other wood that has a pleasant smoky flavor.

Cut the branches into 4- to 5-inch lengths and split and saw heavier material into chunks about 3 to 4 inches across. Let your grilling wood cure in a well-ventilated, dry place until it is easy to ignite and doesn’t steam and hiss while burning.

I’ve had good luck storing the wood chunks in burlap sacks hanging from the wall in my barn. When you are ready to grill, load the chunks into a chimney-style charcoal lighter and light as usual. When the chunks are well lit, spread them on the charcoal grate in the grill, reduce the airflow by closing the lid until the flames snuff but the wood chunks still smolder.

The rest is as easy as adding the food, adjusting the airflow to maintain sufficient heat and digging into the best grilled steaks and chops you’ve ever experienced. Give it a try and discover for yourself that the little bit of added effort is well worth the reward.

Watch the full episode! Hanks shares hints like these in each episode of Tough Grit. Visit Tough Grit online to view this episode and many more. The tips on grilling with wood chunks above appeared in Episode 26, “Do-Si-Do.”