Soaking the Wood for your Barbecue
This may be one of the easiest steps of
a good barbeque
- putting the wood you
are going to use to give your meat that
smoky, to-die-for flavor, in some liquid.

One of the main reasons we include it is
to promote the fact that we really like to
use wood to flavor our barbeque,
although we have heard there are those
who do not.

DO IT!!

And there are many types you can use to
give you slightly different flavors, and
strengths of flavor. See our
Wood
section for more information on some of
these.

There are different schools of thought on
soaking wood for a barbecue. Not rocket
science here, the longer you soak the
wood, the more water logged it will
become, and the higher the ratio of
smoke to flame that you will generate.

Indeed, if you soak the wood long
enough you will get a slow smolder out
of it and most likely no flame, at least
until the end of the piece of wood. Some
barbecuers do not like this much
smoke, and the high level of smoke
flavor it gives to the barbecue - there are
some barbecue chefs who do not soak
their wood at all in order to keep the
smoke-flavor lower. Personally, I love the
smoke flavor so I usually soak at least
some of the wood I use.

If you don't soak, remember that the
wood will go straight to flame and cause
higher temperatures, so factor that into
your barbecue temperature
considerations.
I soak my wood in an ordinary plastic bucket, and so far we haven't noticed any adverse effects. Since I don't
heat the water at all, I am not too concerned about anything leaching out of the plastic, but who knows what
scientists may uncover in the future! You may want to use a stainless steel pot, but I would not recommend
subjecting any cast iron cooking containers to water or acidic liquid - you don't want to ruin that hard-earned
seasoning! I have even used the steel water bowl for the smoker as a soaking tub when my buckets are
otherwise occupied!

Finally, I have heard of Q'ers who soak their wood in various liquids to help impart some additional, subtle
flavors to the meat. This may be especially important to you if you are not using a
water bowl, but we prefer to
use the water bowl, for a number of reasons, and we think you may get a bigger bang for your buck from the
liquid in a bowl than soaked into the wood. We depend on the wood for its smoke, and the handle the liquid
separately.
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Now, it is useful to remember that wood that flames up can quickly raise the temperature in the smoker, in
case you are using a smoker that requires periodic tending to maintain the fire temperature. If you get
particularly a hot burning wood like hickory.

Wood can also be used in very small pieces to help light charcoal that you add to the pile. Unless you have
just let the fire die completely out this charcoal will eventually light on top of the old coals, but if you use some
wood you can get it going more quickly.
Bucket full o' wood - hickory in this one