Smoke is a key component that contributes to the flavor and texture of barbecued meat.
Smoke comes from burning wood, either by placing it directly on the coals of a charcoal grill, or in a separate box or chamber in a gas grill or smoker.
There is a learning curve to applying smoke to meat. Enough smoke in the chamber is needed to complement the product, but not so much that it dominates the meat’s natural flavor with a resinous or sooty flavor.
You may have heard that soaking the wood in water will generate more smoke. This is a myth! Placing a wet piece of wood on a hot fire will certainly produce some smoke, but it will also cool the fire off and cause the temperature to drop inside the chamber. Dry wood should always be used. The vents should also be set properly to control the burning embers and ensure that the wood smolders slowly rather than burning up quickly. Wrap the wood in aluminum foil or use a firebox to restrict the airflow and make the wood smoke more. There should be only gentle wisps of smoke exiting through the vent holes.
Different woods impart different flavors into the food with which they are cooked. Use this table to select the right wood for your barbecue project.