There have been more than a few long-lived debates in the barbecue world – dry rub vs. sauce, Kansas City style vs. Memphis style, beef vs. pork – but among all those who live in the realm of smoking meat, the debate rages between using dry wood or soaked wood to impart the most flavor to the meat. Some pit masters believe that wet wood will give you a longer smoke, while others insist that dry wood gives an immediate, long-lasting flavor.
While it depends on the type of wood as well, dry wood is praised for imbuing the smokiest flavor to meat while in a smoker. However, the argument against dry wood is that it produces too much smoke and the fast burning wood can give off a bit of a creosote taste. However, even dry wood can have a slow burn if strategically placed in the fire box so it can give off wisps of that oft-desired Thin Blue Smoke (TBS) that is perfect for smoking.
Lauded for producing a longer lasting smoke, the argument against soaked wood is that it is not actually smoke it is producing at first, but rather steam from evaporating water vapor. However, the water from the wood can help smother some of the fire and reduce the heat inside the smoker. This can be either a boon or a detriment to smokers as temperature control is a crucial part of the process.
Less professional pit masters and smokers are using soaked wood these days except for one exception – plank cooking. If you don’t want your salmon to be charred to a crisp in the smoker or even a regular grill, that plank will need some soaking for a few hours.
There is a strong case for both methods, but ultimately it is up to the person running the smoker to decide which sort of wood is right for them. However, the common ground between each side of this vicious debate is that good smoked meat needs an even better sauce to compliment it.
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