Grilling with Wood

grillingatorSeptember 4, 2002

Over the Labor Day Weekend, I was looking for a new way to cook a Tri-Tips roast. In the BBQ Bible by Steven Raichlen, which is a very good book by the way, he has a section on using wood to cook as the primary heat source, instead of charcoal.

I decided to cook the roast indirectly using hickory wood chunks surrounding a drippan. I figure from the size of the meat, 3 pound, about 1.5 to 2 hours would be needed to get it to an internal heat of 160 degrees.

I started the wood chunks in a chimney, got them heated up, and put them in my Webber kettle. Put the meat on the grill, opened all the vents, top and bottom, full, and set back drinking beer, while watching the UK-UL football game.

After an hour, I opened the lid to check on things, and found that the wood was gone, burnt away. I finished the roast on my gas grill, as my wife and kids were pretty tired of waiting.

I went back and reread the BBQ Bible regarding cooking with wood. I couldn't find any reasons why it didn't work. So I have a few questions that I hope someone can answer;

Has anybody cooked with wood chunks the way I tried?

Should I have soaked the chunks first, similar to the way I do for smoking?

Did I not use enough? Since they burned fast, maybe I needed more chunks than I thought.

I was hoping to get a "smoke" flavor in the meat, without the time it would take in my smoker. Was my approach incorrect, and should I stick to charcoal or a smoker in the future?

Thanks in advance.

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I always soak my wood chips/blocks in water. At least half an hour, and if I think about it the nite before, over nite.

Here's another suggestion, which I do for long term smoking such as a turkey, roast.

Soak the chips/block in water. Before adding to fire, wrap in aluminum foil, poking holes only around the top, then set directly onto the coals.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2002 at 6:05PM
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This might be of interest

Here is a link that might be useful: grilling wood

    Bookmark   September 4, 2002 at 6:46PM
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I think you went about it fine, you just need to start with a good bed of coals or wood first that has embered. Also, I think you might want to control your air vents a little differently. The top vent open all of the way is good, but you want to close the bottom at least half way, if not more. You will want to keep the internal temp of the grill no more than 300. 225-250 is preferred. By playing with the air vents you should be able to control this easy enough. Once you get the unit "up to temp", then place your cut of meat on the grate. You will want to slow cook it until the internal temp is about 150-160. Then remove the cut of meat from the grate, wrap loosely in heavy foil to create an air pocket inside, but not touching the meat. This will keep the moisture in. Then return it to the grill and cook until 180-200 inside. Let stand for 20 minutes or so, then serve. I have done briskets like this on my gas grill by cooking indirectly and they come out awesome! To achieve a good end result, you simply can't cook large pieces like this quickly, in my experience. A good rule of thumb is about an hour to an hour-an-a-half per pound to get good results. Good luck next time and I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2002 at 7:36PM
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Well, there's wood and then there's wood charcoal. Straight wood burns very fast, wood charcoal is slower, and charcoal is slowest. Nothing wrong with straight wood, you just needed a lot more in this case. Soaked wood is good for smoking but not for cooking. I agree with bsbbq about building a coal bed first when using wood, although this is not as much a consideration if you use wood charcoal since it's already half way there, so to speak. Wood and wood charcoal work great when your cooking time is only a half hour or so, but for anything longer your best bet is still charcoal with soaked wood chunks for smoke, IMO.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2002 at 4:55PM
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2 questions - what's a tri-tips roast? - How tender was your roast?

But agree - straight wood makes a hot quick fire - not much of a fan of smoked roasts - but I've never had much luck "grilling" roasts.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2002 at 5:09PM
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As was said, you want the wood to burn down to embers. Flaming wood may impart a bitter taste to the wood (as well as cook it too fast).

I've seen some bbq purists say that soaking wood to make it smoke is not true smoking, that you really want to use wood that has turned to glowing embers. But for those of us who don't have access to the right kind of wood in the right sizes, or find it too expensive, or want to use a gas grill but get some smoke flavor as well, wet chunks of hickory or other aromatic wood seems to work well enough.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2002 at 2:28PM
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I've seen the "bbq purists" claim the same thing. Lots of "purists" in lots of different disciplins claim to know the ONLY way to do something...

BBQing, not just grilling, but long, slow cooking of meats, has been practiced by many many cultures all over the world.

Next time you encounter a "purist," ask which discipline he/she follows. You'll usually get a confused look... Then you follow up with "Well, I'm a purist of the Arawak discipline, and MY discipline says that this is the only way to do it. So shove off!" :-D

    Bookmark   October 2, 2002 at 12:34AM
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I haven't read the BBQ Bible but my earliest rememberance of BBQ was always wood. This was way before charcoal became popular. Anyhow, the wood, usually oak, was burned until you could knock the coals off and then used a shovel to move them to the pit. It wasn't a quick process since you had to start the fire several hours earlier and let the wood burn down to coals. I have been using charcoal for the last 40 years but I just had a pit built out of cinder-block so I can cook like with real coals again. Cooking time is the same as charcoal but for some reason, it always taste better to me when it's cooked over the wood coals.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2002 at 1:48PM
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bsbbq wrote: "Then return it to the grill and cook until 180-200 inside."

Wow, I thought he wanted to cook with wood, not turn his meat into charcoal.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2002 at 1:57PM
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Next year I should have some seasoned homegrown nectarine and cherry wood to BBQ with. I've got a small offset fire box smoker. Usually I start a msequite charcoal fire to light the real wood, let it die down to embers. Krs's post reminds me it's a good idea to reduce to add only additional embers from a companion fire, as neeed, rather than add fresh wood, which flames up, puts out too much bitter smoke, and sends the temperature in the smoker haywire.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2002 at 1:49AM
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How dare you think out of the box. Don't you know this forum is for questions about your $1000 stainless steel grill???

    Bookmark   October 8, 2002 at 1:34PM
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Oooh, sarcasm. How clever.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2002 at 10:42PM
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I know this is in response to a very old post, but it ranks high with the search engines and if there are any other beginners learning to cook with wood I have created an informational page, with more to follow. Basically it talks about using wood for cooking on a weber or even on a gas grill. Whether to soak or not soak your wood etc. and of course safety. Visit my page below to check it out. I am not an expert but I am knowledgeable through my experience.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cooking Barbecue with Wood for Beginners

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 12:21AM
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It is an old post, but is still top on Google. I normally have good success with
1. Start up a bed of regular charcoal. It probably makes sense to start up a little less than normal.
2. Put 2-3 pieces of wood on top of the charcoal just before you put on the meat.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 5:56PM
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Its still pretty high on google so, what the hey

I buy a bag of mequite and make sure all the bark is chipped off, I start my wood chunks in a chimney and let them burn down till coals, put in bbq and get bbq up to temp (about 200f) I have a bigger bbq so a full load in the chimney is perfect, after bbq is hot I put tri tip roast on, I am constantly tending with putting new wood on the coals kinda off the the side, I can keep right about 170-200f with this process, u have to bee out there the whole time with it though, make sure the new wood doesn't catch fire, or the meat, cuz the tri tip roast is almost as fatty as brisket, it takes me right about 2 hours to get it medium rare and I pull it off and let it sit on a plate for 20-30 minutes, its a lot of work but it is damn worth it!!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 8:47PM
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I usually use my big grill to cook with wood. If im cooking then i am cooking alot.
day 1: I find the person I want and freeze-
day 2: I take a full carcus from the fridge allowing it to thaw for the day, cut into large pieces and soak in seasonings overnight-
day 3: I setup grill by loading it with quarter cut logs usually 4-5 (depends on your grill), set a fire and allow entire blocks to burn until half covered in ash n coal, then i chip off coal pieces and push to one side and the larger pieces to the other side. i cut up the body into pieces and put head into open flame to burn off any hair,i only vent the side with large wood pieces and cook on the other side, only using hotter side to sear or burn off hair. I slow cook all day and add wood only if im cook 2 or more persons!
ps good coating: mix one cup soy, one cup worcestershire, one cup italian dressing, 3 chopped bonnet peppers, 4 cloves garlic, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup thyme, 2 chopped onions, 2 bell peppers and 4 chipoltes!! mmmmmmmmmmm
pss: the younger the meat the more tender-
psss: just kidding but would work well with pork ;)

    Bookmark   June 14, 2011 at 12:30AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

We do a lot of wood cooking while camping and at home in a charcoal grill. About 45 minutes is as long as you can get the heat to last without adding more wood. If you ever have any wood from a fig tree you can grill with, I recommend it. Wonderful flavor and aroma! You don't need any fancy equipment. Just patience and careful observation.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 5:49PM
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you just need to use more wood, make sure it is season wood that is the trick to cooking with wood, infaired heating is the other, away from the fire. I have cooked for year with wood, it's the best way to cook. it's like making moonshine you have to learn it.good luck don't give up or you will never know what the fine wine of cooking taste like. on a scale on 1 to 10 it's a 15.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 10:29AM
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