Everyone has their own preference when it comes to selecting the right combination of wood chunks when you start smoking on a BGE or any other smoker. I personally prefer to start with Hickory as the base for Pork and Beef. You can usually find it cheaper than any other wood chunks at the local hardware stores, since it is the most commonly used for smoking. Besides Hickory, I typically carry fruit woods such as Apple and Cherry. Here’s a list of combinations for different meats I use on a regular basis.
- Brisket: Hickory, Cherry and Oak Lump Charcoal
- Pork Shoulder: Hickory and Cherry, or Hickory and Apple with Oak Lump Charcoal
- Pork Ribs: Cherry, Apple and Oak Lump Charcoal
- Chicken: Pecan and Oak, or Apple and Oak Lump Charcoal
(Pecan is hard to come by in the Midwest, but I have recently seen chips available for it and Whisky barrel chips too.)To use wood chunks in a BGE, you’ll find a lot of people posting different ideas. I’ve seen references to scattering the chunks between oak so you get a little smoke all day long vs. starting with a pile on top the charcoal. Since you don’t want to over-smoke your meat, starting with a mix on top works best. 3-4 pieces on a lit pile of charcoal is all you need. This batch will burn up within 45-60 minutes on average, so you’ll want to add 1-2 additional pieces after 60 minutes for best results. Once two rounds of chunks are gone, do not add any more to the meat. Just use lump charcoal for the remainder of the cooking. Anything past the first 1.5 hours is a waste of chunks and will just cause your meal to have an over-smoked taste.
Pay special attention to at what point you put on the meat after the wood has ignited. What you are looking for is in the color of the smoke. A full rolling white smoke will engulf the meat with too much smoke. Some people like it that way, but I prefer the subtle sweet and smoky flavor when the smoke reaches a blueish-clear color. You’ll know when this point is because you can see through the smoke at this point, but still smell the wood.
As for soaking the wood chunks, I don’t do it. Wood doesn’t take on much water, so doing it with chunks is a waste of time. If you are using chips to add quick flavor to a meal, then I would soak them prior so the chips don’t burn up as quick. A 30 minute soak on chips is plenty.