Southern Stories
On the Grill: Smoking With Wood Chips
Jan 26/17

On the Grill: Smoking With Wood Chips Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments


I love to explore the south through food — we all can share so many wonderful foods and heritage techniques that bring us together as a region. However, when you begin to more closely examine the region, you will find it’s the slight variations that truly make the south special.

I find that the best part of southern food is discovering our regional differences. Whether it is coleslaw, deviled eggs, shrimp and grits, or in this case wood chips for smoking, our differences make our food story special. Many times, the wood you use to smoke the meat with is as argued about as the barbecue sauce recipes themselves. From Texas to Virginia and all through the South we see different woods, from different regions, paired with different meats. I have put together a little info so you can try some of these great smoking techniques at home.

Hickory is by far the most commonly used wood for smoking. It is readily available from east Texas up through the smoky mountains. Hickory has a mild flavor and yields a medium color to your to your smoked meat or veggies.. I like to use hickory to smoke chicken or any other white meat. When smoking white meat I recommend using a simple brine. Brine is a way to add flavor and moisture to smoked meats. The meat will draw in salt and water to insure a juicy final product. For every gallon of water add one cup of salt and 1 cup of brown sugar. This is a base so feel free to play with it by adding other herbs and spices. Brine chicken or pork chops for about an hour, and large cuts for around four hours.

Pecan is a type of hickory and its range is very similar. Its lighter flavor makes it sought after as a smoking wood, and its wonderfully nutty flavor sets it a part. Pecan is big in Texas and makes a great pairing for Texas quail. Serve this with a nutty grain like brown or wild rice and some pickled fruit such as peaches or blueberries.

Oak is by far the widest ranging of all the hardwoods. It has a very light flavor and can often be used as a base wood for fires, then combined with more flavorful woods during smoking. Oak burns hot so it can be great for smoke roasting or hot smoking. I really like to use oak for roasting legs of lamb, or grilling lamb chops or loins. This method is best on a dome-style grill where indirect heat is used.

Cherry is more popular as you travel up the east coast. It has a rather sweet flavor and renders an intense color to your meat. Cherry’s growing region makes it perfect for upland game birds. Smoking whole pheasant is a wonderful delicacy and yields an incredible sight. I recommend brining whole game birds. Add some black peppercorns to your brine, 1/4 stick of cinnamon and a small piece of star anise. Brine for 45 minutes.

Peach is my absolute favorite wood to smoke with. It carries all the notes of hickory and pecan but has the added bonus of a sweet fruit flavor. Smoking with peach has a unique perfume that really goes great with bright flavors. Georgia is the king of the peach states. When I think of peach wood I have to get some pork ribs. Here is a recipe for my favorite Georgia barbecue spare ribs. The fruity smoke pairs great with the mustard based sauce. Enjoy!

Georgia Barbecue Spare Ribs Recipe

2 Slabs spare ribs
1 Bag Baxter’s Original Peach Wood Chips

Dry Rub
2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. cumin

Georgia BBQ Sauce
1/4 cup yellow mustard
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. Worcestershire
Salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste


  • Blend the dry ingredients together in a bowl and rub the pork generously. Wrap tightly in plastic and let sit for at least two hours or as long as six.
  • In a small saucepan combine all of the BBQ sauce ingredients and bring to a simmer for ten minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
  • Using your peach wood chips. Set a smoker to 275 degrees. Unwrap ribs and place in smoker for 4-5 hours or until tender. Remove from smoker and baste with sauce. Place under a broiler or on a hot grill until the sauce is bubbly and caramelized. Serve extra sauce on the side.

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