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BBQ’rs Guide to Flavored Wood and BBQ Pellets

Being the head chef at any BBQ event (even if it’s just dinner) comes with a lot of pressure. People are trusting you to create a special moment and food is the best connecter of them all. The first key to a successful cookout is what you’re burning and at first glance, the number of pellet flavors available may be overwhelming. We’ve made it easy to select the right pellet for the right occasion, and we’ve thrown in some info so you can become a BBQ wood expert!

Hickory – Hickory is native to North America and can grow in all 50 states! With that kind of coverage and its bold smoke flavor, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular BBQ woods. Hickory pellets will give your food a strong smoky taste but be warned it can turn food bitter if left in its smoke for too long, so sometimes butcher paper or foil wrap halfway through a long cook is a necessity.

Apple – Apple trees are one of the few trees on this list not native to the US. Instead, they originate from Asia. Despite not being native, the US grows nearly 2,500 varieties of apples. Grilling with apple pellets, you’ll find they give off a mild fruity flavor similar to cherry and faintly sweet smoke. Bacon may be the biggest beneficiary of apple pellets as nothing else gives pork the perfect kiss of sweetness than a long smoke with applewood.

Pecan – Pecan trees are a branch of the hickory species... get it? We promise that’s the only pun. Despite being part of the hickory species, smoke from pecan pellets is smoother and delivers a more subtle flavor with hints of vanilla and nuts. Pecan wood pellets are perfect for your low and slow cookouts, the more time you allow your food to bathe in pecan smoke the more noticeable the flavor will be.

Mesquite – Mesquite trees thrive in dry environments, so it only makes sense they grow in Texas more than anywhere else in the US. Because mesquite trees grow in dry conditions, they retain more oil in their wood which makes it burn hot and fast. Mesquite delivers a heavy earthy flavor that some cherish, and others can’t handle. You won't know which one you are until you try it!

Cherry- Cherry trees are native to the eastern US but can grow anywhere in the country with enough sun and nutrient-rich soil. Cherry wood pellets are popular because they create a perfect, deep smoke ring on your meat and are very mild with suggestions of fruit. For many Grillmasters, cherry is best mixed with hickory because it gives you that perfect smoke ring and strong wood flavor!

Oak- Fun fact, half of the 600 oak species in the world are native to the US, so it’s no wonder why it’s the most common BBQ wood. Oak is a very popular option because it creates a strong smoke, but it won't overpower your food with flavor. Oak will give almost no after taste to your food, so make sure to season well with a flavorful rub. Oak is so consistent and reliable that it’s become an essential base wood for many BBQ pellet blends.

Alder – Alder is native to the northwestern US and has a mild smoke flavor. For this reason, many of the pellet manufacturers in the northwest utilize this wood.  Alder in wood form is the softest of the hardwoods and creates less heat. However, when Alder is dried and pelletized, it burns hotter and is an extremely reliable and consistent BBQ hardwood.

Blends – BBQ pellet blends are some of the most versatile pellets you can use in your grill.   They’re typically crafted to create a unique flavor profile that tastes great with many types of food.   Creating blends is a craft that manufactures perfect over time, so leave it to the experts and fill your hopper up with a blend that’s perfect for every occasion.

Bonus Tip – Cheese is one of the best choices for experiencing the different wood smoke flavors We recommend a mild cheese to let the smoke flavor shine.

Here’s a simple Smoked Cheese recipe perfect for any skill level!

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