Wood Chips vs Charcoal

If you are looking for a popular fuel source for grilling and barbecuing, then barbecue wood chips and charcoal are a top of the list. Wood chips are generally inexpensive, easy to use, and some people even prefer them over charcoal. Another reason people prefer barbecue wood chips is because they think the natural wood materials are healthier than charcoal, but this assumption is not completely true. This article takes a look at the differences between wood chips and charcoal to help determine which one is the better choice.

Charcoal
Charcoal comes in many different types and, like barbecue wood chips, most are actually made from wood. Charcoal briquettes are made by burning sawdust and low quality woods to a carbon state and then compressing them with a starch binder. Natural lump charcoal is said to be more efficient, healthier and easier to control than briquettes. And unlike briquettes, you will usually know what kind of wood your natural lump charcoal started out as, which is said to make a difference. To help keep the fire going, ground coal can be added in later.

Some self-starting briquettes contain petroleum to help it ignite, which has been known to make food taste funny. However, if used correctly, there is no indication that they cause health concerns due to the fact that it burns off quickly. A good thing about the additives is that they can make the charcoal briquettes burn faster or at a lower heat than barbecue wood chips.

One particular type of charcoal that is considered better quality is the hardwood lump charcoal. This type of charcoal is made from hardwoods that have been cooked with medium heat, either while buried under soil or using a special oven or kiln. This type of charcoal burns hotter and slower than wood chips, but is not less healthy per say. To create this slow burning technique, it’s crucial to limit the oxygen so that the wood releases gases, resins, water, and other elements while holding the carbon.

Wood Chips
One of the major differences between charcoal briquettes and wood chips is that wood chips are what give classic barbecue its flavor and color. And when it comes to making authentic barbecue that is especially important. The most common wood chips are hickory, oak, cherry, apple, pecan and mesquite, all used by themselves or in combination. The wood from any fruit or nut tree would work too.

While these smoldering bits of wood have many benefits, very little smoke is absorbed from the wood chips if you are grilling for less than 20 minutes, so it’s pointless to use them. Whatever wood you use, remember that you want the wood to smolder and create smoke; not burn and create ashes.

Ultimately, if you want to add wood smoky flavor to your food or you simply enjoy the smell of a wood fire, then go with the barbecue wood chips. But if you have health concerns, then charcoal may be the better option due to their user-friendly additives. At the end of the day, it’s your choice which option you wish to choose. There isn’t a wrong answer, it’s simply based on your preferences.

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