There are certain tenants of grilling by which you should always abide.

1. Never grill bacon shirtless, unless you hate your nipples.

2. Never take over grilling duties from a friend without first asking, unless you hate your friend.

3. Never grill without adding a handful of wood chips, unless you hate flavor.

I’ll admit, I spent years of my outdoor cooking life only adding wood chips or chunks when I was slow-smoking briskets, ribs, or other forms of barbecue.

Wood smoke imparts such a deep, robust, almost-primal flavor to BBQ. I remember pondering this as I grunted in satisfaction while tearing through a smoked chicken drumstick.

And then, like a spattering of hot bacon grease to the exposed nipple, it hit me.

If smoke makes slow-and-low BBQ incredible, why couldn’t it do the same for anything grilled fast and hot?

Paul Kita

Over the next several months I tossed a handful of wood chips over hot coals and studied the flavors of whatever I grilled.

Steaks tasted steak-ier. Burgers had a newfound strength, as if they had emerged from the grill more confident. Shrimp had a similar mighty stature. The flaky flesh of a tender cod filet carried the tastes of land and sea. Even some fat carrots I had grilled whole possessed a certain potency.

Every meal I ate kissed with the smoke of wood chips tasted better than those without.

Can you taste the smoke?
Paul Kita

You’ll find all sorts of brands that sell all sorts of varieties of wood chips: applewood, cherry, mesquite, oak, hickory, and so on.

Some people are going to try to tell you that you have to match certain woods to certain foods, but those are the same type of people who will probable tell you that you have to drink an IPA with grilled salmon OTHERWISE YOU’LL RUIN EVERYTHING.

Use whatever wood chips you’d like. And if your friend manning the grill tries to tell you differently, see grilling tenant #2.

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