Any enthusiastic amateur smoker knows that the wood chips that you require for smoking can these days be bought almost anywhere from the supermarket to the internet but any serious smoker enthusiast will tell you that buying from these sources can be really expensive if you do a lot of smoking. So what are the alternatives?
Well you might just be lucky and live near a wood or forest where you have easy access to wind fall logs at no charge. You might be even luckier and be able to recognize the logs too – remember that you need hard wood and steer clear of birch.
If not then there are alternatives. A lumber yard is always a good place to start and with a little polite negotiation you may well be able to buy off cuts at a reasonable price. All you need to ensure is that the wood hasn t been treated with chemicals in any way because this will taint the flavor of your food. Go carefully with the sawdust however because few lumber yards these days segregate there sawdust and the chances are that it will be contaminated with softwoods.
There will also be a number of you lucky enthusiasts who live near orchards and this is a great source not only of hard wood but great hard wood to boot. I really enjoy smoking with the wood of a fruit tree.
In addition it always pays to do a local search in the yellow pages or on the internet for your local tree surgeon. Again, a bit of polite conversation and you never know what you might achieve, especially if you have the transport capability as well.
Now that you ve secured your supply you need to prepare the wood into something that will fit in your smoker and make pure smoke. If at all possible I prefer to use hand tools such as a axe and a hatchet to make wood chunks. The reason for this is that there s no change for any chemicals or oils to be passed onto the wood during the cutting. Yes, I agree that it makes it difficult to have perfectly shaped chunks (these tend to have a greater surface area in touch with the heat source and therefore smolder more easily) but at least I know that my wood is pure.
The worst thing you could do is use a chainsaw. The chain is on a chainsaw is continually lubricated by oil and any wood that you are cutting is bound to soak up some of the oil and this will give your food the taste of petroleum. Now I have heard some people use an un lubricated chainsaw and I suppose that this is fair enough but it does mean that the chainsaw will only be good for a few cuts before it starts to overheat.
If you use a saw of any kind, it always pays to put a sheet on the ground over where you are sawing because then you catch all the sawdust too. Sawdust is well worth hanging onto for any cold smoking activities that you might want to do.
Before chopping any wood however it may be your preference to bark the wood. Frankly I prefer my wood chips with the bark on because I think it doesn t compromise the flavor and I eliminate quite a lot of work. This really is your choice.