How to Use Mesquite Wood Chips for BBQ

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Using the right wood for smoking and cooking greatly enhances the flavor of any meat you prepare on a barbecue grill. Mesquite wood chips add a smoky and slightly sweet aroma, and have long been a favorite of experienced BBQ cooks.

Things You'll Need

  • Barbecue grill, charcoal or gas
  • Cast iron smoker
  • Mesquite wood chips
  • Beef, pork, chicken, fish or vegetables

Selecting Mesquite Chips

  • Buy pure wood, not a blend. It should be dry and hard.

  • The chips should be 6 to 8 millimeters wide, without too many small fragments.

  • The chips must be free of dust and other impurities.

  • Transparent chip bags allow you to examine the quality and size of the chips before you buy.

Smoking and Cooking with Mesquite

  • Smoking is a good way to tenderize tough cuts of meat, as well as chicken, fish, and vegetables. But wood chips will burn fast and are best for short smoking times.

  • Use a small amount, about one-quarter cup, of chips. Soak the chips in water for 15 to 30 minutes before using them.

  • Let the chips dry to a moist condition before adding them to the smoker box or heat source.

  • If you don't have a smoker box, place the chips directly on the coals. You can also wrap them in aluminum foil, then punch holes in the foil to allow the smoke to escape. The more holes, the smokier the fire will be. Place the coals and chips on one side of the grill.

  • Place the meat on the side of the grill away from the gas covers (or coals) and smoking chips. Don't cook the meat directly over the heat source.

  • Allow the meat to cook slowly. Ribs, for example, should cook for at least three hours. Keep the grill cover closed during this time.

  • Open the grill cover and coat the meat with any homemade or commercial barbecue sauce you select.

  • Allow the sauce to set by cooking the meat another 20 minutes.

Tips & Warnings

  • Chips also come in small, pre-packaged cans. You peel off a label, exposing a small hole that allows the smoke to escape, and add the can to the heat source. If you use the can for only a short time, you can replace the label and reuse it another day.
  • Don't use too many chips. The smoke will overwhelm the food and make it bitter and leathery. Start with a small amount and experiment with larger amounts until you get an ideal taste for the meat you're cooking.

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