It's time to say good bye to hickory. Yes, I know the American smoker chips are dense, stick well to the meat and give those ribs that 'authentic' smokey flavour. But, there are so many options here in Australia, and especially in Western Australia, why buy something not native to where you live and in such ready supply?
When it comes to choosing the right smoking chunks for the right meat, this largely depends on preference and the smoked-flavour intensity you desire. Select chunks if you intend to simply add them to your coals when placing meat on the BBQ. We use a Smoking gun in the RiverMint kitchen which requires fine sawdust. This is a great little gadget, as is a portable grill-top smoking box, and saves on clean up. Try to make sure the wood chips are seasoned (as in dry, not fresh cut) to help with a clean burn and avoid smouldering.
And what type of wood chunks you ask? Well, WA's Jarrah wood from the Southern forests produces a thick smoke with an intense flavour. Box woods are a favourite for some, but for us the smoke is too thick and powerful and takes over the flavour of the meat. Two big favourites, Tasmanian Oak and WA Ironbark, are great for those wanting a deep smokey flavour and pair well with beef and lamb due to their longer burning times. Speaking of lamb, native rosemary when used for smoking wood imparts a medium herbaceous flavour to poultry and lamb and is easy to find, it can also be used half seasoned.
Apple and Cherry wood from Manjimup smells divine and imparts a sweet subtle flavour - excellent for chicken and fish or seafood. It burns quickly though, so have some heat ready to ensure the meat is cooked through. On a native foods note, Tea tree has a fantastic smell and is an all time favourite for Kiwis when preparing meats for a hangi. We also love using Sandalwood chips and lemon myrtle when preparing fish.
I try to steer away from Pine and many Eucalypts as the smoke can leave an acrid almost "ashtray in the mouth' aftertaste - rather unpleasant. One rule of thumb used by many smoking enthusiasts is if the smoke smells acrid and sticks to the back of your throat causing you to squint, then that is how the meat will taste.
As you can see the list is endless! There are so many different flavour profiles that can be achieved through smoking and many different foods that can be smoked. Try smoking some of your favourite cheddar or sour cream with Marri wood chips, then serve with some local honey and a sweet Muscat.