Hardwoods such as oak, ash and beech are best for cooking heat, as they provide a good long burn and can give a great flavour too. Fruit woods such as apple can also provide fantastic flavour. Softwoods such as spruce and pine will burn faster and at times may be too hot. They also contain higher levels of resin, which can turn to bitter-tasting creosote when burned. Many modern barbecuers are adding a little hickory or mesquite near the end of the cooking time for extra smoky flavour.
Wood MUST be dry and below 25% moisture content to provide the best heat and avoid excessively smoky fires.
Avoid chemical-based fire igniters when you intend to cook food on your wood fire. Fire starter gel often contain chemicals such as kerosene to make them easy to light and long-burning. We highly recommend Flamers natural firelighters, which are easy to light and have a strong, long burn.
When cooking with wood, it is a bed of hot wood coals or embers that you are aiming took over, not flames. Use indirect heat to cook food more slowly and evenly. Push your embers to one side of the firepit and put your food on the other side to cook.
The hot embers are, however, perfect for cooking items such as potatoes wrapped in foil. Use a garden rake with a long handle and metal head to rake the embers around the pit to control the temperature.
Different meats cook differently. Small pieces of meat such as chicken breasts cook best over a medium heat. For a larger joint such as pork roast, get the meat close to the fire for the first few minutes, turning it to seal in the juices, and the move it away from the high heat so it can cook slowly over a gentler fire.
Another way to improve your cooking of larger roasts is to build or buy a rotisserie attachment for your firepit. A rotisserie allows for very even cooking and succulent, juicy results.
To keep the heat going for a long time, you can keep adding wood on one side of the wood grill while cooking on the other.