The latest Dizzy Pig newsletter contains this little bit of heresy:
Using wet wood is the easiest way to over smoke your food. There is almost nothing good about the smell of wood that is trying to burn, but can’t. The smoke is brown and thick, it burns your eyes, and your meat only needs to be in that smoke for seconds before it lays down a nasty flavor on your meat that won’t go away.
So now you know what not to do, but what DO you do? Use dry wood and don’t put your meat on until the smoke is burning cleanly. Generally the smoke will start off as a brown or tan color, and as it dries the smoke will tend toward a blue color. Clean burning wood doesn’t always produce visible smoke, so you don’t need to see the smoke to taste it. When in doubt, put your face in the smoke and smell. If it burns your eyes, smells strong, or has a tan or brown color then wait.
All my life, I’ve soaked my woodchips before use. It even says to do it on the packaging. NOW, I’m being told it’s actually hurting my BBQ. I use a box for the chips, anyway, so should be fun to try out. Maybe tomorrow…
While I’m on the subject, here’s a good chart and a slightly more in depth comparison of wood chips. I used to be all about the hickory and mesquite, but the last few years have gone with pecan or cherry. I use Cowboy Charcoal in my Big Green Egg because it’s easy to get, but Naked Whiz has a whole page of brands they like better. Royal Oak, for example.