Sourcing fuel for a ‘stick-burner’ as they’re known is trickier than sourcing charcoal and briquettes, which in turn is trickier than gas or electricity. For briquettes or gas, you can stop in at virtually any service station and get what you need. And an electric BBQ or smoker? Just plug it in and turn it on. Charcoal requires a bit more effort to find a good source. Wood however, requires even more care. In my recent interview with Rod Duggan from the Ministry of Smoke, he shared with me his Tips for Sourcing, Storing and Ageing your Wood.
Sourcing Your Wood
Keep your sticks the length of your forearm…
The first thing to understand is that not only are there vast differences between species of wood, but there are also vast regional differences within a species of wood. When it comes to Ironbark, the most common smoker wood in Australia, the worse the soil and the harsher the climate, the better the wood. A cold, dry climate combined with poor-quality soil is perfect for growing dense timber, and for smoker woods, the denser the better. Watch for a white sap ring indicating coastal woods, and steer clear of it if you can.
Storing and Ageing Your Wood
A beautiful example of a ‘stick-burner’…
Once you’ve sourced your wood, it’s important to season it properly. Seasoning is important because well-seasoned wood burns cleaner, offering you the ‘right’ smoke and less chance of bad-tasting particulates. As a general rule, if the smoke burns your eyes or tickles your throat, it hasn’t been properly seasoned and is too green.
Get your smoke on!
Rod has a very exact procedure for seasoning Ironbark. Firstly, he keeps it in log form for a minimum of one year, and only splits it up when he needs it. This ensures that the timber ages more evenly.
Secondly, it’s important to keep the wood off the ground, and undercover. The denser the wood, the more leeway you have to let the wood sit on the ground, though you may still sacrifice some of the pieces on the bottom of the pile. The most important thing is to keep the wood undercover. If you have a garden shed or garage, this would be best. If you’re limited on space you could try only keeping what you’ll need for one cook in your shed and top it up as needed.
Keep them up off the ground…
Finally, for those that really want to make sure their wood is perfect, you could use a Moisture Meter to ensure it has a reading of less than 10%. Tuffy Stone is known to carry one in his pocket at all times!
Follow these tips to make sure you get the most burn for your buck!
The Full Interview
For more inside knowledge on fuels, woods and smoke, make sure you catch the full interview with Rod Duggan from the Ministry of Smoke in the Smoking Hot Confessions Podcast. Rod has made wood his business and has a wealth of knowledge to share.