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Where There's Smoke, There's Mesquite Chips
For kettle grillers, choosing the right fuel is essential—it determines the intensity of the heat as well as the taste of the smoke. Gas grillers have fewer fuel options but can use wood chips and herbs almost like a spice, to add layers of flavor to foods.
- Charcoal briquettes: They're popular with kettle grillers because their consistent size and density make them burn evenly, and because they're cheap. Connoisseurs don't like their smell, however, or the acrid taste they impart to food.
- Hardwood lump charcoal: They are pricier than briquettes, but chefs prefer them because they burn hotter and give off more fragrant smoke. They also make it easier to control cooking temperature, because they don't have those added burn accelerants.
- Wood: Most wood for grilling comes in the form of chips that can be scattered on top of a steadily burning charcoal or gas fire. Mesquite, cherry, hickory, maple, apple, pecan, and even grapevine cuttings are all good choices. Chips should be soaked in water first so they smolder and smoke, rather than burn up quickly.
- Herbs: You can toss onto your fire the woody parts of certain herbs—bay leaf, thyme, and rosemary stems, to name a few; like wood chips, these should be soaked in water first. You can also throw on lemon or orange rinds for flavor.