While most home cooks prefer the convenience of gas or charcoal, there’s a growing number of people who prefer to cook with wood as the primary fuel.
Cooking with wood is older than civilization, but it has fallen out of favor thanks to more efficient fuels becoming readily available in the modern age.
If you want to try cooking with wood over a fire pit or even a simple campfire, you’ll have to take a look at the pros and cons. Most importantly, you’ll need to know whether grilling with wood is bad for you.
Are There Health Risks of Cooking with Wood?
Cooking with wood isn’t inherently unhealthy, but there are some things to consider before you start.
- You’ll need a safe area to set a fire pit or a cooking grate over a campfire. Wood can also be used in a charcoal grill, but not a gas grill.
- Wood can produce a lot of smoke if not tended properly. Keep the fire burning and avoid cooking when the flames are high.
- Wood burns intensely. This can result in flareups and accidents.
- Burning particles can fly off the wood, so you’ll need to be well away from your home or any combustible materials. Cooking with wood is better suited to the backyard rather than a patio or deck that’s right next to the house.
Wood smoke can irritate some people who suffer from asthma or other respiratory illnesses. Keep kids away from a grill or open fire when cooking, as well as anyone else who is at risk.
Wood will create the same chemical reactions in food as charcoal or gas would.
Charring the food too heavily can make it less healthy, with added carcinogens. Avoid blackening your food and you will be protected from any unnecessary health risks.
In short, it’s safe to cook with wood. Be sure that the wood you use is designed for grilling, or, use untreated wood that you have harvested yourself.
What are the Advantages of Cooking with Wood?
We’ve established that cooking with wood can be as safe as cooking on charcoal or gas. Next we need to consider why you would want to cook using would in the first place.
There are three key advantages to using wood:
- Wood offers a unique flavor, especially if you are using types like hickory, apple, oak, mesquite, or any other wood that is typically used for smoking.
- Wood creates intense heat which is perfect for grilled food. From steak to burgers and hot dogs, wood will create the high temperatures that you need for better-tasting food.
- Wood is natural, and, depending on where you live, it may be abundant.
If the wood is readily available to you from a local store or even from your own property, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try it for cooking in a grill, firepit, or improvised campfire.
What are the Downsides of Cooking with Wood?
Wood isn’t the perfect fuel source, which is why it isn’t as common today as it was in recent history.
- It takes longer to prepare and get burning.
- Embers don’t stay hot as long as charcoal, so you’ll need to keep topping up.
- It may be more expensive, depending on where you live.
- Your food will always have a rich smoky flavor, which won’t be ideal for every ingredient.
Will You Try Wood on Your Grill?
If you own a charcoal grill, you can start cooking with wood today. Even if you’re going camping, wood might be the most readily available fuel source.
Ultimately, wood is a good cooking fuel but it’s not the best.
It’s worth trying at least once if you have the right grill or space and confidence to start a campfire safely.