The grillmaster's guide to bourbon barrel BBQ smoking wood

By Midwest Barrel Co.

April 12th, 2023

Image of person opening a grill lid

You might have heard us say around here that smoking meat isn’t a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. Of course, you know this. You’re a grillmaster who’s always finding time to perfect your favorite smoked BBQ meat and food recipes – or even develop your own secret recipe that everyone in the neighborhood wants!

Now, whether you’re using a smoker or a traditional grill for smoking meats, one of the most important ingredients for bringing out mouthwatering, finger-licking flavors is the smoke itself. For that, you need quality BBQ smoking wood that adds just the right amount of flavor to whatever you’re cooking up.

Many BBQ enthusiasts and seasoned grillmasters will tell you oak is a perfect wood for smoking – and we absolutely agree. However, you can push that flavor even further. How? With our 100% authentic Bourbon Barrel Smoking chips, chunks and pellets.

Get more flavor out of bourbon barrel smoking wood

Speaking of flavor, there are many more delicious notes and tasty hints to explore when you’re using wood that’s been sourced from a bourbon barrel.

Oak smoking wood with a barrel boost

Image of a wall of barrels

While we’ve covered the flavors you can pull from using bourbon barrel smoking chunks, chips or pellets on your smoker or grill, there’s another reason to give these chunks, chips or pellets a try: the source of the wood.

You see, all bourbon barrels are made from white oak. That’s actually required by law. The oak isn’t legally required to be American, but the vast majority of bourbon barrels made by cooperages in the United States use American White Oak.

And a lot of that wood comes from forests in Missouri. This oak from the “Show Me State” has a reputation for producing a midrange smoke that’s well-balanced in its flavors. It’s not as harsh as other woods, such as hickory, but can still bring a good amount of flavor to the table.

While oak from Missouri definitely leads the way – and is among the most popular choices for barrel wood – the same flavor and burn qualities apply to any American White Oak.

How smoke adds flavors to meat and other food

We could do a deep dive into why and how smoke adds flavors to any meat or food that you’ve got in the smoker or on the grill, but any discussion like that can get pretty scientific in a short amount of time.

So, we’ll stick to the basics.

Essentially, meat and other food take on flavor from the smoke during the cooking process. There’s a lot of chemical processes at work. As explained perfectly by Smoked BBQ Source, here’s what’s going on:

The bark on the outside of the meat is caused by proteins and trace sugars. Nitric oxide and other chemicals in the wood react with iron in the meat to create a pink smoke ring.

A small amount of smoke from the wood touches the meat directly. (Pro tip: Use a rub to wet the meat and attract smoke. Wet, cool surfaces trap more smoke.)

Let’s talk bourbon

We’ve covered wood and smoke flavors, now let’s talk about that additional boost from the wood having previously been soaked in aging bourbon and what that adds to the equation.

There’s a common misconception out there that smoking with wood from a bourbon barrel wood should result in smoked meat or other food that tastes like bourbon. That’s not quite right.

In truth, the bourbon still locked deep within the wood adds flavors and notes that can also be pulled from a sip of bourbon. We’ve talked to local BBQ experts who drive this point home. You can expect to get a variety of familiar flavors when smoking with bourbon barrel wood, including vanilla, caramel and brown sugar, but it’s not going to taste exactly like Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey poured from the bottle.

How bourbon barrel wood burns

Picture of bourbon barrel smoking wood

Since it’s American White Oak, a hardwood, you can expect wood from freshly emptied bourbon barrels to burn slow, long and hot. If you’re looking at a longer cook time, then this is perfect. Of course, oak is simply a great all-around option whenever you are smoking food regardless of cook or smoke time.

Plus, smoking with bourbon barrel wood offers up some amazing aromas as the wood begins to heat up, smoke and send off those sweet bourbon scents of vanilla, caramel, honey – even fruity notes.

Let’s put it this way: Your neighbors will know when you’re using 100% authentic Bourbon Barrel Smoking Wood from Midwest Barrel Company.

You may want to make extra!

The importance of sustainability

We’re obviously proud of our product from a quality standpoint, but before we wrap this up, we have to mention another point about our smoking wood that is incredibly important to us.

As we have mentioned, our wood, whether it’s in chip, chunk or pellet form, comes from barrels that were mostly Missouri White Oak sustainably produced, and that’s something that matters a lot to Midwest Barrel Co. Many cooperages use sustainable practices, including using sawdust for fuel and charcoal and wood fibers and chips for paper or landscape products.

But Midwest Barrel Co. has also placed a major emphasis on giving back and making sure that the entire barrel industry – from cooper to distillery or brewery – remains vibrant for many future generations. To do that, we partner with the Arbor Day Foundation to help replant American White Oak trees.

Bourbon barrel smoking wood for every grill or smoker

Picture of various types of barrel smoking wood

No matter what type of grill or smoker you own, we have a type of bourbon barrel smoking wood that will fit, including for pellet smokers! With our authentic chunks, chips or pellets, you have all the options you need to fire up the smoker or grill and get cooking.

With Midwest Barrel Co. barrel BBQ smoking wood, you get 100% authentic wood from freshly emptied barrels. We never blend our wood either, making sure you get all the aroma and flavor with every cooking or smoking session.

Let’s get smokin’! Cheers!

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Midwest Barrel Company

Just your resident barrel slingers delivering some damn good content

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