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Smoke is a barbecue staple, but achieving the perfect smokey flavor can be tricky to pull off, especially if you don”t have time to soak pieces of wood while you”re cooking. Luckily, this simple trick will make your smoked barbecue fare the talk of the town.

To successfully smoke any food, the wood must be wet. If it”s dry, you”ll end up with flames instead of smoke. You could always soak wood chips for a few hours the day you”re planning on cooking, but with this trick, you can stockpile wood chips and break them out whenever. This will make for a no-nonsense cookout.

Wood chips can be purchased at any local hardware store, but be sure they haven”t been treated with any chemicals. You don”t need that seeping into your food. Poisoned guests are unhappy guests.

Wood chips can be purchased at any local hardware store, but be sure they haven

It”s also not advisable to use cedar (or the wood of any conifers) for this style of cooking, as the smoke they produce can be toxic. Stick with deciduous trees like hickory and maple. You”ll also need a set of wide-mouthed preserving jars. Mason jars are perfect.

Step 1: Do a preliminary soak.

Step 1: Do a preliminary soak.

This will pre-saturate the wood chips and wash out any impurities. Soak them for two to three hours. After that, just strain them and set them aside.

Contrary to what you might think, water actually preserves wood pretty well on the condition that the wood remains submerged, of course. By submerging and sealing the wood into jars, you can keep it for a long time without worrying about it degrading or becoming infected with bacteria. Depending on how much you make, you can have enough to last the whole season.

Step 2: Sterilize your jars.

Step 2: Sterilize your jars.

Place your jars on a rack at the bottom of a metal pail or large pot. If they touch the bottom directly, they have a greater chance of breaking under the intense heat. Drop the lids in, too, and cover completely with water, submerging them by about two inches. Bring the water to a boil and let them simmer for 10 minutes to kill any germs. Lift everything out onto a clean surface with tongs. Dump this water and fill the bucket with clean water. You”ll be bringing this to a boil while you do the next step.

Step 3: Fill the jars.

Step 3: Fill the jars.

Fill the jars about three-quarters of the way with presoaked wood chips. Boil water in a clean pot. Once it”s boiled, ladle it into the jars over the wood. Fill until it”s about half an inch from the top. Screw on the lids until they just become tight. You want room for excess air to escape.

Step 4: Seal the jars.

Step 4: Seal the jars.

Using tongs (you can get special canning tongs), gently lower the jars into the now-boiling water in your bucket. They can all go in at once. Let the jars boil for about 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. This will create a vacuum seal.

Step 5: Label and store.

Step 5: Label and store.

Label the lids of the jars with the type of wood and store them wherever you see fit. They can sit for a while, and when you”re craving smoky barbecue, pop open a jar, drain the excess water, and throw them into the fire. The wood will produce fragrant smoke that will flavor whatever you”re cooking.

(via Instructables)

Now that you know this trick, you”ll be the best barbecuer on the block. If you want more information, you can check out this guide to the best woods to use, and this one for which woods go best with which meats. Happy grilling!

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