Can You Use Wood in a Charcoal Grill: Top Tips for the Best Barbecue

Roasted beef ripe steaks on flaming charcoal grill

When the chill of winter finally moves on and the sunny days of spring and summer set in, barbecues with friends and family are back on the menu. Your choice of wood or charcoal can make a big difference to the taste of your meat and how quickly you can cook your food and fill those hungry bellies. Let’s explore the different types of grill fuels and which you should use for your next barbecue with friends and family.

Wood vs. Charcoal: Is one better than the other?

Charcoal has been the preferred fuel for grills for decades. Burning hotter than wood and producing less smoke, charcoal is used in grills across the UK. But some prefer using wood to grill their steaks, burgers, or sausages. But what are the main differences between the two, and is one better than the other?

Quick facts about charcoal:

  • Burns hotter
  • Produces little to no smoke
  • Adds a smokey flavor to foods
  • Easy to clean
  • Burns for longer

Quick facts about wood:

  • Produces more flames
  • Produces smoke
  • Available in logs or chips
  • Burns hot but breaks down faster
  • Easy to clean
  • Can add great flavor to meats and vegetables

From the facts we have listed, it doesn’t seem like there is too much of a difference between the two. But, the biggest difference is that wood logs or chips can be used to add a unique flavor to your meat or vegetables depending on the type of wood used.

Can Wood be used in a Charcoal Grill?

Wood is an excellent fuel source for all types of grilling and can most definitely be used in a charcoal grill. Depending on the type of wood you will be using, you can expect a different flavor and grilling.

There is a wide variety of hard and softwoods that can be used in your charcoal grill. Let’s take a look at each, as well as the type of flavor you could expect when using them.

#1: Applewood

Applewood gives the meat a sweet flavor. Some describe it as ashy, but this is not to say it tastes burned. Great for smoking bacon and other pork products, Applewood gives your meat a pleasant flavor.

#2: Maple

Maple wood is great for use with any type of meat. Known for its light and smoky flavor, it also gives off a pleasant smell while being burned.

#3: Walnut

For those meat-lovers who prefer a smokey, almost bitter taste, walnut is the best wood for the grill. It produces an intense, smokey taste that goes well with game and other stronger flavored meats.

#4: Cherrywood

When you think of cherrywood, you would expect a sweet flavor, similar to applewood. Cherrywood, however, gives your meat a bold, almost earthy flavor that is great for enhancing the natural taste of the meat you are grilling. Cherrywood is great for grilling steaks and will not completely alter the taste of the meat.

#5: Alder

For seafood and vegetable grillers, alder is by far the best wood to use. The lightest of all the wood types, it adds a very subtle flavor to fish, corn, and other vegetables.

#6: Oak

Oak is an extremely popular type of grilling wood for that real Texan flavor in steaks, a good old rack of ribs, or even a lamb chop. It is a bold wood but gives a classic flavor to any type of meat.

#7: Hickory

Stroll through the meat aisle of any supermarket, and you will find a wide variety of hickory-smoked products. You can recreate this flavor at home using hickory wood to smoke your choice of meats. Pork is undeniably one of the best meats to pair with hickory.

#8: Camphor

For a bold, exotic flavor, choose camphor wood. While the flavor is not for everyone, it is a great wood to use when smoking or barbecuing duck. A firm favorite in Asian countries, duck smoked using camphor wood is a delicacy.

black burned charcoal bbq grid fire natural

Things to Consider Before Using Wood

While wood is cheap and easy to use, there are a few things you should take note of before choosing wood for your next barbecue.

Choose dry wood

The wood used for grilling purposes is dried for at least six months to ensure that there is no remaining water in the wood. Moisture in wood leads to an excessive amount of smoke production that can lead to your food tasting bitter and extremely smokey.

Choose barkless wood

Using wood that has bark on it in your grill can significantly impact the taste of your meat or vegetables. Always remove the bark from your logs or choose logs that do not have any bark.

Choose hardwoods over softwoods

Hardwoods like oak, hickory, and cherrywood burn slower than softer woods like pine. If you are in a bit of a hurry, choose softer woods for your barbecue. But if you are hosting a party and having too much fun to rush through the grilling experience, a harder wood will reduce the need for constant replenishment of your logs, leaving you to enjoy your barbecue.

Choose “clean” woods

It is extremely important to choose wood that does not have any mold or fungus on it. Burning these could release toxins into your food, which can lead to various health issues, and in extreme cases, can be fatal. Buy your wood from a reputable source, store it in a dry area, and check each log before adding it to your grill.


Wood is a great alternative to charcoal for your next barbecue. Wood is available in logs or chips and can be chosen according to the meat you are grilling, the flavor you would like your meat, fish, or vegetables to have, as well as the length of the event you are hosting. Wood can be used in a charcoal grill, making clean-up a breeze. Follow our tips on which woods to use for your next barbecue, and wow your friends and family with the delightful flavors you create.