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Instead of buying lump or briquette charcoal every time, can I just burn some birch and use that as the heat for my charcoal bbq?

  • Birch is not one of your better fire woods. It burns down awful fast. – Wayfaring Stranger May 24 '19 at 22:52
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You should be able to cook on your grill using various types of wood such as hickory, mesquite, cherry, maple, apple, etc. Per Recipetips.com , birch can be used also.

Birch - A softer wood, Birch is best used when grilling or smoking cuts of pork and poultry, providing a flavor similar to some varieties of maple.

Birch is a softer wood and can also be syrupy. Also hard woods cook longer than soft woods. Be sure to use large chunks rather than chips or small pieces. Just keep these things in mind when cooking with birch.

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  • What difference will chunks make? – TFD Jun 28 '15 at 3:23
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    @TFD Larger chunks/pieces allow for a longer cooking time and less need for adding wood. As birch is a softer wood, it burns quicker than hard woods, so small pieces and chips would not be as desirable. – Cindy Jun 28 '15 at 14:26
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    @TFD Smaller pieces of wood burn away more quickly, while big pieces leave behind coals more easily. All the fires I've cooked over, the twigs were ash well before the logs burned down. – Cascabel Jun 28 '15 at 14:29
  • But that all depends what you want. Sometime you want a short BBQ. So that advice is only good if you want a long BBQ. In which case birch is not a good candidate, since it burns too quickly, and is very smokey to re-stock – TFD Jun 29 '15 at 1:05
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You can use any non-poisonous wood you like.

Every wood has a different heat and smoke profile. "Soft woods" like birch will generally burn very hot for a short time, so OK for sausages, small meat cuts, and small vegetables, but not so good for large meat cuts, roasts, or for BBQ'ing covered for the full smoke effect as you will most likely need to re-stock the fire every 20 or 30 minutes.

Most people let the wood burn off the main smoke (which usually doesn't taste too good), and BBQ on the red/white embers. The wood stage is now similar to charcoal, but a lot more smokey, which is great if you like smoke.

For sausages, small cuts and small vegetables, hardwood is basically wasted, as they will cook in ten minutes, and the hardwood has 20 to 30+ minutes of burn time in it.

You can BBQ small stuff using a few handfuls of dry twigs or even driftwood if you want too. Twigs from fruit trees or lavender bushes make great smoke!

We always travel with a small lidded BBQ (metal box 60x40x40 cm with vent holes on sides), we use a handful or two of driftwood, once the smoke dies down, add a few peppered steaks, pre-cooked potatoes, oiled asparagus, soaked corn on the cob. Put the lid on, and come back in 15 to 20 minutes, smokey slow cooked heaven.

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    That sounds very tasty. I'm going to have to try throwing some lavender on the coals next time! I'm not sure I'd call 15 minutes "slow cooked" though. – Sobachatina Jul 7 '15 at 19:36
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    @Sobachatina relative to the average BBQ time. With pre-cooked stuff all your are doing is smoking. With items like soft fish, or thin red meat cuts, 15 minutes is plenty too – TFD Jul 7 '15 at 21:08
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I use wood all the time (including birch). Size and type will depend on what I am trying to do. For a slow smoke I will use a slow burning hardwood for coals and add small pieces of fruitwood or Hickory on the coals for flavour. If I am needing a quick hot fire birch with no bark works good. The bark normally comes off easily after it’s been seasoned in the wood pile. The bark creates all the dirt smoke and bitterness.

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Birch is far too hot and quick-burning for a barbecue. Even hardwood (oak, maple, etc) will have too much flame and not enough heat for good grilling. You need a fuel that burns long and with a lot of radiated heat, which is why charcoal is the classic fuel.

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  • Birch has flame initially, but after that, it will burn to white hot coals and then there will be no flame ,right? – Kaushik Jun 27 '15 at 20:24
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    Yeah, I don't get this - I've had an awful lot of barbecue cooked over mostly oak. Yes, you have to let it burn down until there's no flame, but then it stays hot plenty long to cook a meal, eat it, then come back for marshmallows. Charcoal is commonly used because it lets you skip ahead to the coals, not because you can't use wood. – Cascabel Jun 27 '15 at 20:27
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    If you're talking specifically birch, then it really does burn too fast. If you're talking a better grade of hardwood, then yes: you can burn it down into coals and use those coals, but not in a standard charcoal barbecue; the size of wood fire you could fit in a charcoal grill wouldn't generate enough coals to last you long. – Daniel Griscom Jun 27 '15 at 23:50
  • Other answers and sources say birch does work, just only for faster cooking things. Even if they're wrong about that, you clearly agree that other kinds of wood work, so perhaps you might want to edit your answer to avoid the claim that no wood is a good fuel. (I'm also dubious about your claim that it won't fit in a grill, given my own experience, TFD's answer, and other sources.) – Cascabel Jun 28 '15 at 14:25
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    @Kaushik I'm from central Texas, where live oak is one of the most common trees. The kind of stuff we burned was from trees that were starting to grow too far (over the house or the road) or starting to die, definitely not just cutting down trees for firewood. None of it was really big enough to use as lumber anyway. I don't think it's what people actually sell as firewood, but we weren't buying it. – Cascabel Jun 29 '15 at 2:25
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Wood is fine it is just a lot less practical. Wood takes a fair while longer to make coals and is not entirely as hot as charcoal. That being said it does stay longer so if you want a more gentle longer lasting fire it may be better.

Charcoal is in essence just half burned compressed wood anyway so you are not loosing anything substantial by just using regular wood.

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  • Real charcoal is not compressed. Briquettes are not real charcoal (most of them contain coal dust, which is quite a different animal, and various other ingredients.) Coals from burning wood are charcoal... – Ecnerwal Jul 9 '15 at 1:27

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