The most essential thing about BBQ is cooking with wood. Without it you are just roasting in an oven and it isn't the same thing.   

Traditionally the wood used for BBQ should be what is most abundant on your region, lends good flavor to the meat and doesn't poison you.  The last point being very important!

Where I grew up in Central Texas,  the majority of the BBQ is cooked with Post Oak. People can get pretty snobbish about what type of wood to use, especially in Texas, where many claim that Post Oak  is the best hands down due to its mild flavor.   But people also use Hickory and Mesquite.  I even read about a BBQ joint in NYC (of course NYC!), that had cords of post oak delivered by train to their restaurant.  How ridiculous is that!!! There is nothing magical about Post Oak, it just happens to be cheap and plentiful in the central Texas area and always has been.  

Luckily when I moved to Maui in 2004, I noticed right away a tree that dotted the leeward side of the island looked very similar to Mesquite, right down to the thorns and beans. Turns out that Mesquite and Kiawe  are genetically kissing cousins. Kiawe is an introduced species to Hawaii that thrives in low water conditions and sandy soil.  In its native land of Peru it is also used as a cooking and heating fuel.  If you've ever had one of its thorns shoot into your foot on the way to the beach you probably hate it, but I've developed a soft spot for it.  It's extremely resilient, and can grow up be 100 plus years old. When they are larger and well maintained they also make very nice shade trees.  That being said, they are invasive to Hawaii and are usually treated as scrub. Well luckily we've found a good use for it. 

Due to its abundant nature on Maui at my current output  level, when they clear a lot here or trim around power lines I can go out and chainsaw logs and split the wood for free.  How affordable is that?  

Cooking with wood that is too green won't work as the logs have too much moisture in it. That makes it both difficult to light and also hard to split when it's fresh cut. Ideally I like my wood to be dried in the Kihei sun for about 6 months, or for as long as a year,  but it can be ready in as little as 3 months if its hot, sunny and dry outside.

 

In the end it's a lot of work but I do enjoy it, as I feel like I put my hands into the entire process of cooking.  I think it's an extra step that makes what I do better, and that's something to be proud of. In the end good Brisket is nothing more than being seasoned with salt and pepper and them slowly cooked at a low and steady temperature.  It's starts with the wood and ends with dinner. Enjoy next time you eat with me! 

This is one of my favorite Kiawe trees that I pass every day. I love the way it has one long branch that is like an arm.  

This is one of my favorite Kiawe trees that I pass every day. I love the way it has one long branch that is like an arm.  

The wood  

Tools of the trade. A chainsaw, a maul and a splitting axe.   

Tools of the trade. A chainsaw, a maul and a splitting axe.   

The payoff  

After 12-14 hours of cooking you get to take your picture with a brisket 😀 

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