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BBQ oak chips/chunks?

I'm grilling a Santa Maria-style tri-tip for the 4th and I'd really like to find someplace in the Bay Area (the closer to Berkeley the better) where I can get oak chips or chunks for smoking purposes. Everywhere I go seems to have hickory and mesquite and apple and that's it. I realize this is completely last minute but can anybody help? Post-4th posts would be welcome. (This is posted on the Home Cooking board as well - hope that's OK)

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  1. You might give Fessenden Firewood in Richmond a call.

    Fessenden Firewood
    686 S 30th St, Richmond, CA 94804

    1. I am not so familiar with the east bay, but BBQ Galore in San Rafael has a huge selection at full retail price. Also, the Lazzari Distributorship in Brisbane (just behind the Cow Palace) has a decent selection at wholesale prices:


      1. The traditional Santa Maria Style is flamed over walnut wood, then finish over slow, closed fire of pecan or fruitwood. Especially Tri Tip roast loves this and so will you. I am sure most of the place mentioned will carry these woods.. I grew up on SM Q.

        Don't forget the pinquito beans..have fun!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Lori SF

          Better double check the official Santa Maria BBQ site. We wouldn't be looking for Red Oak if not for the "official" explanation.

        2. Walmart carries (I assume most locations)

          Jack Daniels Oak chips
          Hickory and Mesquite Chunks
          Hickory, Mesquite, Apple and Cherry chips.

          I did some the other week searing on a gas grill with a hickory smoke finish and it was nice and mellow. Also, did some on a charcoal grill using some oak wine-barrel pieces. At first seemed a little acrid, but after I sliced the meat and it sat a little bit in the juices, the acridity mellowed out for a really nice smokiness.

          To Lori SF- Many of the recipes I have seen for Santa Maria say oak wood- perhaps there is some wiggle room?

          1. Instead of trying to buy "smoking wood", buy fireplace wood and cut it up.

            My local supermarket sells a box of oak for ~$10, IIRC it is 2.77 cubic feet and was $7.79 last winter (or was it two winters ago?).

            4 Replies
            1. re: Alan408

              P.Punko- always room for wiggle room but I wanted to point out the orginal proper way of the Santa Maria BBQ- which I heartly can say if I know anything I know this. It was a tradition in my family and friends growing up. I am from Santa Barbara and our other family shared home in Santa Maria early 70-80's. My family were BBQ masters and put the technique on the map. So yes other wood chips can be used. But I know the difference. Also, if it's tri-tip we are speaking of there are only two marinades.

              Why not get the right chips don't rush it and the difference is so much better.

              1. re: Lori SF

                No, I always want to hear how everybody does things differently- it does sound great. I wrote my comment above because of reading stuff like this:


              2. re: Alan408

                A word of caution here. Many boxes of fireplace wood contain other items in addition to oak, like pine. Please be sure to check the contents before going this route. Also, unless the OP has a woodchipper or at least a chainsaw, I'm not too sure this tactic would be worth the effort for wood chips.

                1. re: Civil Bear

                  Definitely agree on the chipping. I use Fessenden oak for our wood stove and often for grilling, and just splitting it is a major chore. They call it hardwood for a reason.

              3. If I'm not mistaken...the hardwood lump charcoal at Trader Joe's is Lazzari oak. It's easy to get. On a side note: Smart and Final carries 40 lb bags of mesquite for like $18 bucks.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ML8000

                  I believe the OP is looking for raw chips or chunks for imparting flavor.

                2. Due to technical difficulty for some reason this site is not allowing to respond to a post-

                  So whomever wrote this, I cannot see handle.. it sucks

                  "Instead of trying to buy "smoking wood", buy fireplace wood and cut it up.

                  My local supermarket sells a box of oak for ~$10, IIRC it is 2.77 cubic feet and was $7.79 last winter (or was it two winters ago?)."

                  That is no way to bbq and you will get more smoke around you and less flavor on the meat.. lot's of chared meat and no flavor.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: Lori SF

                    The OP asked for places to get BBQ oak chips/chunks without saying how they were to be used in the cooking process. The suggestion for fireplace wood was simply a way to get what the OP asked for more cheaply, albeit with more work.

                    1. re: Mick Ruthven

                      >albeit with more work<

                      I should have added that it would be way too much work for me to contemplate for a bbq. I use chunks from Barbecues Galore (or other places, but BG stocks them reliably).

                      1. re: Lori SF

                        Sorry I wasn't more specific - the particular use I had in mind for the oak chips was soaking in water and putting on the coals for flavoring purposes. I bought some overpriced red oak chips last year from some guy in Santa Maria - I'd heard red oak was the absolutely authentic wood - and the flavor was great even if it was a bit of a rip-off. I am interested in doing more grilling/barbecuing with wood rather than charcoal in general. By the way, I wound up using hickory chips and a recipe Russ Parsons ran in the LA Times several years ago - simple marinade of olive oil, lots of crushed garlic, salt and smashed black peppercorns, two-level fire, fast sear on both sides and then 25 or so minutes on the cool side of a covered grill. It was really good! And I didn't forget the pinquitos - recipe from the same Russ Parsons story, with beef chunks and bacon and tomato puree. A very CA 4th! Thanks for all the responses!

                        1. re: zenduck

                          Zenduck, not 30 minutes ago with Bobby flay on the food network a genuine Santa Maria
                          bbq. If you can't catch a rerun at least this is how this man makes his rub.

                          1. re: zenduck

                            Cooks' Country just ran a very similar recipe last month. They said oak, but I've done many of the available woods and of course all are good. Like I mentioned above, you can get some cheap Jack Daniels oak chips at WalMart if you are in a bind. One thing Cooks said was to wipe off the garlic after marination to avoid a bitter burnt garlic taste.

                            1. re: P. Punko

                              Perhaps that why so many recipes call for granulated garlic or garlic powder.

                        2. Not oak chips, but if anyone is interested in bags of hickory chips, OSH ( Orchard Supply Hardware) sells decent sized bags for $3.50 ! Just look for their bbq department.


                          1. There's a chain with quite a few local branches, Barbecues Galore, that sells chipped wood by the variety. I think bags are in the $4-$8 range, with enough for quite a few different barbecue days. Pecan, Walnut, Apple, Oak, etc. They also have variety packs of fruitwood blends, more robust wood blends, etc. I didn't notice when I was in the store, but their website mentions cedar planks for fish.

                            Yes, for the amount of wood involved it's a bit of a rip off, but you're really paying for the convenience of varietal wood in appropriately sized chunks for smoking.

                            1 Reply