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Guide For Woods Used To Smoke Food

Here is a list that is not complete, but informative none the less. Courtesy of Dionysus....

Reference guide for Woods used to Smoke Food

ACACIA - these trees are in the same family as mesquite. When burned in a smoker, acacia has a flavor similar to mesquite but not quite as heavy. Is a very hot burning wood.

ALDER - Very delicate with a hint of sweetness. Good with fish, pork, poultry, and light-meat game birds.

ALMOND - A sweet smoke flavor, light ash. Good with all meats.

APPLE - Very mild with a subtle fruity flavor, slightly sweet. Good with poultry (turns skin dark brown) and pork.

ASH - Fast burner, light but distinctive flavor. Good with fish and red meats.

BIRCH - Medium-hard wood with a flavor similar to maple. Good with pork and poultry.

CHERRY - Mild and fruity. Good with poultry, pork and beef. Some List members say the cherry wood is the best wood for smoking. Wood from chokecherry trees may produce a bitter flavor.

COTTONWOOD - It is a softer wood than alder and very subtle in flavor. Use it for fuel but use some chunks of other woods (hickory, oak, pecan) for more flavor. Don't use green cottonwood for smoking.

CRABAPPLE - Similar to apple wood.

GRAPEVINES - Tart. Provides a lot of smoke. Rich and fruity. Good with poultry, red meats, game and lamb.

HICKORY - Most commonly used wood for smoking--the King of smoking woods. Sweet to strong, heavy bacon flavor. Good with pork, ham and beef.

LILAC - Very light, subtle with a hint of floral. Good with seafood and lamb.

MAPLE - Smoky, mellow and slightly sweet. Good with pork, poultry, cheese, and small game birds.

MESQUITE - Strong earthy flavor. Good with beef, fish, chicken, and game. One of the hottest burning woods.

MULBERRY - The smell is sweet and reminds one of apple.

OAK - Heavy smoke flavor--the Queen of smoking wood. RED OAK is good on ribs, WHITE OAK makes the best coals for longer burning. All oak varieties reported as suitable for smoking. Good with red meat, pork, fish and heavy game.
ORANGE, LEMON and GRAPEFRUIT - Produces a nice mild smoky flavor. Excellent with beef, pork, fish and poultry.

PEAR - A nice subtle smoke flavor. Much like apple. Excellent with chicken and pork.

PECAN - Sweet and mild with a flavor similar to hickory. Tasty with a subtle character. Good with poultry, beef, pork and cheese. Pecan is an all-around superior smoking wood.

SWEET FRUIT WOODS - APRICOT, PLUM, PEACH, NECTARINE - Great on most white or pink meats, including chicken, turkey, pork and fish. The flavor is milder and sweeter than hickory.

WALNUT - ENGLISH and BLACK - Very heavy smoke flavor, usually mixed with lighter woods like almond, pear or apple. Can be bitter if used alone. Good with red meats and game

Types of wood that is unsuitable or even poisonous when used for grilling. Don't use any wood from conifer trees, such as PINE, FIR, SPRUCE, REDWOOD, CEDAR, CYPRESS, etc. Also ELM, EUCALYPTUS, SASSAFRAS, SYCAMORE and LIQUID AMBER wood is unsuitable for smoking.

Comments (10)

I live in Africa - apart from Acacia what woods are good for smoking - what about African red mahogany?
Many users report using SASSAFRAS with very good results, IMHO it should be removed from the do not use list.
CEDAR planks have been used for grilling for many years.
I tried olive, nice flavor, leaves a taste of olive oil in the mouth, great with fish.
i am a little confused cedar planks are used when grilling fish , correct ? so is it safe or not ?
This is great, just what I was looking for. I have 6-8 cords of cottonwood for my fireplace. I can use it for smoking and stretch out my other wood use. Thanks for the list! Steve
Cedar is safe to Use as Planks to Lay meat On But Do Not Burn it in with food It puts off Toxins. And Cotton wood Is Not a wood i would use to Flavor meat Burn some In a Bon fire first smell That smoke Then ask Yourself sirst do You want Your food tasting That way. I would stick to what I Know, Any Hardwood ( especially Oak ) But Not Live Oak ( if its green) And Fruit woods are always aromatic and savory especially when added as filler with Cheaper More available Oaks
can you use Aspin. I live near Colorado and I can get all that I want, but I did not see that on either can or cannot use..Thanks Tim
Not all that surprised that Manzanita (my now favorite wood to smoke with) didn't make the list as it is apparently rather rare in other parts of the US and that there really isn't a lot of information about using this wood for smoking meats.
I have been using Manzanita for over Six months now with outstanding results smoking Beef, Pork and even Fish.
Manzanita has a smoke flavor similar to Hickory but not as bold or overpowering. Manzanita smoke also imparts a delicate sweetness to the meat which I happen to enjoy.
Do try this incredibly hard wood once and I think you will be as amazed as I was. 
i like mesquite and live red oak very much,i have a open face santa maria grill,excellent for searing   tri tip ,steaks,and chicken,a couple of minutes a side then bring way up with high heat too seal the juices into the meat.
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