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Identifying good smoking wood.

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I have wood from an old apple tree at the moment.. I'm guessing it will last me through the summer..

I'm already starting to worry about where I will get my next load.

I have a cabin on the Missouri river in Iowa.. there are lots of dead trees around for the taking. Up until now I've never been really concerned about what types they are. I can easily identify cottonwoods and elms and the like.

What good smoking trees are indigenous to the area that I should look for? I can pretty much say there aren't any fruit trees growing in the wild out there so what else can I look for?
post #2 of 22
Here is a list I came across recently, probably not complete but informative none the less ....

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.
post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys. This helps quite a bit.

I'm gonna hack down the mulberry first thing so it can cure for next year.!
I'm sick of the purple bird poop anyway.

I can't throw a rock in any direction without hitting a cottonwood.. I just didn't know you could use it for smoking, I thought it was too soft of a wood.
post #4 of 22
should have plenty of oak in the area dman......also walnut should be in the area........if nothing else........get ahold of the dnr......they should be albe to help.........or any extension office
post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 
I'll be looking for Oak and Walnut.. I see lots of squirrels, and they have to be eating something.

Ash would be another I'll bet I can find plenty of.
post #6 of 22
yeah........my buddy's grandmother had a HUGE ash go dead on her......so he cut it down, and burnt up bout half of it before he mentioned it to me.......so i got a pickup load of it......with bout 3-4 more truck loads to go......EXCELLANT smoking wood.....its what i used on Ol' Bud's maiden smoke..........VERY nice flavor it added.........

so yeah......ash should be in the area.........
post #7 of 22
post #8 of 22
Anyone have red willow in their area? We have alot of this up here in sask. the willow grows in low lying areas like around sloughs (swamps)
post #9 of 22
Hey Ken:

Is that Silver Maple as good for smokin as regular Maple? We have some of the silvers around here I might be able to get my hands on, will start collectin it if it will work. What's your thoughts?
post #10 of 22
Thread Starter 
In the list Dionysus posted I'm surprised to see elm in DO NOT USE list.

Anybody know why? Elm is a good hard wood that I burn in my home fireplace all the time.

I was also surprised to see Cottonwood in the list of woods that are good to use for smoking.. as that is a soft wood that gives off a lot of creosote and isn't suitable for a home fireplace.

I guess I was just assuming that if it's good for a home fireplace, it's good for smoking.

Oh, and a side note. My brother in law has a load of Ash collecting dust at his house.

Between my apple I have now.. and the ash I'm soon to get, I should be good for a couple of years.

I need to start smoking more.
post #11 of 22
i was surprised to see ash listed as a fast burning wood.........its a HARD wood........or they wouldn't make baseball bats outta em confused.gif
post #12 of 22

fast burining

The statement about Ash burning fast is quite true. We burned it along w/Maple, Elm, & Beech on the old farm where I grew up. Ash didn't last nearly as long as the others. Was best for getting a fire going, but did'nt last. Had rather long straignt fiber--made for really easy splitting but they may also be what makes it a good wood for bats.
post #13 of 22
A good source for Apple / peach (usually free) is a local orchard. I called some in my area and they said, bring your truck and get all you want. The orchards in my area have piles of old trees and branches that are great.
I also got some grape vine I plan to try on a pork loin soon...

post #14 of 22
Thread Starter 
I was thinking about that as well.
Any Omaha area smokers.. try calling the peach/apple orchards that are in Plattesmouth.. See what they say.
post #15 of 22
Here ya go MD. I work with alot of environmental type stuff, it makes it easy to know where to look. This site lists EVERY tree that is common to Iowa. It has nice little guides to help identify by leaf shape and or just the wood. So, you can tell what you are looking at when sizing up downed trees. Hope this helps.

post #16 of 22

Striped maple okay?

Is it okay to use striped maple? I'm planning on doing some serious smoking this weekend (2 butts, 1 shoulder, 3 racks of ribs, couple of lbs of "country ribs," some beef roast, and maybe some other stuff) and have some striped maple left over from a storm.

It's been aged at least 6 months. I was hoping to use it more for fuel than smoke, but want to make sure it won't have an adverse effect on the meat. I'll be using a mix of mesquite and hickory for smoking.
post #17 of 22
Stop into the Roll Call forum and give us an intro. I'd say some of what you wanna know depends on yer smoker...and I got no clue. BUT- never met a bad maple.
post #18 of 22
Thanks, just did. I had typed up something before lunch, but hit "post" and it said I wasn't logged in. :( I hate when that happens!

Anyways, just realized I didn't put anything about wood in my roll call, so I guess I'll have to go back and edit it.
post #19 of 22


Anyone tried Ginko Biloba?
I have a tree Im ready to prune. You can make tea out of the leaves, so I am figuring that the wood would be smokable. Its a hard wood deciduous tree.
post #20 of 22
Why is Sassafras in the list of woods not to use for smoking? I was looking at the website of a local bbq supply store that's got some accolades for their bbq, and they sell it.

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