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Need some wood related help

kevin james

Meat Mopper
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Joined Jul 30, 2012
So, I've decided that next year I want to by my first offset stick burner, and I'm in the research process at the moment. Aside from deciding on the smoker itself (which I think I already have... a Kat Smokers 36x20 or 48x20 reverse flow, which is built just down the road from me in Modesto, CA https://katbbqsmokers.com/product/48x20-reverse-flow-smoker/ ), I need to find the wood to fuel it.

It seems that the most economical way to go about buying splits in the quantity I would need for a stick burner, would be buying from the local "firewood" sellers in my area who sell by the cord or fraction of a cord. The problem is, none of them carry my wood of choice, hickory. The options most seem to carry are Oak, Cherry, Almond, and Walnut.

Oak and Cherry seem to be the most appealing out of those options, but I'm really confused about the oak because there seems to be so many different types of oak, and all these suppliers seem to mention on their site is "oak" without specifying what type of oak it is. I've only found one that gives any other info, and they list black oak, white oak, and live oak.

I don't know how to tell what is what, or what type of oak I should even be looking for. The only things I really know about oak as far as smoking is concerned is that they use a lot of red oak down south in Santa Maria, CA, and and they use Post Oak in Central Texas, but I'm not sure either of those are very available up here in Northern California.

So.... sorry for the long winded post, but I'm just wondering if there are any types of oak that should be avoided, and what questions I should be asking to ensure I'm getting the right thing.
 

Murray

Meat Mopper
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Joined Dec 30, 2018
For smoking purposes I don’t think the type of oak would make a big difference. Different species of oak might have their own nuances but oak is oak?
 

phatbac

Master of the Pit
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Joined Jun 11, 2013
From my understanding all types of oak can be categorized into red or white (post being a white) and all oak are good for smoking. As long as it's not moldy or diseased etc you should be good to go. Really stay away from soft woods and woods that aren't seasoned and dry. Fruit woods are usually sweeter and milder and harder tend to have a more aggressive flavor although it varies. There are some guides to wood flavors floating around the internet etc. Find what you like and enjoy your flavors.

Happy Smoking,
phatbac (Aaron)
 

unclebubbas bbq

Meat Mopper
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Joined Jun 26, 2013
Don't hesitate to use any of the oaks in your area, they impart a flavor very close to hickory. The almond has my interest, I have never tried it but most fruit trees and nut trees give a mild smoke flavor with the exception of the Cherry, I like but use it sparingly because it can overtake the flavor of the meat if used too much
 

phathead69

Smoking Fanatic
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Joined Dec 23, 2016
Phatbac covered my thoughts exactly. I cut and split my own wood. I have oak( red), smooth and shag bark hickory, wild cherry and apple. Maybe if I had two smokers going with one burning g oak and the other hickory I might be able to tell the difference. But from smoke to smoke I don't have that refined of a pallet. I can tell some difference from those to say apple and cherry being milder and my wife's preference for chicken.
 

fivetricks

Master of the Pit
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Joined Jan 7, 2017
My unrefined pallet has basically separated woods, as far as flavor goes, as follows:

Apple, pecan - both typically too mild for me.

Cherry

Hickory, oak (red or white, i think red is a bit more.mild, but that could be just me)

Mesquite

Those are the only woods I've used so I can't speak to any others.
 

jcam222

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I’d buy a load of oak and a load of cherry. That’s going to cover anything you want to smoke. Oak is probsbly the most common wood used in commercial bbq restaurants and cherry is great for poultry and pork. I like a mix of the two even for beef. The cherry adds a nice mahogany color to things
 

creek bottom

Meat Mopper
SMF Premier Member
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Joined Mar 13, 2019
I agree with jcam222. I normally use a mixture of oak, cherry, and hickory for everything. This past summer I was running low on my cooking wood stash, so I did a couple of cooks from my actual heating firewood pile. This consisted of only oak and cherry and they turned out great!
 

zwiller

Master of the Pit
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Joined Nov 16, 2016
From my understanding all types of oak can be categorized into red or white (post being a white) and all oak are good for smoking.
Also agree HOWEVER I sense some slight differences between white and red oak. Red is a bit stronger with a hint of mequite, whereas white is sweeter (vanilla note) and definite whiskey barrel influence. You might like red oak more as it more like hickory. Oak is absolutely my fave smoking wood.
 

kevin james

Meat Mopper
222
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Joined Jul 30, 2012
Thanks for all the info guys, I greatly appreciate it.

I'm going to check out one of the firewood places that's down the street in a little bit here and see if they have both red and white oak. I might buy a little bit just to test in my WSM (not for fuel, just one small split at a time on the coals for smoke instead of the usual chunks). I just want to see how the flavor compares to hickory, or if I can even perceive a difference.

On a related note... there is one type of oak I am VERY curious about, cork oak, because I have two cork oak trees in my back yard that I plan to cut down this coming spring/summer for unrelated reasons (small yard on a slope I need to flatten, these two trees need to come out to accomplish my goal blah blah blah). I have been told by several tree company's I got estimates from for removal that they are definitely, oak, but specifically cork oak, as in the bark on the outside is where the corks used for wine/champagne bottles comes from. Due to the cork bark I'm not sure if it would be any good for smoking or not, and removing the bark is not something I have the time or energy to do lol.
 

Murray

Meat Mopper
237
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Joined Dec 30, 2018
Never heard of Cork Oak until now, watched a YouTube video, you might have some valve in the bark if you can find someone to sell it to.
 

kevin james

Meat Mopper
222
51
Joined Jul 30, 2012
Never heard of Cork Oak until now, watched a YouTube video, you might have some valve in the bark if you can find someone to sell it to.
You and me both. I had never heard of it either until I was told that's what my backyard trees are LOL.
 

zwiller

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
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Joined Nov 16, 2016
Same here. Wood can very interesting... IE red oak is porous but white oak is not and actually waterproof and used for wooden boats for this reason. From a quick look cork oak is an evergreen so probably not a wood to smoke with. Around here it quite common to find guys to fell the tree for free so they can have lumber/wood/maybe cork. Worth doing some research if you ask me.
 

kmmamm

Smoke Blower
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Joined Apr 30, 2016
If you are looking for white oak, check your local big box home improvement or garden supply store for used wine and or whiskey barrel halves. Most aging barrels are made from white oak. They may be charred on the inside, but that will not effect how they burn (smoke) and any residual wine/whiskey flavors will have long since evaporated. Granted barrel wood probably will be more expensive than what you might get from a wood supplier, but you will have a known product that is fully cured and easy to burn. If you are lucky, they may have some damaged halves that you can negotiate for a discounted price.
 

Hawging It

Master of the Pit
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Down here in Southeast Mississippi, we are very blessed to have several species of mature oaks. I have used them all one time or another to smoke with in my stick burners or using the burned hot coals to grill a steak on the Weber Kettle. All oak species work for me. Water oak, White oak, Pin oak, Red oak, Black jack oak and Live oak. Flavor and ease of smoking is the same with all. I prefer Water oak as it is the easiest to split. Black Jack oak is the hardest to split. Many times I mix oak with pecan. Take care.

HAWG
 

archeryrob

Smoking Fanatic
455
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Joined Oct 26, 2015
I use mostly cherry as I love strong smoke and I can get it for free and cut it myself. The down fall to cherry is the sapwood rots quick if left uncovered. Oak will store better uncovered.

Chery you can normally get a better deal on from firewood sellers. Oak and locust are premium woods for many as they coal longer in the wood stove.
 

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