Red Oak vs White Oak

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WarrenWood

Newbie
Original poster
Feb 21, 2020
24
30
Hot Springs Village, AR
Hello all!

I'm looking for a local wood supply to run my stickburner, and where I live, oak is plentiful. An issue I've run into is the local firewood guys freely mix up white and red oak in the same cord. So before going all OCD I thought I'd ask a question or two here.

Has anybody tried both and performing a red vs oak taste test? Is there a noticeable difference on the same type of meat? Or a strength comparison, like 3 chunks of white oak = 2 chunks of red? From what I've read, the red oak may be stronger, but I haven't found a head-to-head comparison.

On my WSM I use KBB and peach chunks from Fruitawood (they air dry their wood chunks, not kiln dry.) I use 3 chunks of wood for a 6 hour burn, that's the strength and overall flavor profile I like. I normally smoke either babyback ribs or pork shoulder. Occasionally I'll do chicken. (brisket is my enemy... sigh...)

Thank you everybody!
 
Heres my take on it. I find red oak is alittle stronger, not much. We have alot of both here, I cut my own. Now kiln dried and air dried, my opinion is kiln dried will not have as much smoke flavor as air dried.
 
Heres my take on it. I find red oak is alittle stronger, not much. We have alot of both here, I cut my own. Now kiln dried and air dried, my opinion is kiln dried will not have as much smoke flavor as air dried.
💯 agree on kiln vs air dried. When I switched from buying store bought kiln dried wood chunks to a local source for air dried wood for my cabinet smoker the flavor difference was phenomenal.
 
Some around my area pay extra for red oak as they say it offers a superior taste.
 
I cant tell a difference, if its shipped it has to be kiln dried per federal Regulations,
 
Thanks everybody! As far as local wood, it will be air seasoned. Now I just have to find a cutter that can cut splits small enough for my OK Joe Longhorn :emoji_laughing:.

The only reason I bought up the kiln issue is that I was under the impression that Fruitawood was air seasoned as well. On my WSM, Fruitawood is MUCH better than Western or any other chunks I can buy from the box stores.
 
I use both red and white oak. I prefer red but they are both excellent. I have mixed them before and the results are close.
 
If it matters to you White Oak has more BTU's than Red Oak, but Shagbark Hickory has more than either Oak.


I don't know I can even tell a difference between the Oaks and Hickory in the cooked food but I can smell a sweet Hickory fire cooking a mile away.
 
Thanks everybody! As far as local wood, it will be air seasoned. Now I just have to find a cutter that can cut splits small enough for my OK Joe Longhorn :emoji_laughing:.

The only reason I bought up the kiln issue is that I was under the impression that Fruitawood was air seasoned as well. On my WSM, Fruitawood is MUCH better than Western or any other chunks I can buy from the box stores.
Fruitawood is NOT kiln dried..Which is why I use them.👍
 
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Our farm has is about 75-80 acres wooded. Mostly with red/white oak and lesser amounts of hickory and walnut. When we cut wood, it has never occurred to me to seperate red and white oak...but we do seperate hickory. I think we might check this out.

For those of you that can't tell the difference between red and white oak...here is a not-politically-correct way using a cowboys and indians analogy
  • Cowboys shoot bullets and are called "white man" - Bullets have rounded points as do white oak leaves
  • Indians shoot arrows and are called "red man" - arrows have sharp points - as do red oak leaves
Since many oaks hold leaves all winter, you are good to go...
 
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I Don't know much about Smoking Red & White Oak.
However I made over 500 Red Oak Kitchens, including about 100 in my own Cabinet shop, over 10 years.
I believe White Oak is used more in the Furniture Business.

Bear
 
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White oak is big in boat building as it essentially waterproof and is why it is used for making barrels for aging liquor. As a super taster/smeller I think I can tell the 2 apart but they are close. I agree with Adam pc farmer pc farmer red is a tad stronger and has a bitter medicinal smell. White oak has sweeter smell and has a whisky-ish vanilla note IMO, which liquor takes on when aging in barrels. Oak is easily my fave wood to smoke with. No idea what is used in "oak" pellets but I bought A LOT from Todd a few years back and I find it has the vanilla note so I guess mostly white. Very happy with it. Around here, quarter sawn white or "tiger oak" furniture is REALLY popular. I have some myself and lots of my family collect it. Not mine but really close.

H7235-L115080422.jpg
 
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White oak is big in boat building as it essentially waterproof and is why it is used for making barrels for aging liquor. As a super taster/smeller I think I can tell the 2 apart but they are close. I agree with Adam pc farmer pc farmer red is a tad stronger and has a bitter medicinal smell. White oak has sweeter smell and has a whisky-ish vanilla note IMO, which liquor takes on when aging in barrels. Oak is easily my fave wood to smoke with. No idea what is used in "oak" pellets but I bought A LOT from Todd a few years back and I find it has the vanilla note so I guess mostly white. Very happy with it. Around here, quarter sawn white or "tiger oak" furniture is REALLY popular. I have some myself and lots of my family collect it. Not mine but really close.

View attachment 518606
Like Stickley/Mission furniture
 
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There are a lot of different oak species that fall into either red oak vs white oak.

I used a lot of Water Oak, a member of the red oak family, when we lived in SE Louisiana where it was locally abundant.

Here where South Texas meets the Hill Country, I've used some Post Oak, a member of the white oak family.

Personally I can distinguish a difference in the smoke flavor, and smoke odor, from these two specific species. Water Oak has more of a "spicy" smoke, is the best way I can describe. I don't have first hand experience cooking with any other oak species.

The Salt Lick in the Hill Country uses Live Oak, not Post Oak, at their restaurants and they've done a booming business for quite some time. I personally find the mystique built up around Post Oak a bit overblown. I grew up in the Texas Coastal Bend and used only mesquite for cooking wood for a long time, even when I lived in San Marcos in the Hill Country for several years. There's plenty of mesquite available in the Hill Country in addition to Post Oak, Live Oak, and Pecan.
 
I had a buddy in that business quit and said one of the biggest reasons was working with red oak.


Yup--Red Oak is a bitch, but it Mills so nice! Probably if I'd have worn a Mask then, I wouldn't need Oxygen all the time now. I loved working with Red Oak. 90% of my kitchens were Red Oak, because I gave a discount for "Natural Red Oak".

Bear
 
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Yup--Red Oak is a bitch, but it Mills so nice! Probably if I'd have worn a Mask then, I wouldn't need Oxygen all the time now. I loved working with Red Oak. 90% of my kitchens were Red Oak, because I gave a discount for "Natural Red Oak".

Bear
FIL was a painting contractor and was hot heavy in that oak era. Your "Natural Red Oak" is probably our "Golden Oak" era. I helped him when he was real busy. Red oak is a breeze to finish and pretty much anything worked and looked great but 99% of the time we used Minwax Golden Oak followed by poly. Matched those oak and brass toilet seats everyone had perfectly! :emoji_laughing:
 
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FIL was a painting contractor and was hot heavy in that oak era. Your "Natural Red Oak" is probably our "Golden Oak" era. I helped him when he was real busy. Red oak is a breeze to finish and pretty much anything worked and looked great but 99% of the time we used Minwax Golden Oak followed by poly. Matched those oak and brass toilet seats everyone had perfectly! :emoji_laughing:


My "Natural Red Oak" had no stain on it at all.
It was plain Red Oak, with 2 coats of Pre-Catalyzed Clear Sealer, finished sanded, and then One coat of Pre-Catalyzed Clear Lacquer on top.
My competitors gave discounts for their Stained Oak, because they could get cheap ugly Oak & bury it with Stain.
I paid a Premium for "LANRO" (Light And Natural Red Oak), and made up for it by not having to spend time staining my Wood. Therefore I could discount "Natural Red Oak".

Bear
 
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