1. Some of the links on this forum allow SMF, at no cost to you, to earn a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Let me know if you have any questions about this.

Smoking woods in Zambia

Discussion in 'Woods for Smoking' started by bwinters, Sep 15, 2010.

  1. bwinters

    bwinters Newbie

    Here's a challenge for someone: I live in Zambia and have just built a smoker.  Being from the U.S., I never paid much attention to tree species or anything of that sort when choosing smoking woods.  Hickory was my go-to wood for just about everything I smoked.  Zambia, unfortunately, has no Hickory, so far as I can tell.  There is little information about predominant tree species, and those that are listed are not familiar to me. 

    So, does anyone have knowledge about smoking woods in sub-Saharan Africa?  It's worth a free meal and lodging at my place, if ever you're tromping through Lusaka, Zambia. 
  2. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I wish I could help, but I am in no way familiar with sub saharan tree species.

    Really, your best bet would be to talk to the locals and find out what types of wood they're using to cook with.

    What the big issue is, Smoking as we know it is a North American method of cooking. Grilling over wood is different and is practiced all over the world.

    If you want to do some "good ol'" smoking, I would think that any local fruit or nut wood would work.
  3. justpassingthru

    justpassingthru Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Hi, and welcome to SMF, we would love to see a pic of the smoker you built.

    AK1 is steering you in the right direction, any fruit or nut tree could be considered as a smoke wood, I'm like you, I don't have any American woods to chose from so what I do is find a fruit or nut producing wood and after it is dry do a test burn in a open pit to see how it smells. 

    It was my dream to go to Africa and live so I have done a little reading on the subject and I seem to remember your local baobob tree produces fruit.  Surely they have open air fruit stands, you might ask the vendors to show you or even bring some wood from the tree that produced the fruit they are selling.

    I hope that helps a little,

  4. bwinters

    bwinters Newbie

    Thanks for the responses.  I just spent the entire morning visiting local lumberyards and asking about woods.  Rosewood, teak, mukwa (also called mininga or kiaat) all seem to be in good supply, and are all hardwoods. I picked up some rosewood and mukwa scraps for a test burn.  So far, all is smelling good.  My biggest concern isn't the smell, though.  I've heard some species - evergreens in specific - can be harmful if used for smoking, and I'd like to avoid poisoning my wife if at all possible.  :)

    If this doesn't work, I may go for the sawdust shipment. 
  5. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    Be very careful with woods there. I used to "reverse-turn" some exotic woods, such as "Cocobolo" & "Bubinga". I never wore a respirator with any of our American woods, but after reading about the exotic woods, I wore it for them--Highly Toxic.

    Just be careful. You should be able to find a lot about woods there on the internet.

  6. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    Found this:

    ZAMBIA is gifted with so many fruit trees, both exotic and indigenous, which have been used as food. Some fruits are crushed to form juices, drinks, and jams.

    The tropical climatic conditions in Zambia provide opportunities for the cultivation of various types of fruit species such as Mango, papaya, bananas, guava, passion fruit, loquat, pineapple, avocado, citrus, apple, pear, peach, pomegranate, apricot, plum and grapes.



    Apple, Peach, & Pear jump out at me!

  7. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Epic Pitmaster OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  8. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Banana & pineapple won't work as they're not trees, so there's no wood.

    What the big issue is going to be, is that there isn't much information out there regarding smoking (as is done here in North America), just because it is not a method of cooking that is widely practiced throughout the rest of the world. We have a good idea of what works in North America, but not what woods work good elsewhere.

    As well, there are so many variables. Some woods may be OK for grilling, but not for long smoking, i.e. Cedar. It works great for planking, or open air smoking, but you wouldn't want to use it for a typical low/slow smoke.

    Unfortunately, I think that you're on your own, as we here have no experience with the various woods you have available.
  9. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    That's why I underlined "Apple, Pear, and Peach".

    We all know they are good to smoke with, and many have experience with them, and some of the others.

    Nobody is alone on this forum, as long as they can access the internet, no matter where they reside.
  10. justpassingthru

    justpassingthru Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    I use mango, guava, passion fruit, dragon eye, logan, rambouton and others that I don't know the names in English, like I said, find a fruit stand and ask them, that's what I did, you'd be surprised what a couple pieces of smoked chicken will do to aid in your search for smoking wood.

  11. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I understand that, but the issue is, how common are those woods where the OP is?

    It's one thing to say that this stuff can grow in your area, but another to say if it actually does grow there.

    How common is Peach where you live?

    In my area, if I go 5 miles west from my house, I'll never see peach, because it won't grow, but where I live, no worries peach trees grow fine.
  12. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member

    Did you check the link I furnished?

    Do you think I got it from a US media?

    I got it from a journalist who lives & writes in Zambia.

    I would think he knows more about Zambia than a Canadian or a Pennsylvanian,

    Do you think I'm an idiot?

    Why do you like to argue all of the time?
  13. dick foster

    dick foster Smoking Fanatic

    Don't know if you knew this or not but smoking, actually what we call barbecue is believed to have first been done in the Caribbean. The word barbecue comes from the Caribbean native Taino  word barabicu, then translated to barbacoa for Spanish tongues then on to today's barbecue in American English.

    It wouldn't be much of a stretch of the imagination to find that it may have actually gotten to the Caribbean from Africa along with the slave trade or perhaps even earlier.

    People have been cooking meat with fire for thousands of years, that practice, most likely starting in Africa too, along with the development of Homo sapiens or even earlier species. Even Neanderthals are known to have cooked meat with fire.

    Where ever it may have started in the world, way back in history when ever it actually got started, in this country at least, it began in the South. Some even say that smoking meat originated in the American South. However, as much as I'd like to believe that, I seriously doubt it. As I said, fire and meat have been used together for far to long in the history of man, even way back in prerecorded history, for it to have taken any where near that long for smoking to have come about.


    If nothing else it could have been and probably was entirely accidental and it's not to hard to imagine how. Many types of lodging in the form of tents, tee pees, cabins, lodges etc. though out time all used to have central fires inside for warmth and for cooking. There was little facility made for the smoke from the fire to escape as to allow too much of it out whould have lost too much heat. Often a single simple hole in the roof had to suffice. To me that constitutes the makings of a smoke house right there. Add a little time and a fresh kill and walla a few hours later you have yourself a nice batch of smoked meat. I've gotta think that someone somewhere has been smoking and barbecuing meat, even in Africa for a long long time indeed.  

  14. meateater

    meateater Legendary Pitmaster SMF Premier Member

    OK I gotta say cavemen were burning flesh as soon as fire was discovered. Not the best flavored or the best smoke ring (then again) maybe better, they were free range meat at it's best. Anywho, whenever you think you done it, it's been done better before you. [​IMG]
  15. bwinters

    bwinters Newbie

    Again, thanks all for the replies.  The list of toxic woods was helpful, but I am not sure how reliable it is.  Oak was listed, but it has been widely used in other venues (i.e., alcohol, smoking).  I don't really want to take cues from what the Zambians use unless it's been cleared elsewhere.  Public health awareness and/or planning is low out here, and I'd rather keep my life expectancy somewhere north of 45.  I might give Guava a try.  We've got a lot of that out here.  Lemon too. 

    I completed my first test-run smoke last night using Mukwa wood and a pork shoulder (picnic). Mechanically, everything was perfect.  I sampled a small amount of the pork for a 'trial-and-error' toxicity test and, 10 hours later, all seems to be fine.  Plus, the pork was fantastic.

    Also, by request, I've attached a pic of my smoker.  The fire is underground, feeding smoke to the chamber through a tunnel.  The walls of the chamber are staggered (not clearly visible in the pic) to create two layers of shelves inside.  The shelves are removable and were welded together by a local shop using rebar.  Cinder blocks are hand-made out here, so consistency is low but we've done our best.  The fire is far enough away to allow for cold-smoking, but it can be built up for hot smoke as well.  Also, you can put rebar across the top for hanging purposes: sausages, hams, etc. 

    Comments are welcome.  [​IMG]
  16. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Wow, talk about being misunderstood.[​IMG]

    Upon reading my post, I can see where you're coming from. My fault and for that I apologize.

    My post was in no way meant to be argumentative.

    I was trying to make the point that although certain species may be able to grow in an area, they may not be common there at all, and therefore may be difficult or even impossible to find. When I mentioned Peach, it was the first wood that came to mind, because of the issues growing it where I live. West of me, it is not reliable at all, but go east, and it's quite easy to grow. There may be similar issues for the OP with the various woods available. Also given that smoking as we know it here in NA, is not a common cooking method elsewhere, there may not be a lot of information available as to what woods work and what woods don't.
  17. Bearcarver

    Bearcarver SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Group Lead OTBS Member


    I have a picture just like that in an old meat smoking book. That'll do fine.

    Don't know what list you got that said Oak was a toxic wood. It's one of the top smoking woods.

    Thanks for the great picture,

  18. dick foster

    dick foster Smoking Fanatic

    With the number of different species of Oak around the world, I wouldn't doubt it. Some oaks look to be entirely different from other oaks to me and I don't know how they got away with calling them oaks at all.  For example I don't think I'd try using either a tan or live oak for smoking which there are a lot of around here. Neither one looks even remotely like what I learned to call oak trees growing up back East. Live oaks are even an evergreen tree and look totally different in bark and leaf than say a white or red oak.  


    Then there is this.


    The leaves and acorns of the oak tree are poisonous to cattle, horses, sheep, and goats in large amounts due to the toxin tannic acid, and cause kidney damage and gastroenteritis. Additionally, once livestock have a taste for the leaves and acorns, they may seek them out. Symptoms of poisoning include lack of appetite, depression, constipation, diarrhea (which may contain blood), blood in urine, and colic. The exception to livestock and oak toxicity is the domestic pig, which may be fed entirely on acorns in the right conditions, and has traditionally been pastured in oak woodlands (such as the Spanish dehesa and the English system of pannage) for hundreds of years. Acorns are also edible to humans in processed form, and are a staple part of the forage consumed by wildlife.

    As I remember even the North American Indians had a long drawn out process for getting rid of the tannins in acorns before eating the acorns and flour they made from them. I don't know how the squirrels manage it but like pigs they must have some natural thing working. I see them chowing down on acorns all the time.  My dog, a puppy at the time, ate one and it made him as sick as, well a dog. LOL God only knows what kind of oak the acron came from.
  19. justpassingthru

    justpassingthru Smoking Fanatic OTBS Member

    Your smoker is very ingenuous and creative, looks like you have the TBS flowing too, it also looks like we think alike, try it out first and then do the cleanup. LOL

    We live on opposite sides of the globe, but I see you have a grill similar to the ones they make here, they work fine don't they and produce some great BBQ.

    Guava and any citrus wood are good smoking woods, if you would like it I have a Guava BBQ sauce recipe (it uses a kilo of guavas, but that's not a problem for us) that is rather time consuming but the results are very rewarding, very good with pork.

    Thanks for the photo, like I said it was my desire to go to Africa, so maybe in the next pics you could hold the camera a little higher so that we could see some of the terrain, pleease.

    I'm looking forward to you Q-view.