Wood choices

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scott t

Original poster
Dec 3, 2005
I have hardwood trees on the property that I want to use. Is there any recommendations on how to select and cut the wood? I have shag bark hicory. Is this the same as regular hicory? Can I use pieces cut from the branches or do I need to use trunk wood? Also I have a lot of black walnut. How does this wood work for flavor. I also have a few oaks and wild cherries.

Thanks for any advice. Been lurking here for awhile. It's time to get serious though. I got a sneak peak at my Christmas present. A brand new WSM hiding in the attic.

Welcome to the greatest Smoking Forum on the net Scott T. We love it when lukers sign up. As you have probably noticed, there is a great deal of knowledge on this board and I hope that you will learn a lot.

As a general rule for using woods for smoking- Any tree that produces fruit or nuts can be used for smoking foods. Depending on the type of Smoker that you use will determin how you want to cut your wood. If you use a Wood Smoker, you will want to cut and split your wood in to cord length peices. If you use a Propane Smoker you would want to cut you wood in to chunks. As for the branches you could cut the larger branches to cord length and the smaller stuff run through a wood chipper and use the wood chips for smoke flavoring when you use your grill.

I'm sure the gang will drop by and give you thier .02 cents worth. Trust me-it will all be good advice.
I'll add, oh maybe .01 cent Earl :)

You mentioned a WSM in the closet for Christmas.

Too that extent, I use plenty of apply and hickory chunks which are nothing more than dried up branches chunked.

I am talking about whole branch, 2-3" in diameter, cut 4" long. Bigger diameter 4-6" branch will get the extra chop with the axe to split them into to "half circle" chunks, still being 4 inchs long.

Once you get your WSM, and get it assembled. Chime in. I got plenty of things to tell you "not" to do, but we'll save that for the Charcoal Smoker thread :)

As mentioned, WELCOME
Scott,the shag bark hickory is similar to regular hickory in flavor and smell.The black walnut I would be very careful with as it has a very strong flavor.If you have ever used walnut stain on a woodworking project you know how hard it is to wash off your hands.Oak is one of my favorites,it works really good alone or mixed with hickory on pork.The wild cherrie is nice but as mentioned in this forum it looses flavor after being stored very long.If you cut wild cherrie just cut enough to use soon.Also never leave wild cherrie leaves where livestock can get to it cause they will eat it and it will make them very sick or even kill them.Hope this helps,David
i prefer oak as well, i have alot of oak trees close by and i just go out there with a pair of pruning shears and cut a limb off that the shears can handle and proceed to chop them into little 3" sections untill i think i have enough that i need, also i use mine green
Has anyone here tried Sassafras? From the stories I've been told, the old timers in my area used it. I haven't found any one that uses it now. I was just wondering if it was similiar to any of the more common woods being used. I have gathered Sassafras since I was very young for tea but I haven't tried it for smoking yet.

I can't disagree with anything here. But I would offer one additional, thought for your consideration. That is, if you do indeed have lots of black walnut, you might want to get a knowledgeable timber man to give you an estimate of it's worth. I know of cases where a relatively small black walnut stand has paid for college educations. It's worth a fortune! For smoking, go with the oak and hickory and good luck with the new tool.

Fl. Bill
The standard Split cut for a Firebox is 18 inches! However, for a WSM you will have to go much smaller. Try a 2/3 Hickory, 1/3 Walnut mix for your smoke and you'll probably do very well!

Sassafras............boy does that bring me back to my Grandma in Georgia! Can't comment on how the wood would be for smoking though. If it produces the same taste as the Root, I wouldn't use it.........unless you like Root Beer Brisket! :D

hey all,I have tried sassafras for smoking one time.I didnt think much of it.I dont know if I can explain the flavor but it almost tasted salty to me.I know a lot of the old timers used it but I would not use it again,but to each his own.
One other trick that I have tried is to use apple juice or half of an apple and mix that in with my wood chucks that sit on top of my burner. (I have an electric smoker). The only thing that I have tried but do not really care for is peach wood. It gave off a really peachy kind of flavor believe it or not.
I use a variety of woods when I smoke. If I am cooking pork I really like useing Cherry. For Ribs I like Apple, for Chicken I use a mix of Hickory and Oak ( the oak mellows out the hickory a bit ) I try to stay away from too much bark and I also look closely for mold or organic growth on the wood.
Thank you all for your great advice. I "chunked" up some hickory and smoked the Christmas turkey. You got to give a lot of credit to my wife. I opened the smoker on Christmas morning and she gave me the OK to test it out on our Christmas dinner. (If I screwed up my fall back plan was Chinese take-out). However. with all I read here it turned out great! Nice flavor, really juicy and the tenderest turkey I ever had. The leftovers and soup are really flavorful also.

Thanks again to all of you and wishing you a terrific New Year.

Hey Scott,
Great story and glad that things turned out well for you. That first time can be critical .... considering first impressions etc. Anyway, I have two butts on right now and they are at 174* ..... won't be long now. I've already taken some 3/2/1 ribs off and they are magnificent. Hope the butts are as good. Good luck with your new rig and please let us hear of your further pursuits ... especially the different or experimental projects.

Fl. Bill
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