Woods For Smoking

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Jul 7, 2005
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This is information that was provided as a download from bigdaddyviking. . .

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.

Other internet sources report that wood from the following trees is suitable for smoking: AVOCADO, BAY, CARROTWOOD, KIAWE, MADRONE, MANZANITA, GUAVA, OLIVE, BEECH, BUTTERNUT, FIG, GUM, CHESTNUT, HACKBERRY, PIMIENTO, PERSIMMON, and WILLOW. The ornamental varieties of fruit trees (i.e. pear, cherry, apple, etc.) are also suitable for smoking.

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.

There are many trees and shrubs in this world that contain chemicals toxic to humans--toxins that can even survive the burning process. Remember, you are going to eat the meat that you grill and the smoke particles and chemicals from the wood and what may be on or in the wood are going to get on and in the meat. Use only wood for grilling that you are sure of.

If you have some wood and do not know what it is, DO NOT USE IT FOR GRILLING FOOD. Burn it in your fireplace but not your smoker.

Also ELM and EUCALYPTUS wood is unsuitable for smoking, as is the wood from SASSAFRAS, SYCAMORE and LIQUID AMBER trees.

Here are some more woods that you should not to use for smoking:

Never use lumber scraps, either new or used. First, you cannot know for sure what kind of wood it is; second, the wood may have been chemically treated; third, you have no idea where the wood may have been or how it was used. For all you know, that free oak planking could have been used in a sewage treatment plant.

Never use any wood that has been painted or stained. Paint and stains can impart a bitter taste to the meat and old paint often contains lead.
Do not use wood scraps from a furniture manufacturer as this wood is often chemically treated.

Never use wood from old pallets. Many pallets are treated with chemicals that can be hazardous to your health and the pallet may have been used to carry chemicals or poison.

Avoid old wood that is covered with mold and fungus that can impart a bad taste to your meat.
2 cents, I save my birch trimmings, and ask my neighbors for theirs, as paper birchs were part of the "plan" for our subdivision.

Good heat source once dried, and I add apple for flavor (Michigan apple from the farmers markets)
Well it looks like my cherry tree is a victim of winter kill and old age. Only one limb on the north side of the tree leafed out this year but it didn't set any fruit. :( In talking with the neighbors that knew the original owner, they say that he planted that cherry tree in '79 or '80. I reckon that 20+ years for a fruit tree is OLD! My Bride is disappointed that she won't get any cherries this year to put up, but the wood will go to producing some good smoke for the GOSM. Come fall I'll be planting a new cherry tree to replace it. An addage from my dad applies here- "Don't remove what you don't plan on replacing". And I'll be taking the Bride down home to the orchards so's she can buy all the cherries she wants.
We have lots of red maple and silver maple in Louisiana. I haven't ever tried it on the smoker because the bark was so thin. I've noticed that most of the hardwoods have a thick bark.

Does anyone have any experience with these types of maple? I sure would like to try some new wood, but hate to order wood when I have wood all around me :D .
Southern maple is not as "sweet" as sugar maple, but the only difference would matter if you were making syrup. I would really like to know how your local maple woods flavor with you propane fired BSKD.
I'll get some and try it out. Unfortunately it will take a few months to get it dried out sufficiently to burn.

I use to have a side business with my wife and kids growing Shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake's only grow on hardwood. One of the woods that you were not supposed to use was Maple due to the bark being to thin. I tend to look at every piece of wood now as a potential Shiitake log.

Right now I have an abundance of Pecan and have been enjoying it immensely.
I agree with you. Pecan is great! Also, something I have really enjoyed (and I learned from this forum) is cherry. Cherry is a really great wood to BBQ with. I have started using it a lot .... especially with pork.
I have no experience with red maple, but silver maple is very common in my area. It's an OK wood to smoke with but it is not the same as hard or sugar maple. It won't give you the cured bacon type of flavor profile that hard maple will. Like it's hardwood cousin silver maple is quite mellow and is easily covered up by stronger woods.
soft maple was used to make Charcoal in the 1800s and just about wiped it out in our area, now it has come back, but not a plentiful as sugar or hard maple which i like better for smoking.
Got a shipment of Cherry from BBQ Woods last friday and just remembered that I took a picture of it. Took the pic cause we don't ever get any cherry in Louisiana. Thought some other wood freaks might like to check it out. :roll:

i've always smoked with oak, hickory, pecan and mesquite. This is a whole lot milder. I could hardly tell it was smoking. Not sure how I feel about it yet. :?:
Rodger, I am in the opposite boat from you. Have always smoked with cherry and or apple, and have started to use hickory. I am finding that it takes more wood to get a deep taste with the hickory. I think it is a matter of personal taste as with most of what we do when we BBQ.
Hey Ice,

You are probably correct. It is all about what you are used to. :D

To me, I could hardly even smell smoke coming from my smoker with the cherry. I have to admit that I wound up throwing some hickory chunks and a split of pecan and one of oak in just to see some smoke and smell some smoke. Make's me wonder if this is some weird cherry wood :?: It was labeled as Chiminea wood but that was just because of the size I thought. Anyway, I think it might be good with some fish. I'm going to try it with some salmon and some oysters if we figure out this cedar plank thing.
Hi Rodger,

The only wood I have used so far in the smoker is cherry, apple and hickory.

I have the smoker on my side porch and we spend a lot of time in the back yard.

When I had hickory chunks in there, you could smell it in my yard really strong the whole time it was smoking.

The apple and cherry I have been using is only chips (all I could find) but when I use them, I only get a whiff every now and again if I am out back. It is nowhere near as stong as the hickory wood. Very mild if I can smell it at all.

Just wanted to let you know I've noticed the same thing.

Glad you got your wood :D
Thanks Doug, I think the fruity wood has it's place, but it's not what I am looking for on my pork or beef. :!: Fish and maybe poultry.
I've been splitting up some pecan that a buddy gave me when a limb fell off one of his trees. It's such pretty wood, I thought I would post a pic of it. 8)

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