What woods are good for BBQ Smoking?

Saturday, November 13, 2010 @ 05:11 AM

So, what are the wood types suitable for using in your BBQ smoker? This is a question that is always coming up. So I thought this might help.

Here’s a list that was compiled from various sources.

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. 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. Excellent with bacon and ribs!!!!

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 people 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. I don’t know if I get the flavor of bacon from this wood, but it does taste like BBQ to me. 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. Can be bitter. My family doesn’t like it if I use only mesquite in the fire. They feel it makes the food “hot” and “spicy.”

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.

NEVER use any wood from conifer trees, such as PINE, FIR, SPRUCE, REDWOOD, CYPRESS, etc. They contain too much sap and they can make the meat taste funny. Some of these woods  have been known to make people sick. Yes, I know that cedar planks are popular for cooking salmon on, but I don’t know anyone who burns cedar as a smoke wood. I have also heard that elm, eucalyptus, sassafras, sycamore, and liquid amber trees impart a bad flavor.

NEVER use lumber scraps. Some lumber is treated with chemicals that are poisonous.

Never use wood that has been painted.

If you have branches fall from trees, make sure they are not moldy. Never use wood that is moldy.

Now, as far as where to get these woods…

There are some sources on the internet…Chunks, chips, pellets, even smoker bags are available, but not for all types of wood.

A local firewood company may be able to hook you up. I used to work for a company…every time we had fruit wood…mostly cherry or apple…it went right to a local restaurant that only cooked with fruit woods.I have a friends that owns a wood fired pizza place. He has an account with a firewood company. They bring him all hardwoods.

You can usually find some woods where you can purchase your smokers and grills. My local hardware store sells chunked hickory and mesquite.

You can always volunteer to take down a neighbors trees…just make sure you know what kind of trees you are getting.

And to soak or not to soak? That is up to you. I’ve heard arguments for both ways, so I’d say…your preference. I have seen  wine infused smoking wood. Sounds interesting, but I don’t think I want to waste my own wine to do this.

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2 Responses to “What woods are good for BBQ Smoking?”

  1. Thank for very good work!

  2. wigelnyatt says:

    Thank you. Healthy diets don’t have to be full of flavorless foods!

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