Which Wood for Smoking Meat?

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ham knife eat food delicious 300x225If you love the taste of smoked meat, sooner or later, you’ll probably want to try making it yourself. However, the world of smoking can seem pretty daunting at first. Maybe you’re still at “square one” wondering “What’s the best wood for smoking?” Well, we’ve got some tips for you.

Best Woods for Beginning Smokers

If you’re new to barbecuing and smoking meat, a few safe bets are:
* Oak
* Cherry

Oak and cherry both work well for chicken, beef, pork, or even lamb and seafood. Oak will provide you with a moderate, but not too strong, smoke level. Cherry is not particularly smoky, lending a milder and sweeter flavor that’s especially good for fatty meats like pork.

It’s All a Matter of Taste

It goes without saying that you’ll get different flavors when you use different woods for smoking.

Once you get used to the smoking process, you’ll want to experiment to find the right wood for the meat (or vegetable, or cheese) that you’re smoking. Here is a basic profile of the flavors each smoking wood will lend your food.

For a sweeter taste, try the following woods:
* Apple
* Maple
* Mulberry
* Peach
* Pear

The woods below, in contrast, will lend your finished meat a smokier, more savory taste:
* Hickory (while sweet, it’s a very strong “bacon-y” flavor)
* Mesquite
* Oak
* Olive (similar to mesquite, but lighter)
* Walnut
* Western Red Cedar (only use cedar that’s free from chemical treatment)

Lastly, these woods are good for a subtler, less-intense flavor:
* Alder
* Pecan (stronger than fruit wood, yet milder than mesquite or hickory)

Because poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.) has the mildest flavor, it’s one of the best ways to truly taste the flavor profile of different smoking woods.

Finding the Right Smoking Wood

Now that we’ve examined the flavor profiles of different smoking woods, it’s important to find the right supplier for these woods. As a rule, you’ll want to find wood that meets the following guidelines:
* Wood that has not been chemically treated
* Wood that is properly aged, but not too seasoned
* (Ideally) wood that has been sustainably grown

If you’re having trouble finding the right smoking wood in your area, it’s a good idea to find other barbecue enthusiasts (or restaurateurs) and chat them up. A good local firewood supplier like Wisconsin Firewood has a few tips as well to keep your new smoking hobby fun!

Now that you know about good smoking wood, see also “What Wood Not to Use for Smoking