page contents

Wood For Smoking Meat – Getting The Scent and Flavors Right

Cooking and Kitchen

In the past most barbecue or grilling was done using dried hardwood logs as the primary source of fuel .

Owing to this process, the meat would be cooked by the heat while the smoke from the wood and the meat's fat or juices would give a specific sense of smell and taste.

Nowadays, most smokers or grills use charcoal or gas to produce the heat, while a few use electricity and wood pellets.

The below article hopefully details for you, the different aspects of using wood for smoking meat and producing distinct flavors that can add more variety to the process.

CHARCOAL

charcoal use when smoking meats
  • All charcoal is not the same. Certain products out there contain undesirable additives that aid in the lighting or flavor.
  • Ideally, if you can you should use pure 100% charcoal as the primary fuel source and simultaneously use various woods to obtain the flavor that is desired.

BRIQUETTE OR LUMP

Briquette or Lump use when smoking meat
  • Lumpy charcoal tends to burn faster and hotter while briquettes usually burn longer.
  • As a recommendation it helps to burn briquettes or charcoal that have ‘100% pure hardwood’written on the bag.

CHARCOAL BBQ - USE OF WOOD CHIPS FOR SMOKING MEAT

wood chips for smoking meat
  • In a charcoal BBQ (Barbeque) or smoker, wood can be sprinkled directly on the glowing coals.
  • The amount that is used depends on personal choice and balance.
  • For example, when cooking steaks that will only be on the grill for a short time, a handful chunks can be used.
  • Chicken which can be cooked longer and slower, will require lesser wood.​

GAS BBQ - USE OF WOOD CHIPS FOR SMOKING MEAT

GAS BBQ - USE OF WOOD CHIPS FOR SMOKING MEAT
GAS BBQ - USE OF WOOD CHIPS FOR SMOKING MEAT
  • Adding flavored wood chips (cherry, Jack Daniels, apple, etc…) to a gas grill adds amazing flavor to the cooking.
  • Many BBQ’s have a specific area to add the chips.
  • If your barbecue does not have such an area or spot, then separate cast iron or stainless steel chip containers can be used.​
  • Putting smoking chips in a container is important and helps to prevent the ash from blocking the burner tubes.​

ADDITIONAL NOTES​

  • ​A lot of professionals recommend soaking the chip before placing on the grill.
  • It is not necessary but it is an option though soaked chips will take longer to smoke.
  • ​Experimenting with different flavors and foods can produce unique flavors that you might not have been aware of.

WOOD SIZES 

Sawdust Chips:

Ideally suited when using in a container smoker box so that the small particles will smoulder slowly.

Chips or Pellets:

  • Used usually in gas barbecues.
  • Chips are placed in a smoker box that is then placed directly on the sear plates of the grill.

Chunks:

  • Longer lasting chunks are best for smokers and charcoal BBQ’s.
  • Soak it in water and place directly on coals.

SOAKING WOODS

soaking woods for smoking meat
  • Soaking the wood will let it smoulder instead of burning and will offer a more pungent/sharper flavor.
  • Also, a smoker box starves the wood of oxygen allowing dry or wet wood to smoke rather than burn.

soaking woods for smoking meat

WOOD FLAVORS

Alder

Alder is the sportsperson’s favourite. Fragrant and delicate, compliments all fish and game.

Apple

  • Apple is the sweetest and mildest of all.
  • An excellent choice for poultry, pork chops or roasts, beef, brauts or for flavoring a ham.

Cherry

Cherry is distinctive and delicious. Perfect for all dark meats, game and poultry(similar to apple).

Hickory

Hickory is famous because of its commercial success. Famous for beefs, hams,bacon, pork, ribs, sausage and vegetables.

Maple

Mildly smoky imparting a sweet light taste to poultry, hams and vegetables.

Mesquite

  • Mesquite is the South Westerner’s delight.
  • Imparts clean, full, sweet, aromatic smoky flavour/flavor to poultry and red meats.

PECAN

  • Similar to a mellow version of hickory. Has a fruity character for briskets, pork roasts, beef, chicken and sausage.
  • Pecan wood for smoking meat is considered to be the supreme smoking wood.

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.

ALMOND

A sweet smoke flavor, light ash. Good with all meats.

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.

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, crab apple wood for smoking meat is not uncommon.

GRAPEVINES 

Provides a lot of smoke. Rich and fruity. Good with poultry, red meats, game and lamb.

LILAC

Very light, subtle with a hint of floral. Good with seafood and lamb.

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.

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.
Your SEO optimized title page contents