As you delve further into the BBQ arts, eventually you’ll wish to smoke something. It’s just the natural course of things. You need not fight it. Where to start, you ask? Well, as a general rule of thumb, if it grows fruit or nuts, it is probably a legitimate candidate for a smoke wood. Use common sense. Make sure it is not green. Stripped of bark, and not growing some sort of unruly fungus or anything.
One of the most common mistakes made by newbie smokers is over-smoking. The assumption that more is better is wrong. Don’t do it. Such antics can impart a bitter taste on your meat. If you see your pit puffing like a choo choo train, tweak the dampers, or wait it out. Wait for the smoke to taper into thinner, almost blue-tinted tendrils. That’s just right. And there is really no need to keep tossing on smoke wood through-out the cook. After about two hours, most meat has gotten all the smoke exposure it needs. Remember the old BBQ adage – smoke is a seasoning, not an ingredient.
With these things in mind, here then is a list of choice smoke woods to get you started, or experiment with. All good choices, and good, smokey fun! Also try mixing woods for that custom flavor to suit you. Good times.
List of Smoke Woods
ALDER – A light smokey flavor. Excellent with the likes of fish, pork, and poultry.
ALMOND – A sweeter tint of smokey flavor. Suitable with all meats.
APPLE* – Very subtle, slightly sweet. Excellent with poultry and pork. This is one of our favorite smoke woods.
ASH – A rather subtle but articulate flavor. Another fine choice for fish.
BIRCH – Another subtlety sweet smoke. Good with pork and poultry.
CHERRY – Lightly tinted of sweet. Does really well with red meat and pork.
HICKORY* – Moderate to strong smokey flavor. Good for a variety of meats. If we could only pick one smoke wood, this would be it.
MAPLE – Easy going and subtlety sweet. A light smokey taste. Good with pork, poultry. Great wood for planking.
MESQUITE – Maybe the most robust of the smoke woods. Strong smokey flavor. Good with beef, chicken, and pork.
MULBERRY – Reminiscent of apple wood, just harder to find.
OAK* – Moderate to strong smokey flavor. Readily available, and a fine all around choice. Excellent for red meat. Does well with pork and fish. We would put this one in the smoke wood hall of fame.
ORANGE- Mild and slightly sweet. Good with fish and pork and chicken and beef.
PEACH -Another mild one. Slightly tinted in sweet. Great with beef, pork, fish and poultry.
PEAR -Light smokey flavor.Great with chicken and pork and fish.
PECAN* – Mild to moderate smokey flavor. Slight hint of nut. Good with all meats, especially poultry. Pecan is right up there with our very favorite smoke woods.
WALNUT -Robust smokey flavor. Best with red meats.
*Patron of the Pit favorites
If not, amazon carries several species all available with a click of the mouse button. Here are a couple links to get you started.
Smoke on my cronies!
WESTERN 80560 Pecan Cooking Chunks
WESTERN 28080 Apple Cooking Wood Chunks
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This is really helpful. I’ve been cooking for years, but just got into smoking in the last 6 months. I’ve been experimenting with whatever woods I can get my hands on, and have settled on keeping apple and pecan on hand at all times for my “go-to” woods as well as some hickory and cherry. I’d love to try some more unusual stuff, and this list will be great for helping me know what to keep an eye out for. Love reading your blog – love the writing style and obviously love the topic!
June 19, 2014 at 8:31 pm
Many thanks. Appreciate your kind words, and glad to be of some service. I like your choice of smoke woods. Apple and pecan are great ones to have in stock. Along with some hickory you’ll nary need anything else. But yes, it’s good fun to experiment too. Peach wood has a nice poetic ring to it. Grape vines even, some people swear by. One you certainly ought to try soon is oak. Toss some on with some burgers or steak or brisket or tri tip. Oak and red meat are a marriage made in smokey heaven.
Thanks again for the comment
June 19, 2014 at 11:09 pm
Hope you don’t mind me linking back to this – as much for my reference in future as anything else!!
August 6, 2014 at 8:43 am
It’s cool my friend. Do what you must. And happy smoking days to come!
August 6, 2014 at 9:56 am
Thanks a bunch for the advice! Does it matter how old the wood is? I vaguely remember reading something about the smoke being better after resting the wood for a year before using it but can’t find the article again.
March 5, 2016 at 11:16 am
Yeah I’ve heard that too. But I’ve also heard of people using green wood, so I imagine both sorts work. Personally I like an aged wood. And old is just fine. If there is a bunch of mold or something on the wood , however, I usually discard it.
March 5, 2016 at 12:08 pm