Smoke is a great way to add flavor to almost anything you cook. Many years ago, smoke was used to preserve meat for long periods of time. Now smoke is often used to enhance the flavor of meats.
Generally, smoking is defined as using chips of pre-selected woods in a contained space with heat and exhaust directed at some desired cooking product for a period of time. As for the wood source one does not necessarily need to use prepackaged wood chips to add a little smoke to your fire. But you do want to make sure that the wood you've selected is in fact all wood, no glues, nails, gums, etc. Different woods leave different flavors. But the process of smoking is more involved than just selecting wood.
One key question: Do you burn the wood or not? When using gas grills it's best to put presoaked wood chips in a smoker box or wrap them in a piece of aluminum foil with a lot of holes in it. This keeps your grill from filling up with ash and clogging the burners. But get that wood close to the heat. You need the heat to cause the wood to smolder and generally this means a pretty high heat. Provided you are using a charcoal grill or manufactured smoker then you can either put the wood directly on the coals (once they've turned gray) or place them in a smoker box. Each method has its own advantages and depending on your grill setup you'll choose the method that works best for you.
It's pretty safe to say that wood that is hard and free of resin (or sap) is good for making smoke. If the tree makes fruit or nuts you enjoy eating then the wood is typically good for smoking. Some woods, of course make better smoke than others. Woods like Apple have a mellow flavor and won't give you much in a short amount of time but if you're cooking for a while then it has time to add that mellow flavor without overpowering the food. When smoking I've found that woods like mesquite are very strong and while it gives you a good flavor quickly that flavor will become bitter fast so don't use too much or for too long.
It's a good idea to start small until you get the hang of smoking. Use a 1/4 cup of presoaked chips on your grill and see what it does for you. During your test make sure you catch the scent of the wood. If the smoke is bitter and noxious you probably shouldn't cook with it. We've added some wood types below with suggestions and comments to help you get your smoking started.
Woods for smoking:
Acacia is similar to mesquite but not as strong. This wood burns very hot and should be used in small amounts or for limited amounts of time.
Alder has a light flavor that works well with fish and poultry. Indigenous to the northwestern United States, it is the traditional wood for smoking Salmon.
Almond give a nutty, sweet flavor that is good with all meats. Almond is similar to Pecan.
Apple is very mild in flavor and gives food a sweetness. This is good with poultry and pork. Apple will discolor chicken skin (turns in dark brown).
Apricot is great for poultry and pork. This wood is similar to hickory but is sweeter and milder in flavor.
Ash has a light, unique flavor. This wood burns fast.
Black Walnut has a heavy flavor that should probably be mixed with other wood because of the bitter taste it can impart.
Birch has a similar flavor to maple. This wood is good with pork and poultry.
Cherry has a sweet, mild flavor that goes great with virtually everything. This is one of the most popular woods for smoking.
Chokecherry has a bitter flavor and should only be used in small amounts for short period of times.
Citrus woods like lemon or orange have a moderate smoke that gives a light fruity flavor that is more mild than apple or cherry.
Cottonwood is very mild in flavor and should be used with stronger flavored woods. Avoid green wood.
Crab Apple is very similar to apple wood and can be used interchangeably.
Fruit, like apple, apricot or cherry, fruit wood gives off a sweet, mild flavor that is good with poultry or ham.
Grapefruit is a mild wood that produces a good, smoky flavor. A good wood for any meat.
Grapevines make a lot of tart smoke and gives a fruity but sometimes heavy flavor. Use it sparingly with poultry or lamb.
Hickory adds a strong flavor to meats, so be careful not to use to excessively. It's good with beef and lamb.
Lemon is a mild wood that produces a good, smoky flavor. A good wood for any meat.
Lilac produces a good supply of mild, sweet smoke. A popular wood for smoked cheese, but also good for poultry and pork.
Maple, like fruit wood gives a sweet flavor that is excellent with poultry and ham.
Mesquite has been very popular of late and is good for grilling, but since it burns hot and fast, it's not recommended for long barbecues. Mesquite is probably the strongest flavored wood; hence its popularity with restaurant grills that cook meat for a very short time.
Mulberry is sweet and very similar to apple.
Nectarine is great for poultry and pork. This wood is similar to hickory but is sweeter and milder in flavor.
Oak is strong but not overpowering and is a very good wood for beef or lamb. Oak is probably the most versatile of the hard woods.
Orange is a mild wood that produces a good, smoky flavor. A good wood for any meat.
Peach is great for poultry and pork. This wood is similar to hickory but is sweeter and milder in flavor.
Pear is similar to apple and produces a sweet, mild flavor.
Pecan burns cool and provides a delicate flavor. It's a much subtler version of hickory.
Plum is great for poultry and pork. This wood is similar to hickory but is sweeter and milder in flavor.
Walnut has a heavy, smoky flavor and should be mixed with milder flavored woods.
Other good woods include: avocado, bay, beech, butternut, carrotwood, chestnut, fig, guava, gum, hackberry, kiawe, madrone, manzanita, olive, range, persimmon, pimento, and willow.
You can also find other wood products around made from wine and whiskey barrels that impart a very unique flavor. Woods to AVOID would include: cedar, cypress, elm, eucalyptus, pine, fir, redwood, sassafras, spruce, and sycamore.
This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 21 September, 2017.