According to many veteran smoker users, the best way to smoke meats can be achieved with the use of the best wood chips for smoking meat. While this is a known fact, not a lot of us are able to understand what type of wood to use.
We often ask what the best is but before you pick one, it is vital that you know the wood to use first. It is also important that you know the different types of wood used out there so you can say that you indeed picked the best wood for smoking meat, pork, ribs, chicken and brisket.
Why Should You Use Wood for Smoking Meat?
The question remains, why use wood? The answer is simple really, this is because wood burn slower than charcoal and it provides you with a rather distinct flavor compared to charcoal smoked meats. You can buy them in chips, chunk or pellets. Although you can use whatever wood in smoking meats, it is still important that you know what kind of wood you should get.
As rules have it, it is said that heavier hardwoods are often used for smoking heavier meats like pork and beef while lighter woods are used for poultry and fish. However, the best part of this is when to put different types of wood together to come up with the best flavors for smoked meats.
So in order to do that, you need to understand the different kinds of wood used in smoking. In this article, we will differentiate the “heavy” woods from “light” ones so you know how to use them one by one.
The Heavy Type of Woods
#1. Hickory Wood
Is one of your everyday hard woods and is one of the most versatile woods that can be used in plenty of ways. It is well-known for its strong yet sweet, bacon-like and hearty flavor. It burns slowly but hot and is best used in large cut ribs as well as pork shoulders.
In fact, it can also be used in all types of red meat and poultry. However, it is best that you don’t use too much as it can result to bitter tasting meat.
#2. Oak Wood
Known for its endurance and strength, the oak is also one of the best woods that you can use when smoking meats. It is known for its medium to heavy flavor but not as overpowering compared to other types of wood. It burns hot and slowly so you know for certain that your smoked meat can be cooked through.
It is best used in meats of lamb, brisket, sausages and beef. There are two types of oak; white oak and red oak. The red oak is known for being sweeter while the white oaks can burn a lot longer. However keep in mind that white oak is a bit redder in terms of color compared to the actual red oak.
#3. Maple Wood
This wood is a bit subtler than oak or hickory. It’s also a good choice for smoking barbecues and other meats. It is known for being light and sweet yet a bit smokey. It burns hot and slow as well. It is often used in poultry meats like chicken, turkey and other game birds as well as pork.
Aside from maple wood, sugar maple is also one of the sweetest heavy woods that you can use for smoking.
#4. Mesquite Wood
Also known as the Walker Texas Ranger of all hard woods. It’s pretty tough, hard and wiry but at the same time, possesses a potent flavor. It is best used in grilling or in small doses as it can add a lot of flavor to your meats. It produces a strong flavor and a lot of smoke when in use so make sure to be ready for that.
It burns hot and fast so you also need to watch out and refill when needed. It works best with red meats and other types of heavy meats.
The Light Type of Woods
#1. Apple Wood
Known for being mild, sweet and fruity flavor, this mellow wood is excellent when you are cooking chicken in your smoker. It also works best with pork, quail meat and other types of white meat. It gives a light, slightly sweet, mild yet fruity in flavor which is a wonderful addition to your smoked food.
It also burns hot and slowly which is excellent when you are trying to cook your food thoroughly. So it is best to use this wood longer before you actually cook meat as it takes a while to permeate it.
#2. Alder Wood
Is sweeter yet lighter than you think. It is best for cooking and smoking fish. It is light and sweet yet perfect for light meats such as pork and chicken.
#3. Pecan Wood
Is light wood but it can also be used for heavier meats which makes it a paradox. Pecan is also known for having a nutty, sweet and rich flavor which is why is also used in heavy meats. It burns cool and slowly. It is great for roasts ribs and briskets. It is also a good pair for mesquite woods. It can also be paired with other heavy woods like Hickory and Oak.
#4. Cherry Wood
Is a mild yet fruity light wood used in smoking light meats. It has a sweet and delicate flavor yet can burn hot and long. It is best used for fish, hams, turkey and chicken meat.
It is also best paired with alder, oak and hickory wood for an extra kick in meat flavors.
#5. Peach Wood
Is known for its uniquely sweet and light flavor. It’s a special wood known for its Georgia origin. It’s great for poultry, pork and fish meats and can burn long and hot.
A fresh Peach wood can surely lose flavor so it is important that you use a rather older peach wood when smoking meats.
Other Types of Wood You Can Use when Smoking Meats
Now that you know the difference between heavy woods and light ones, it is also important that you know other Wood for Smoking Meat, pork, ribs, brisket and chicken to use. This way you have better knowledge and you can also play with mixing heavy or light woods with other types. Here are some of the other types of wood that you should know:
- Almond – is known for its sweet aroma and is very similar to pecan. This wood can also work with different kinds of meats. It’s best for chicken as well as other poultry meat used in smoking.
- Apricot – is a bit similar to hickory but is milder and sweeter in flavor. It is also best used in all types of meat.
- Ash – has a mild aroma that is best used in fish. It can also be used in red meats for that rich and flavorful aroma.
- Beech – works well with seafood so if you plan on smoking fish, tuna, salmon etc. then this is your best bet.
- Birch – while it’s not as easy to find as maple, birch wood is known for its subtle flavor. It is also great in chickens, turkey, duck, goose and other poultry meats. It is also surprisingly good with pork ribs.
- Cedar – is very common with cooking fish. Fillet fish has never been this good with cedar woods.
- Lilac – is one of those uncommon woods used in smoking but it works really well with fish, lamb and other seafood. It also has a nice floral scent when burning so it can also add flavor in the meats you are smoking.
- Olive – is a bit similar to mesquite but only lighter in flavor. It can be used in poultry meats and we recommend you to use whole chicken when smoking for great results.
- Orange – it contains a mild yet smoky flavor which resembles citrus. It’s good for smoking fish or poultry meats like chicken or ducks.
- Pear – has a subtle flavor that is similar to that of apple wood. It’s also known for being sweet yet woodsy flavor and works best with poultry, pork and other game birds.
- Sugar Maple – used widely with pork but it’s a bit hard to find. It contains subtle but sweet flavor which is great when used with other woods.
- Walnut – this wood contains very strong smoke when used but it works best when mixed with other woods specifically lighter ones. It is also a good choice for red meats like elks or moose.
While these are all wonderful addition to the flavors of your meat, you must also avoid other woods as they don’t do well when used in smoking. You must avoid these by all cause:
- Pine or any type of Evergreen wood.
These woods do not give any flavor at all and worse, make people sick. The spruce alone is not really a good wood for smoking plus it contains sap making it even harder to burn. The same thing with redwood and cedar; avoid using wood that are taken from scraps or any wood that contains paint or has been painted as they contain toxins. It will not only make your meats taste bad but will also do harm to your body.
The Pros and Cons of Using Wood When Smoking Meats
Of course who doesn’t want flavorful smoked meats? I know I want mine to be entirely cooked and packed with the best flavors. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of using wood? Here’s why.
- It’s packed with flavors – as I have mentioned, only wood can give you the best flavor in meats. Apple, cherry or almond are excellent when it comes to adding that flavor and if you happen to mix them with hickory or mesquite then you know for fact that your smoked meats are incredibly delicious!
- It burns better than charcoal – wood can pack intense heat once fired and its hot embers can give off fire that you need for all your smoking. It is also easier to burn compared to other fuels used.
- It’s one of nature’s best – you know for a fact that woods are natural elements and so it is a given that it doesn’t contain any chemicals like the artificial charcoals or gas grills used to supply heat while smoking meats. In short, it’s all natural.
- It’s also fun to do – cooking with wood is fun, not only is it fun but it can definitely give your meat good flavor. Though yes, they take time to prepare but once you get used to it, using wood will be a piece of cake.
- It’s easily available – since wood can be found anywhere, you won’t have to worry about finding fuel. If you happen to live in a woodland area then you can easily find wood to use around you without buying, isn’t it?
- It takes a while to prepare – compared to gas or propane fueled smokers, using wood to smoke meat may take a while and only an expert can light up a fire that quickly. In short, it may take time for you to master the ability to use wood when smoking.
- It can be expensive – if you don’t live in an area where wood are readily available buying chunks of it can be expensive. Woods with good quality or seasoned ones don’t come cheap either and if you are someone who doesn’t want to sacrifice the flavors then you know for a fact that these types of woods can come expensive.
- Embers don’t last very long – compared to charcoal, wood embers don’t last very long. In fact, it can turn to ash easily as they tend to cool down much faster. So to ensure that you have lasting embers, you might have to use a lot of wood for that.
Now that you know the different kinds of wood, its type and the pros and cons, you can now decide if this is the kind of fuel you need when smoking meats. Of course, we all know that wood chips or chunks give the best flavor but if you can’t afford it, why should you force yourself and get it? There are plenty of options when it comes to fueling your smoker.
What’s important is that you are satisfied with the results. Of course, if you love that rich smoky flavor then you know that wood is the best way to go. So which is which? To compromise or not? Are you going to use wood? Or let the propane do the work. Whatever your choice is, it’s up to you; just make sure that the one you pick will make you, your friends and everyone else happy with the smoked meat you hand them!
We hope that you find this review helpful, enjoy cooking!
Table Of Contents
- Why Should You Use Wood for Smoking Meat?
- The Heavy Type of Woods
- The Light Type of Woods
- #2. Alder Wood
- Other Types of Wood You Can Use when Smoking Meats
- The Pros and Cons of Using Wood When Smoking Meats