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Wood for Smoking Does Not Need to Come From a Bag

Updated on June 14, 2010

Free Smoker Wood

Free Smoker Wood
Free Smoker Wood

10 Types of Wood for Smoking

Smoking in a smoker or grill is a great way to tenderize meat and add flavor to fruits and vegetables. Some times the cost of chips, chunks, or shavings can be rather high. There are also times when one can’t find wood at local retailers because it is not in season or demand is high. When found in the store most of the time you will be limited to the most popular types (hickory, mesquite, apple or cherry), but there are a few others that are great tasting and should be tried. Many times you can find really good flavorful wood right in your back yard or within a few miles of your home. A great place to look if you do not have woods near you is your community compost site. Many compost sites have an area to pile brush and with a little effort you can get a large supply of wood for your smoking needs. Here is a list of 10 types of wood and what flavor to expect as well as what to use it with. I will also give rough geographic locations.

Hickory: Grown in eastern forests in the U.S.A., hickory is the most popular wood used for smoking. It is an all food smoking wood. This means simply that it is good with meats, fruits and vegetables. It produces a pungent, smoky flavor many times associated with bacon. Truly delicious for smoking, it is a hard wood and burns for a long time. Hickory is very good for smoking ribs and pork.

Oak: Grown all over the northern hemisphere, oak is the second most popular wood for smoking. Good for smoking red meats, pork, fish, fruits and vegetables it produces a heavy smoke flavor. Red oak is considered by many pit masters as the best wood to use. Due to its availability and great taste this is my personal #1 choice. A hard wood that burns slow and long it is great for bigger cuts like brisket, racks of ribs and roasts.

Maple: Grown all over North America. Good for smoking pork, poultry, vegetables, and cheese. Maple wood has a mild smoky, sweet flavor good for bacon and pork sausages.

Birch: Grown widely in North America, a semi-hard wood good for smoking poultry and pork. It has a lighter taste also good for vegetables. Burns quicker than above mentioned wood this is one I will leave the peeling bark on this wood. There is oil in the bark that produces additional smoke. Flavor is similar to maple.

Ash: Grown all over North America, good for smoking red meats, fish, cheese and vegetables. Ash has a very light, distinct flavor but is a fast burner. This wood is becoming harder to find do to borer beetles but is one to try. Ash is a good wood for kabobs is you favor a lighter smoke flavor.

Mesquite: Grown in Mexico and Southern U.S., good for smoking any meat, especially beef and most vegetables. A very popular commercial smoking wood produces a strong earthy flavor. Good with beef jerky, sausages and burgers. Mostly long burning can be used on bigger meat cuts. I do not recommend this for fish because of the flavor.

Cottonwood: Grown in northern U.S.A., a good smoking wood if you are looking for a subtle smoke taste. It is faster burning and is a good choice for most meats, vegetables and fruits.

Apple: Grown throughout the U.S.A., a very popular smoking wood. Very easy to find, produces a sweet fruity smoke flavor. Good with beef, poultry, pork, and salmon. If smoking a ham it is commonly used. Not usually used with vegetables but good with kabobs and I have used it with ground beef for taco meat.

Cherry: Grown throughout the U.S.A, good for smoking all meats and gives a fruity, slightly sweet flavor. This wood gives a tangy flavor to ground beef for tacos. It is a harder wood that lasts longer in the smoker, also a good wood for ham and pork. Cherry and apple are good mixed with oak or hickory if available. Use say, 10 chunks of oak or hickory and 2 chunks of fruit wood.

Lilac: Grown throughout The U.S.A. as a smoking wood this one may surprise you. It surprised me a little. It is a good smoking wood for lamb, seafood and salmon. Lilac gives a very light flavor with a hint of floral. Considered a scrub brush it is hard wood. Burns faster the drier it is.

All of the woods above are very good and for the most part readily available. As I said before some may be right in your backyard. The main thing is the wood needs to be “seasoned” or dried. Most green cut wood will be ready the year after cutting. Many people soak wood in water to extend burn time and increase smoke production. I use charcoal, and when it is white and hot, put the wood on and close vents. After smoke is rolling out I open vents to control temperature. In case of flair up if you are smoking in a grill, close vents for a few minutes and flame will die. If you have any questions or comments please let me know. Thank you for taking the time to read this hub, I hope the information was helpful.


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