What are the wood types suitable for using in your BBQ Smoker or on your grill. This is a question that is always coming up. This guide might help.
Here is a list that was compiled from various sources.
Acacia 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. Acacia is a very hot burning wood.
Alder is a favorite of the natives in the Pacific Northwest to smoke salmon and halibut with. It gives off a delicate woody, smoke flavor with a hint of sweetness. Great with fish, pork, poultry, and light-meat game birds.
Almond wood has a sweet smokey flavor, with light ash. Good with all meats.
Apple wood and Crab Apple wood have a very mild but subtle fruity flavor and is slightly sweet. Good with poultry and pork. Excellent with bacon and ribs!!!!
Ash wood is a fast burner. It has a light but distinctive flavor. Good with fish and red meats.
Birch is a medium to hard wood with a flavor similar to maple. Good with pork and poultry.
Cherry tree wood is mild and fruity. Good with poultry, pork and beef. Some people say the cherry wood is the best wood for smoking.
Citrus trees, like lemon and orange produce a nice mild smoky flavor. Excellent with beef, pork, fish and poultry.
Cottonwood trees are a softer wood than alder and have a very subtle flavor. You may wish to add some other stronger flavor of wood when using Cottonwood.
Drupe wood, or other fruit tree wood, the flavor is mild and sweet. Peaches and nectarines are great smoke for most lighter meats like pork, chicken and fish.
Grapevines can be used for smoking. They tend to produce a tart flavor but the vines provide a lot of rich and fruity smoke. Good with poultry, red meats, game and lamb.
Hickory is probably the most commonly used wood for smoking. It has a sweet to strong, heavy smokey bacon type flavor. Good with pork, ham poultry, fish, and beef.
Lilac wood, if you can find it has a very light, subtle flavor with a flowery hint. Good with seafood and lamb.
Maple wood produces a smoky, mellow and slightly sweet flavor. Good with pork, poultry, cheese, and small game birds.
Mesquite has a strong earthy flavor. It is great wood for smoking beef, fish, chicken, and game. Mesquite is one of the hottest burning woods. Some people insist that too much mesquite smoke can be a bad thing. I’ve heard that smoking with mesquite for too long can create a bitter flavor.
Mulberry wood has a subtle yet sweet flavor to it’s smoke.
Oak trees create a very smokey flavor. There are many different kinds of oak. All are good for smoke. Good with red meat, pork, fish and heavy game.
Pear trees give a nice subtle smokey flavor. Very similar to mulberry or apple. Excellent with chicken and pork.
Pecan wood has a sweet and mild flavor similar to hickory. Pecan is a great wood to smoke with if it can be found. Good with poultry, beef, pork and cheese.
Walnut has a very heavy smoke flavor. You may want to mix it with some lighter or fruity wood so as not to get a bitter flavor. Good with red meats and game.
Other internet sources report that wood from the following trees is also suitable for smoking. Trees like Avocado, Beech, Butternut, Carrotwood, Chestnut, Fig, Persimmon, and Olive. Most fruit and nut woods are great for smoking meat.
Never use any wood from conifer or evergreen trees. Just stay away from high resin producing woods like pine. Not only can they be deadly, they can make your food bitter as well. Yes, I know that cedar planks are popular for cooking salmon on, but I don’t know anyone who burns cedar as a smoke wood. I have also heard that elm, eucalyptus, sassafras, and sycamore can induce a bad flavor as well.
Don’t ever use lumber scraps. Some lumber is treated with chemicals, which are poisonous.
Never use wood that has been painted. Paint can be poisonous too.
Where do you get some of these fancier woods to smoke your food with?
If you have the right type of trees in your yard or neighborhood, go ahead and pick up stumps and sticks. Make sure that you know what kind of wood that you are picking up though. If you have branches fall from trees, make sure they are not moldy. You should never use wood that is moldy.
There are some sources on the internet where wood chunks, chips, pellets, even smoker bags are available, but not for all types of wood. Things like lilac and grapevines are items that you are going to need to find in your own neighborhood.
A local firewood company may be able to hook you up. I used to work for a firewood company that every time we had fruit wood,mostly cherry or apple, it went right to a local restaurant that only cooked with fruit woods. I also have a friend that owns a wood fired pizza place. He has an account with a firewood company. They bring him only hardwoods.
You can usually find some woods where you can purchase your smokers and grills. My local hardware store sells chunk and chip hickory and mesquite.
You can always volunteer to take down a neighbors trees. Again, just make sure you know what kind of trees you are getting.
Soaking or not soaking your wood chips or chunks is an on going debate. That is up to you. I’ve heard arguments for both ways, so I’d say it is your preference. I have seen wine infused smoking wood. Sounds interesting, but I don’t think I want to waste my own wine to do this.