Which Type of Wood Should You Use for Smoking Meat?

Rate this post

Call it an inflammatory statement, but when your barbecuing friends put on airs like Eastern mystics as they rhapsodize about the woods they use to smoke with, you have our permission to call them out for being a wee bit pretentious.

“There’s a little bit of wishful thinking there,” says chef Jamie Purviance, author of Weber’s Smoke: A Guide to Smoke Cooking for Everyone and Any Grill. “Wood smells and tastes like wood for the most part. Smoke is smoke.”

He sees even veteran barbecue competitors fall prey to almost magical thinking, like pit masters for Georgia who insist that throwing peach wood on the coals can trick your tastebuds into thinking the ribs you’re sinking your teeth into came from a pig raised at Tara.

Still, he says, the true grill master knows that using wood correctly is a key part of the smoking food. It’s just a matter of knowing the fundamentals.

The first thing to consider is what kinds of wood to use, based on how overpowering the smoke they put out is.

Think of smoking woods as existing on a spectrum from mild to strong. On the mild side are fruit woods, like apple, peach, cherry, and pear, which might impart that sweetness your friends swear by, but are subtle enough to use with lighter foods like poultry or fish, and sometimes pork. Birch is a smidge heavier, and an appropriate choice for more strongly flavored fish*—*salmon smoked in birch is a classic combination.

In the middle part of the spectrum are woods like hickory, maple, pecan, and oak. They’re great with pork, and strong enough to stand up to beef and game meats. Purviance’s personal favorites to smoke with are hickory and oak.

Finally, there’s the strongest wood of all, and it’s in a category all its own: mesquite. It can be a invaluable wood to smoke with*—*if you do it in moderation.

“Use mesquite like you’d use chile peppers,” Purviance says. “It’s to be used in combination with other flavors, and for limited amounts of time.”

Chips in Weber smoker box

Which leads to the biggest mistake most people make: over-smoking their food. Though smokiness can lend a diabolic richness to food that can transform a decent hunk of flesh into a transcendent repast, too many grillers have forgotten that when it comes down to it, their guests want to eat meat, not smoke.

“In general, you shouldn’t smoke for more than half of the cooking time,” Purviance says. “Just stop. Otherwise, you risk overdoing it.”

People also tend to forget that smoking isn’t just about adding flavor, it’s also about adding an appealing hue to the meal. Hickory and oak are so popular partially because they lend a “really rich, dark, mahogany color” to meats.

And for the truly advanced, there’s nothing wrong with a little mix-and-match. If you’re willing to experiment, try simultaneously using different woods of various strengths. Popular combinations include hickory with apple or hickory with cherry, which ups the game of the mild fruitwoods while imparting that deep, golden-brown finish to the meat.

You are viewing this post: Which Type of Wood Should You Use for Smoking Meat?. Information curated and compiled by Kayaknv.com along with other related topics.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here