Smoking Wood Flavors

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Different types of wood will produce different flavors and different types of trees have unique compositions and burning points. You can used larger wood chunks, or smaller smoking chips. Wood chunks will burn slowly and release smoke over a long period of time. Wood chips will burn hot and fast and give off smoke in a quick burst.

The type of wood you use will vary based on what you are smoking. And, while meats are the most popular food to smoke, you can also smoke nuts, cheeses, vegetables and more. Woods that have a milder flavor are recommended for non-meat items.

Popular Smoking Woods

Alder

Alder is a very delicate wood with a subtle sweet flavor. It’s commonly used when smoking salmon, but it goes well with most fish, pork, poultry and light-meat game birds.

Apple

Apple has a very mild with a subtle sweet, fruity flavor. This smoking wood is ideal for poultry, beef, pork (especially ham), game birds, lamb and some seafood.

Cherry

Cherry wood has a sweet mild, fruity flavor that is a good match for all meats.

Grape Vine

Grape vine wood has a tart, fruity flavor that works well with poultry, small game birds, lamb, pork and sausage, but use it sparingly or the tart flavor may be overwhelming.

Hickory

Hickory smoking wood creates a sweet, yet strong bacon-flavor; the smoke can be pungent, but it adds a nice, strong flavor to just about all meat cuts, but it’s especially popular with pork and ribs.

Maple

Maple has a mild and slightly sweet flavor. Use maple wood with poultry and small game birds. Vegetables and cheeses are often grilled with maple.

Mesquite

Mesquite wood has a strong and earthy flavor that is ideal for most red and dark meats. It’s one of the hottest burning woods.

Mulberry

Mulberry smoking wood has a flavor similar to apple that is ideal when grilling poultry, fish and pork.

Oak

Oak has a medium smoky flavor that is stronger than apple and cherry, but lighter than hickory and mesquite. It’s great by itself, but works well blended with apple, cherry or hickory woods. Oak works well just just about any meat.

Olive

Olive wood has a similar flavor to mesquite, but it’s a lighter flavor. Olive smoking wood tastes best with poultry.

Peach

Peach wood infuses a sweet, fruity flavor that’s similar to other fruit wood. Peach wood is great when grilling pork, poultry and small game birds.

Pear

Pear is similar to peach wood. It smokes a light sweet and fruity flavor that works great with pork, poultry and small game birds.

Pecan

Pecan wood is stronger than most fruit wood, but milder than hickory and mesquite. Pecan is ideal when grilling poultry but infuses a nice flavor to any cut of meat.

Walnut

Walnut has a strong and slightly bitter flavor. Use walnut wood when grilling red meats, and game. Walnut wood is often mixed with other woods to create a milder flavor.

Western Red Cedar

When smoking with cedar wood, only smoke with Western Red Cedar that has not been treated with any chemicals. Seafood is one of the more common foods grilled on natural Western red cedar planks, but poultry and vegetables are a option for cedar planks.

Note: Avoid smoking with Eastern cedar, cypress, elm, eucalyptus, liquid amber, pine, redwood, fir, spruce, and sycamore. These trees are high in resin and oils that cause a thick smoke when lit.

wood flavor smoking chart

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8 thoughts on “Smoking Wood Flavors

  1. I like the list of all of the different woods used for smoking, and the different flavors they can add! I personally love using hickory to smoke most of my meats. Your description of the flavor that it adds, almost like bacon, is perfect! One wood that really intrigued me was oak. I’ve never used it for smoking meats before, but the next time that I prepare some lamb or beef, I’ll make sure to use some oak! Great post, thanks for the information!

  2. I much prefer the Char Broil chips. they are larger than this ground up . I guess it is a matter of what you are used to, but when I smoke in my Weber kettle grill, I prefer the larger chips, this mix of 1/4 inch chips and slivers mixed with larger chips burns out too fast even after soaking with water.

  3. A wood not thought of often is persimmon. I use for deer roast or other wild game. It leaves an unusual fruity flavor.

  4. Because I lived in western North Carolina and had a wood stove and plenty of White Oak I used my chain saw dust and small chunks of limbs to smoke with. Nancy would inject our pork roasts with liquid smoke and I would smoke them at 200 degrees farenheigt until white in center. I have a gas smoker. Always delicious.

  5. Since I bought my electric smoker I’ve smoked a bunch of stuff. But I have a couple questions. Can I smoke with plum wood, and when is wood too old to use for smoking?

    1. Hi Ken, you can smoke with plum wood, as it will smoke and flavor like most other fruited woods. Wood should be good to use as long as it is not molded or rotten.

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