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 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 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 wood has a sweet mild, fruity flavor that is a good match for all meats.
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 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 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 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 smoking wood has a flavor similar to apple that is ideal when grilling poultry, fish and pork.
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 wood has a similar flavor to mesquite, but it’s a lighter flavor. Olive smoking wood tastes best with poultry.
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 is similar to peach wood. It smokes a light sweet and fruity flavor that works great with pork, poultry and small game birds.
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 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.