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All About Smoke Woods: Which Type of Wood Should You Use?

by Olivia

Hey, my friends! Still remember the article about how to cut and split fire wood? Today I want to talk more about firewood, or smoking wood. It’s very important for your outdoor cooking. Proper wood chips for smoking can make your food develop many flavors. As we all know, mesquite and hickory are the most available and popular. But our knowledge can’t stop here! Many better choices are waiting for us to discover them.

The following list contains some kinds of woods which can be used in outside. They fit in charcoal grills, smokers and smoking boxes. There is always a will for you! You can find them in your local store easily, or just online!

Before introducing the varieties of smoke woods, I want to share you some ways on how to add wood smoke flavor into your food:

How to Add Wood Smoke Flavor into Your Food

Fire Pit Cooking Over Real Hardwood Fire

Fire Pit Cooking Over Real Hardwood Fire

Fire Pit Cooking Over Real Hardwood Fire

Cooking food over fire with hardwood embers is the directest way to add flavor. But you need to wait patiently until the fire reach the most suitable temperature. Another problem is lacking of accessories.

Cooking on a Charcoal Grill

Cooking on a Charcoal Grill

Cooking on a Charcoal Grill

You had better choose some hardwood lump charcoal with high quality. Only in this way the food can absorb the intense aroma effectively from the wood chips and chunks. The wood can be directly placed on the hot charcoal or in the smoker box.

Cooking on a Gas Grill

Cooking on a Gas Grill

Cooking on a Gas Grill

There is no wood smoke in a gas grill. But you can add chips of smoking woods into the smoking box. Then the smoking box can generate the wood smoke you need when it is heated.

Cooking in a Smoker

Cooking in a Smoker

Cooking in a Smoker

Actually it is an improved version of charcoal grill. It cooks food at a comparatively low temperature with smoking woods. If you choose a better charcoal grill, it will satisfy the need like this. The premise is cooking over indirect heat and add smoking wood chips or chunks with aroma every now and then.

Adding Liquid Smoke Flavoring to Your Food

Liquid_smoke

Liquid_smoke

You may noticed that many food manufacturers created liquid smoke additives to satisfy the need of consumers. Yes, these additives can be added into sauces. Although they are made out of real wood flavors, some critics still think real wood smoking is the best. I agree with them, but not totally. You should consider indoor grilling. If you don’t have an indoor wood burning oven, these additives may solve the problem!

Types of Smoke Woods

Alder

Alder smoke wood

Alder smoke wood

It has a light flavor of sweetness and not so strong. It seems like cedar. Fish, beef, pork, poultry, and game birds can be cooked over it.

Almond

Almond smoke wood

Almond smoke wood

It is sweeter than alder and it can get along well with most meat.

Apple

Apple smoke wood

Apple smoke wood

Apple wood chips are mild and soft, with sweet aroma. They are usually used to cook poultry, pork and beef. I’d like to cook pork ribs over them. So delicious! They can be accompanied with oak and cherry as well.

Cherry

Cherry smoke wood

Cherry smoke wood

One of my favorites. It is light red, a bit sweet and fruity. It is great with poultry, beef and pork. I always cook chicken with it. As mentioned above, it is a good partner to oak and apple.

Grapevines

Grapevines smoke wood

Grapevines smoke wood

It has a strong smoke but it is fruity. If you want to cook country poultry and red meats( such as beef and lamb), it will be the best choice!

Guava

Guava smoke wood

Guava smoke wood

It is the wood of tree which produces a kind of pomegranate. It belongs to Myrtle family. It grows in Hawaii and other tropical regions. It has an aroma that is a mixture of bitterness and sweetness and fits with beef, pork, lamb, poultry and fish.

Hickory

Hickory smoke wood

Hickory smoke wood

Hickory and mesquite are the most common used materials in barbecue. It has a sweet but strong flavor, so it can cook all meats. If you smell it carefully, you will smell the bacon-like smoke flavor. Some people can’t bear its strong flavor. To solve the problem, they never use it alone or use it too much. Just like me. I mix it with oak. Two parts oak and one part hickory. Perfect!

Kiawe

Kiawe

Kiawe

Sounds strange? Yes. It originates from Hawaii. Mesquite is its close relative. It has a strong flavor and can cook beef, pork and poultry successfully. It is very dense and has a jet-black surface. Unfortunately, it can’t be found in stores! Once my friend in Hawaii brought some kiawe to me. If you want to try it, have a friend in Hawaii!

Maple

Maple smoke wood

Maple smoke wood

It may remind you of Canada’s syrup, right? Yes. Almost all kinds of maples(sugar maple, black maple, red maple and silver maple) are used to make syrup, so someone think that this is the reason why the wood of maple has a slight sweetness. Well, it further research. Cooking pork, poultry, game birds and pork with maple, the flavor of them will be prominent. It has a light color but its texture is dense.

Mesquite

Mesquite smoke wood

Mesquite smoke wood

Mesquite, along with hickory, is the most popular and available smoke woods. People in Texas always use them. It is often burned into coals before using. It has a strong earthy aroma. If you use too much, its flavor can cover your food’s. To avoid this, I always use it with apple and cherry. Compared to mesquite, they are much more mellow. It can cook beef, fish, pork and poultry well. It has a rough bark, dense texture and a color of red or brown.

Mulberry

It is the wood of a dark purple fruit that be eaten. It is a bit sweet and similar to apple.

Oak

Another one of my favorites. It gets along well with any meats( such as red meats, pork, fish, heavy game),especially ribs! Its smoke is bearable–not so strong, not so mellow. Stronger than apple and cherry, lighter than hickory. What’s more, not only can it mixes well with these there woods, but also it can do a good job on its own. Incredible! Its color ranges from white to yellow to red. And its texture is dense and tight.

Pear

It is another kind of wood similar to apple. It has light sweet flavor. You can cook poultry and pork over it.

Pecan

It is the wood of a long thin sweet nut with a dark red shell. To some extent, it is similar to hickory, but it is sweeter and milder than hickory. Its flavor is spicy and nutty. I always use it alone or mix it with oak. You can cook poultry, beef and pork over it. For me, I like chicken and ribs.

Wine Barrel Chunks

Yes, this kind of wood is from used wine barrel. When the wine barrel is broken or the owner doesn’t need it any more, the wine barrel will be chopped into chunks and sold as smoke wood. In the wood store, you can judge them easily. One side of them has the dark stain of wine, and the other side has the natural oak grain. Before chopping into chunks, these wine barrels were stored in cellars of wineries. So they have an obvious aroma of wine. Try to use them in your outdoor cooking, they may bring you miraculous effect!

Attention

As we all knows, some woods can’t be used as smoke wood. Such as cedar, cypress, elm, eucalyptus, liquid amber, pine, redwood, fir, spruce, and sycamore. This list hasn’t been completed yet. If you get some nameless or unfamiliar wood, make sure they are safe to burn as smoke wood. You can search it by yourself or ask some professionals.

Artificial Flavored Smoke Woods

Aside from natural flavored smoke woods, retailer also sell artificial flavored smoke woods. Some are made from old wine or whiskey barrels( just like I said above), others are soaked in wine or even Tabasco( a kind of red sauce made from chili peppers, very spicy)! They can generate special flavor of smoke from your smoker. But you need to judge whether they are useful or not in your barbecue.

Forms of Smoke Woods

Referring to forms, smoker woods can be categorized into logs, slabs, chunks, chips and pellets. Among them, chunks, chips and pellets are the most common. Chunks vary in size. They burn slowly and generate smoke for a quite long time.

On the contrary, chips burn fast and generate smoke for a shorter time. But it also has its own disadvantage. You need to add new chips to the smoker every now and then, while you only need to add chunks at the beginning of the combustion. To extend the smoke releasing time, chips are often placed in a container which made of aluminum foil with small holes and placed directly on the coals. Small holes can help the smoke to escape easily.

Pellets are specifically processed from compressed sawdust( very small pieces of wood that are left when you have been cutting wood). To some extent, they are used as chips. Compared with them, logs and slabs are too large, but they can be cut into small pieces to fit into the smoker.

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