February 17

Woods for Smoking … Great Smokey Flavors


There are many woods for smoking to choose from.

Each one produces a different smoke flavor.

Most pit masters have their favorite wood, or combination of woods they trust to prepare their favorite barbecue.

With a little advice, and some experimenting you will soon find your favorites. 

Read on to learn the basics of woods for smoking. 

 Smoker Woods … The Basics

It doesn’t matter if you buy, grow, or forage your woods for smoking. There are plenty of things to consider when selecting smoker wood.

Here’s a list of the most popular smoker woods and a little information about each.

Acacia – Similar in flavor to Mesquite but not quite as harsh making it suitable for white meats.

Alder – Not a very common wood used for smoking. Alder is a little sweet and produces a delicate flavor. Try it when smoking pork, poultry, and fish. Perfect for light summer time fare. 

Apple – One of my favorites. Apple wood smoke lays down a mild and sweet flavor. Of course a light fruity flavor is also detectable. Expect a slightly different flavor from each species of apple wood. Apple smoke produces an attractive browning effect to foods. Suitable for smoking all meats.

Almond – Good for all meats. Almond produces a sweet smoke with a decidedly nutty flavor.

Ash – I have never used ash. I hear it has a light flavor sutiable for fish and red meat. 

Black Walnut – Produces a very strong smoky flavor. I recommend you mix walnut with a lighter wood such as hickory or risk a bitter flavor. Suitable for red meats. 

Citrus – I am told that Orange and Lemon wood produces a light fruity flavor. Suitable for pork and chicken.

Cherry – Another classic with a fruity and mild flavor. Good with pork and beef. I have never tried it with fish. 

Cottonwood – A mild flavor suitable for more delicate meats such as fish and chicken breasts. For a little stronger flavor mix in some hickory. Stay away from unseasoned (green) cottonwood.

Fruitwood – (Apricot, Peach, Pear, Plum)  Produces a mild and sweet flavor which of course has a “fruity” taste. Perfect for white meats, poultry, and fish.

Grapevine – Produces an interesting flavor that is tart and fruity all at once. A little goes a long way as grapevine produces serious smoke. For a Mediterranean treat smoke poultry, game, and lamb recipes with this wood. 

Hickory – Arguably the favorite smoking wood. If you love bacon and smoked ribs it’s probably the hickory that tickles your taste buds. I recommend starting slow with hickory. Use too much and it’s likely to overpower the natural flavor of meats and spices. Great for pork and beef.

Lilac – Not always easy to come by unless you grow it, or know someone that does. I trim our lilacs back in May and make sure to save the branches. Lilac produces an interesting light and flowery flavor. Great for seafood, chicken breasts and lamb. For a mid summer treat serve the smoked meat with light and fruity white wine.

Maple – This sweet wood is great for pork, poultry, and I am told cheese. 

Mesquite – Often considered a “barbecue wood. ” Mesquite burns hot and gives off a strong flavor. When you first try smoking with this wood it’s best to start sparingly and experiment from there. It’s strong flavor is good with beef, chicken and fish. 

Mulberry – A mild flavored smoking wood good with chicken and beef.

Oak – I prefer red oak to white, to me it’s just a smoother flavor. Oak produces a fairly heavy smoke flavor. It’s good with red meats, game meat, ribs, and fish.  

Pecan -Produces a light sweet smoke with a nutty flavor. Good with thinner cuts of red meat such as ribs.

Out of all the woods for smoking apple is probably my favorite, followed by hickory. Don’t be afraid to experiment with less common smoker wood such as lilac or cotton wood.

Remember, half the fun of food smoking is tweaking the spices, meat preperation, and smoking wood to create the perfect to die for meal. 

Return to the top of Woods for Smoking … Great Smokey Flavors.

Return to Smoked Meat Recipes … Other Smoked Meats


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