If you’re new to meat smoking, the different kinds of woods out there might be overwhelming. There are tons of smoking woods out there, and each one offers distinct flavours. The type of wood you use is probably the most important part. Check out our run-down of the different types of wood for smoking, and you’ll always get the flavour you want!
If you want your meat to come out with a medium to heavy flavour, but one that’s not overpowering, choose oak. Oak wood chips burn hot and slow, and is great for “heavier” meats like lamb, beef, brisket and sausages. If you want a wood chip that burns long, go for white oak, or use red oak for a sweeter taste.
Hickory is another great choice of wood chip for heavier meats. Hickory is sweet and can be strong, hearty, and taste similar to bacon. (Yum!) Like oak, hickory tends to burn hot and slow, so use it for larger cuts like ribs, pork shoulder, and nearly all red meats and poultry. But be careful when using hickory: you CAN have too much of a good thing! It’s best to start off with a small amount and build on it, because too much can make the meat taste bitter.
If you’re looking for a milder flavour than oak or hickory, look no further than maple. It has a subtle, sweet, light and mildly smokey flavour. Maple is a great choice for smoking poultry, pork and game birds (like quail and duck). And of course, the sweetest of the maples is sugar maple.
Mesquite wood is a hard wood with a potent flavour and produces lots of smoke. It has a great flavour, but it’s best in small doses. Use mesquite wood chips for red meats, or throw a little (and we mean a little!) in your barbecue for some added flavour when grilling.
As you can probably tell by the name, pecan wood chips are sweet, rich and nutty in flavour. They burn slow and cool so are best used for really slow cooked meats like brisket, roasts and ribs. Pecan wood chips shouldn’t be used on their own, but are a great complement to mesquite, oak and hickory.
Looking for a mild, fruity, sweet and mellow flavour? Apple wood chips are perfect for chicken, quail, pork and poultry. But burn them sooner rather than later: because of their light flavour, it takes a few hours for the flavour to really sink into the meat.
Light, sweet and delicate, alder wood is the ideal wood for smoking fish. It burns quite cool and can be used for poultry and pork as well.
Peach is a less common wood chip for smoking, but is a speciality in Georgia (it’s called the Peach State, after all!). It has a light, sweet and delicate taste, and is ideal for fish, poultry and pork. If you’re considering using peach for your next smoked meat, make sure you get fresh cut wood chips. Peach wood chips begin to lose their flavour after being cut, so the fresher the better.
Cherry is another good wood chip for mixing, either with oak, hickory or alder. Like many of the other fruit tree woods, cherry has a mild and fruity taste that’s light, sweet and delicate. It burns hot and long, and goes great with chicken, turkey, fish or ham.