Everyone is a fan of smoked meat. But very few of us know how to cook up one perfectly.
Though mastering the recipe might take more than a few bitter trails, selecting wood shouldn’t be much of a hustle. What is a hustle though is selecting a good wood and charcoal smoker. So, if you need any help with that, do check out our reviews of the Best Charcoal Smokers.
If you find yourself in a place where you can’t make your mind regarding which one to go for, then this article is for you.
Why is the selection of wood a critical process?
Before diving right into the woods to buy, it’s important to understand why exactly we’re doing that.
1. Every wood has a distinct flavor
Not all woods are same when it comes to their flavor. The inherent flavor of wood plays a decisive role when it comes to the actual taste of food.
Hence. it is important to make sure that your wood compliments your meat.
2. Melting point varies from wood to wood
Melting point of wood is another critical factor to consider before setting your meat on fire.
Some woods have a low melting point and therefore aren’t ideal when it comes to meat that requires prolonged cooking.
3. Some woods contain harmful chemicals which may harm you
For a layperson, most woods might appear to be same. However, they are anything but similar — woods with a high amount of tree sap can either be a health hazard or spoil your meat’s flavor. Or in the worst case, both.
Which woods should you buy?
Luckily we’re spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting woods for smoking our meat. And with so many options one might feel confused.
That’s why we have listed some of the best options available so that you can know correctly which wood to pick based on your personal preference.
Here are some of our top picks:
Alder is one of the fine woods out there. It has a subtle sweet flavor to it.
And that is one of the reasons why it is commonly used for cooking seafood, most notably salmon. Due to its light flavor, it also goes well with other lightweight poultry and game birds.
When it comes to fruitwoods, apple is one of the strongest flavors out there. Its sweet, fruity taste makes it ideal for beef, pork, game birds.
Though it goes well with most of the meat, its best counterpart is ham. If you’re a fan of ham, then you’ve got to try Apple wood.
On a downside, Apple wood smoke takes several hours to flavor the meat.
Similar to Apple, Cherry has a mild and fruity flavor. It’s put to best use when mixed with hardwood like hickory.
It’s a preferred choice when it comes to cooking birds like chicken and turkey. However, if it’s not prepared properly, cherry can turn the skin of meat a tad too dark.
4. Grape Vine
Grape Vine has a distinct tart and fruity flavor to it. It’s one of the best choices for white meats like poultry and small game birds.
One has to make sure to use grape vine in a limited amount. If used more than the necessary level, the wood can leave behind an overwhelming tart taste.
One of the strongest woods out there, hickory is an undisputed king of Smoke Woods. Its distinct bacon flavor makes it an absolute darling for Bacon lovers.
Due to its heavy bitter taste, one needs to make sure that they’re using an appropriate amount. Using too much wood can make your meat a bit too bitter.
Though hickory on its own is an excellent choice, it also goes well with other favorite woods like Maple and Cranberry.
One of the most subtle woods out there. Its sweet and mild flavor makes it one of the most popular choices out there.
Maple wood has a mild flavor, and is best used with light meat like poultry and game birds. It is also widely used to grill vegetables and cheese.
Another popular choice, Mesquite has an intense earthy flavor. It has a unique flavor which has become a benchmark.
Due to its high melting point, it’s an ideal choice for red meats. Since the wood has an intense flavor, please make sure to use it in the prescribed amount.
Pecan is one of the stronger options in the category of fruitwood. It has a distinct sweet and nutty flavor to it.
Pecan is also one of the sweetest woods out there, and it’s advisable to use it with hardwood like Hickory to balance out the taste.
Though Pecan goes well with almost every other meat, it’s a popular choice for Turkey.
Oak is your go-to wood if other options aren’t available. It has a mild generic flavor, nothing much to brag about.
Oak is perfect for a beginner as it goes well with almost any meat and doesn’t have either a feeble or a strong flavor.
Overall Oak is a decent choice, but there is nothing extraordinary about it.
Pimento is one of those woods which are in their capacity an ingredient. The smoke is unique with a strong peppery flavor, along with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. This unique taste makes Pimento an obvious choice.
Generally used for mainstream dishes like jerked chicken and beef, Pimento produces an excellent result even for smoked fish and seafood.
Woods to avoid using
Just as it’s important to know which woods to use, it’s crucial to know which ones to avoid.
Some of the softwoods you should avoid at all costs are Pine, Spruce, Conifers, Cedar, and Evergreens, etc. Not only do their sap contains harmful chemicals, but they also make food taste horrible; hence defeating the entire purpose of smoking meat.
Choosing the perfect wood is as important as selecting the ideal meat and ingredient.
Some woods have great flavor but are tough to cook with. If you’re a beginner, it’s advisable to start with easy to manage low performing woods and gradually climb your way up to the premium ones.
We recommend trying mixing up two or more woods for a more balanced and customized taste.
Hope this article gave you clarity in choosing the perfect smoking wood.
And if you liked this article, do check out our reviews of the Best Smoker Grill Combos.