Which wood should you use for smoking salmon? What about for bacon? Which is the best for smoking cheese? These are great questions and hopefully we can shed some light on that for you. Smoking foods is used for as a preservative method. There are hundreds of species of trees around the globe. Generally, the best wood for smoking comes from trees with edible parts such as fruit or nuts. It is important to use suitable types of wood to avoid ruining the taste and texture of the food you are preserving. Some woods will even enhance the flavor of your food to whole new levels!
Before smoking anything, it is recommended to do your research. Either check with someone who has experience or do a local web search on the item you want to smoke for the best woods, times, seasonings, and any other preparations required. The item to be smoked can be delicate requiring a short cook period, or maybe even cold smoking instead of hot. Where others require a long cook time, where renewal of the woods are needed. Though you should always steer clear of softwoods, regardless of what you are smoking. For more delicate foods, lighter hardwoods are idea. For the heavier options like beef, pork, and lamb hardwood is often the best route.
In our opinion, below are the best woods for smoking along with a bit of information about each:
Oak is the all around safest bet, and it is mostly used together with Hickory, Apple, and cherry in smoking all meats. It produces smoke that does not overpower the flavor of the meat. It is an all around safe bet
Best wood for smoking pork and poultry, it is known for having a medium to light flavor and mild sweetness. Commonly used in smoking poultry and pork, others describe its smoke as fruity.
The wood is known for producing much smoke that does not ruin the delicate flavor of the meat, and they are used primarily in meat such as the fish, chicken, turkey and light-meat game birds. Best used to add a delicate, sweet, and only light flavor.
Has a strong flavor and is one of the safest choices. It’s flavor is often described as bacon like, being savory and strong. Too much smoke can give the meat a bitter and unpleasant taste. The wood works well with ribs, bacon, hams, beef, brisket, and all types of poultry. It will also lend a lovely mahogany colour to the meat.
These woods burn faster than most and should be used for fast smoking items like pizza. Or you can refresh it more often. It is best in smoking fish especially when mixed with other woods.
Acacia wood is classified together with mesquite as they are in the same family. Both have a natural earthy flavor. These woods burn extremely hot, but the smoke they produced does not destroy the texture of the meat. They are suitable for smoking chicken, beef, and fish. They should be used in moderation though because the flavor can be quite heavy and even overwhelm the meat.
Used for long barbecues and adds a nutty flavor to the meat. You can even use the pecan shells! It is often compared to hickory. Though it has a more mellow flavor. Produces smoke that permeates slowly hence burns for a longer time. It will add a gentle pecan flavor but also adds a lovely golden colour to many foods.
Sweet and fruity flavors are imparted to the food. Known for giving the meat a vibrant color although the smoke can blacken the outer layer of poultry and it also adds flavor to the meat. Best used in chicken and pork. Will work with all meat though.
Though this goes against the wood with fruit rule it is a great wood for smoking! Known to impart a lightly floral flavor. Useful in smoking meat any meat, it is used in pork and poultry. Some claim it is the best on ribs.
Natural flavor with a bit of spice, this unconventional choice should be well washed and dried before using. It is an excellent though unconventional option for seafood!
There are so many other choices available as well. Think plum, orange, walnut, pistachio shells, pear, olive, maple! These are all great choices to experiment. You can even save some of your own if you have these trees in your yard. Just make sure to dry and season them first!
Avoid softwoods including pine and fir. They make the people sick. Do not use painted woods, woods with mold, fungus, or woods from old furniture as they produce chemical toxins that are harmful to your health. The important thing is to remember to experiment and have fun. Start with small batches so you can determine your favourites.