Picking the right wood is important for getting the flavors bang on while smoking but just any food type or design won’t cut it. Here’s how to pick the right wood for your next BBQ party.
A smoker is an outdoor kitchen equipment which is usually used to heat and smoker food by maintaining a consistent smoke temperature and is mostly used for cooking or barbecuing meat.
To properly barbecue a vegetable or a meat, you need to heat it for some time and smoke it to get the best BBQ flavor. However, you need to use a good wood to produce good smoke which is why choosing the right wood is extremely important for your BBQ session.
There are a wide variety of woods available for smoking which makes the choosing task much more difficult for the beginning users and there are a lot of things one needs to keep in mind when selecting the best wood for your smoker. You have to think about the flavor, aroma, cost, wood shape, and so on.
In this article, we will help you with the choosing process so that you can select the best wood for the smoking purpose.
Understand Your Smoker’s Fire
Before you start finding the right wood for your smoker, you first need to understand how your smoker works and what kind of fire should be produced for efficient smoking. You will need to produce an efficient fire which will be free of impurities and will result in the best-flavored smoke ever. If you want a good fire to BBQ then your wood should be exposed to an adequate amount of oxygen to burn.
If your smoker comes with dampers then you will need to keep them open in order to supply oxygen to your burning wood. If your smoker has a firebox then leave it open. Only if your burning wood gets sufficient amount of oxygen will it be able to burn long and clear.
Also, make sure you notice the color of the smoke coming out of your smoker to determine if the smoke is pure or not. If your smoker produces slightly blueish smoke then the smoke is pure and will provide you with a good flavor.
Tips to Start a Smoker Fire
However, if your smoker produces white smoke then it means a lot of creosote and impure carbon particles haven’t been burnt off completely which means your smoke is impure. Blue smoke doesn’t reflect light due to the absence of particles so it is mostly colorless.
Blue smoke is what will add a good flavor to your BBQ food so make sure you choose a wood which will provide you with the blue smoke and not the white smoke.
Know the Primary Heat Source of your Smoker
There are different kinds of smokers available in the market which use different technologies to burn wood and produce smoke. The technologies wood burning technologies affect the flavor of the BBQ. Earlier, wood was used to heat the food in order to cook it and to provide a smokey flavor to it.
This is one of the traditional methods of smoking BBQ and is found to be the most effective way to produce that smoke flavor but controlling the fire can be a little difficult and you don’t have much control on the flavor of the smoked BBQ when you are using wood as the primary heat source. Such type of smokers requires constant monitoring in order to ensure there is a constant smoke temperature which will cook your BBQ.
However, we have several other types of smokers which use gas, charcoal, electricity, etc. as their primary heat source and add the wood pellets or chunks separately to add the smoke flavor. The heat is better controlled in these smokers which makes it easier to control the temperature and maintain a constant smoking temperature.
The type of heat source of your smoker plays a major role in the selection of the wood for your smoker as this will determine how strong flavor do you need. Some wood tends to burn for a long time while some wood burns out quickly and produce a low aroma or flavor. So, determine your smoker’s heat source and then choose the right wood for it.
Should I Use Seasoned Wood or Not?
A lot of people don’t realize that you need to use seasoned wood for adding flavor to the BBQ. This is true for all kinds of smokers. You can use any normal wood for smoking your food but for flavoring, you always need to use seasoned wood. What is a seasoned wood? A seasoned wood is dead and dried out wood which has been in this state for at least 6 months or more.
However, it is quite difficult to find seasoned wood as a lot of people tend to use green wood for smoking so the wood doesn’t get enough time to get properly seasoned. If you have a wood smoker then make sure you use seasoned wood to add flavor apart from using normal wood for cooking.
Seasoned vs Unseasoned Wood
Many people use green wood because it contains moisture so it burns for a long time which helps in adding flavor to the food. This type of wood is mostly used in smokers which have an alternative heat source like gas, electricity, etc.
Since they don’t need to burn wood for producing heat, they have to use green wood to produce a lot of smoke for flavor. However, green wood is generally impure which is why it produces white smoke and can affect your BBQs taste a lot.
What are the Different Woods Designs?
Once you understand your smoker and the type of smoke you need to produce and things you need to avoid, you need to determine the shape and size of the wood that you are likely to use for heating and smoking your food.
A wood pellet is a type of compressed chip or sawdust and produces a lot of heat and the smoke is extremely clean. They are also easy to control and manage and can be easily added to your electricity smoker. You can find several manufacturers who will provide you with efficient and nicely flavored wood pellets which can be selected as per the flavoring.
A lot of smokers are huge in size and can easily fit a whole wood log inside it but these logs often burn hotter than normal wood chunks or pellets and produce more smoke than necessary.
A major drawback with these wood logs is that they require a lot of space but one of the best things about wood logs is that since they burn hotter, they produce clearer smoke than other wood pieces.
Another common design in wood is wood chips which can be added to smokers easily and conveniently. However, one drawback with wood chips is that it burns quite quickly so it needs to be added again and again.
You can soak it in water to burn it for a longer period of time. Wood chips are quite easy to handle and can be easily found in different flavors for the best smoke flavor to your BBQ.
The next type of wood design is of wood chunks which is the next commonly used wood for smoking. Wood chunks are air dried which is why they burn slowly and offer users with a constant heat temperature. Wood chunks are a great way to produce smoke if you have the place to store it.
What Flavors Can I Incorporate Using Wood?
Once you have determined the wood design that is compatible with your smoker and can be easily used by you, you need to choose the wood type which will produce the desirable flavor.
Here is a list of the most popular wood types used by users for smoking purposes:
One of the most commonly used fruit wood for smoking is apple wood which produces the lightest smoke. The smoke produced by apple tree is not only light but extremely clean as well which is why it works well for seafood BBQ.
It has a dense, fruity smoke with a pinch of sweetness and works well with chicken, pork, etc. as well. However, keep in mind that this smoke will turn your chicken skin to a shade of dark brown but the chicken will taste as delicious as ever so this is not something to worry about.
Maple produces a mild fruit flavored smoke which is perfect for smoking salmon and other food items like cheese, vegetables, seafood, etc.
Another popular smoke wood is cherry wood which produces a mildly sweet and fruity flavor and works well with cheese and chicken.
Another commonly used wood for a mild and slightly sweet smoke is Alder. It is known to be the best wood for smoking salmon but due to its slightly sweet undertone, it works well with pork, poultry, and other seafood dishes as well.
Oak is another amazing wood that can be used to add heavy and strong smokey flavor for BBQing. It is known to be one of the most versatile woods which produces a strong flavor but it doesn’t overpower the actual flavor of the BBQ which is why it is so popular. Oak works with all kind of meat like fish, beef, lamb, chicken, and so on.
Mesquite is another smoking wood which is gaining a lot of popularity and is really great for grilling since it burns quickly and at a hot temperature.
This is usually not recommended for long BBQ sessions as it has a strong flavor. This is why this wood is often used in restaurants to cook meat in a short period of time. It compliments beef, vegetables, etc. greatly which is why it is quite popularly used.
One of the most robust woods that you can find is Pecan which has a strong flavor but it can be toned down by adding oak to it. It is known as a cooler burning wood and works well with most types of meat. It can be used for boar, beef, poultry, and so on.
Hickory is another commonly used wood for smoking and is considered the best smoking wood for heating and smoking pork. However, one has to be careful while using it and should only be used in small doses. It is known to be good for smoking all kinds of meats and food items but is often considered as the best wood for ribs and pork.
A few of the other wood types that can be used for smoking are as follows:
It produces a sweet and nutty flavor which works well with all kinds of meat and is similar to the pecan wood.
This wood is great for smoking pork and poultry as it gives off a sweet and mild flavor.
Ashwood offers a unique and light flavor and burns quickly which is why it is not as popular as other wood types.
Since a black walnut wood gives off a strong flavor, it is often mixed with other wood types to balance the flavor. This is necessary to avoid the bitterness that can often be released by its smoke into the food.
It has a similar flavor as the maple wood and is exceptional with poultry and pork.
You can also use chokecherry wood for smoking but since it has a bitter flavor, it shouldn’t be used in excessive quantity.
Citrus, Orange, and Lemon
These woods give off a moderate smoke with a light fruity flavor which is not as strong as apple or cherry wood.
This is another mild wood which produces a good, smoky flavor and works well with all types of meat.
This wood is often used with lamb or poultry to add a little tart and fruity flavor but it should be sued in small quantity as it produces a heavy flavor.
Plum, Nectarine, and Peach
All of these woods are perfect for smoking chicken, pork, etc. and are slightly mild and sweet in flavor in comparison to a hickory wood.
This wood is similar to mesquite wood but it is not as strong and tends to burn really hot which is why it should be used sparingly and for
This wood has a very mild flavor which is why it should be used in conjunction with other strongly flavored woods. However, avoid using this wood with a green wood.
Learn More about these wood types with Franklin
If you want to have an efficient and perfect flavored smoke for your meat then you need to consider all the above points before deciding anything. There are numerous wood types available and choosing the right one can be a pain if you don’t have the right information.
However, with the help of this guide, you can now select the perfect wood for your needs and can enjoy a delicious BBQ meal anytime you want.