Smoke Wood1

Smoke Wood? What kind is Best? Well it depends… The art and sci­ence of smok­ing meat on a grill cen­ters around the smoke. In par­tic­u­lar what to use to pro­duce the smoke that imparts that won­der­ful fla­vor to meats, fish, and cheese. Not all wood is suit­able for smok­ing and not all types of wood are suit­able for all types of meat. There are even ways to pro­duce fla­vor­ful smoke with­out using wood at all.

There are many types of wood that can be used to smoke meat. Every­thing from Alder to Wal­nut. Cher­ry to Mul­ber­ry. Lilac to Lemon. But which is the best wood? Dif­fer­ent regions swear by dif­fer­ent woods. Some say mesquite is the only way to go. Some say hick­o­ry. Some say that fruit woods should nev­er be used. The Grillin Fools actu­al­ly prefer the fruit woods.

The point is there are a mil­lion dif­fer­ent opin­ions on the sub­ject. You need to find out which is yours. The good news is the only way to find out is to spend a lot of time grillin, chill­in and thrillin while try­ing dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions.

First a lit­tle about smoke woods. The Grillin’ Fools rec­om­mend wood chunks over wood chips for a cou­ple of rea­sons (but not in all sit­u­a­tions as you will see below).

  • Wood chunks will last much longer than wood chips no mat­ter how long the chips have been soaked ahead of time.
  • Chunks do not need to be soaked. In fact we don’t rec­om­mend­ing soak­ing chunks at all. Soak­ing chunks will delay the wood from pro­duc­ing any smoke at all as can be seen here at our rib cook off in Michi­gan one sum­mer. Dad used soaked chunks in his grill. Tom and I used non soaked chunks in ours and the two com­mu­ni­ty grills. Guess which one of the­se grills that had smoke wood added at the exact same time had the soaked chunks:
Smoke Wood 2
Which one has soaked wood?
  • Chips require soak­ing or they burn up QUICK. One tip — Use hot water. It opens the pores/fibers of the wood more and allows more water to be absorbed thus mak­ing the chips last longer once exposed to heat.
  • Wood chips gen­er­al­ly need to be added to the fire many more times than chunks and with each time the grill is opened it releas­es all its heat which will extend grilling times.
  • The only time that wood chips are not soaked is when smok­ing on a gas grill. Wait, what?!? Yes, you can smoke on a gas grill. Click here to see the step by step, fool­proof instruc­tions.

Bark or no bark. Anoth­er great debate. Some swear that bark puts off a dif­fer­ent smoke than the wood and does not give the meat a good fla­vor. I’ve smoked with bark and with­out. I have nev­er noticed any dif­fer­ence. I have read that more bark can lead to a bet­ter smoke ring.

Cherry Wood
Woof!

Before we get to the list, let’s start with the basics. Most peo­ple are using smoke woods on a char­coal grill. Don’t spend the mon­ey for those aro­mat­ic wood chunks (or chips) if you plan on pol­lut­ing that won­der­ful smoke with char­coal bri­quettes. Start off with qual­i­ty lump char­coal:

Rockwood-1

And the best lump char­coal we have found is Rock­wood Char­coal made entire­ly from local hard­woods. It’s avail­able at BBQ spe­cial­ty shops, inde­pen­dent gro­cery stores and butcher shops in and around St. Louis:, but they are expand­ing soon to dif­fer­ent cities around the coun­try. Check their web­site to find out where you can get this fine char­coal. Now to the best list of smoke wood on the web.


Aca­cia
The­se trees are in the same fam­i­ly as mesquite. When burned in a smok­er, aca­cia wood has a fla­vor sim­i­lar to mesquite but not quite as heavy. Aca­cia burns very hot and should be used spar­ing­ly.
Good with most meats, espe­cial­ly beef and most veg­eta­bles.


Alder
A sweet, musky smoke that is the tra­di­tion­al wood of the North­west and pairs par­tic­u­lar­ly well with salmon
Good with fish, pork, poul­try, and light-meat game birds.


Almond
A nut­ty and sweet smoke fla­vor. Very sim­i­lar to pecan
Good with all meats.


Apple
Prob­a­bly the most used fruit smoke wood. The fla­vor is milder and sweet­er than hick­o­ry. Orna­men­tal apple trees like crab apple can be used as well.
Good with all meats.

Apple Wood
Apple Wood

The best apple wood I’ve found, or any vari­ety they sell, is from Bob’s Smok­in’ Hard­wood. Every chunk is clean and pristine and has the ide­al mois­ture lev­el for opti­mum smoke. It real­ly is like no oth­er smoke wood I’ve seen. All I ask is that you buy a box of Bob’s wood and you will under­stand. They have the absolute best smoke wood on the mar­ket.

Dou­ble Apple Ribs — Ribs brined in apple cider and smoked with apple wood


Apri­cot
Great sub­sti­tute for apple as it is also milder and sweet­er than hick­o­ry.
Good with all meats.


Ash
Fast burn­er, light but dis­tinc­tive smoke fla­vor.
Good with fish and red meats.


Bay
Medi­um flo­ral smoke with hints of spice & cin­na­mon.
Good with most meats and veg­gies.


Beech
A mild much used wood like oak.
Good with meat and seafood.


Birch
Medi­um hard wood with a smoke fla­vor sim­i­lar to maple.
Good with pork and poul­try.


Black­ber­ry
Much like the woods pro­vid­ed from fruit trees, the small diam­e­ter, thorny branch­es of the black­ber­ry bush provide a slight­ly sweet and del­i­cate fla­vor.
Good for grilling poul­try and oth­er meats, such as small game birds like grouse, pheas­ant, par­tridge, and quail.


But­ter­nut
Strong smoke, like wal­nut, bit­ter when too much is used alone.
Good on red meats like beef, pork, venison and oth­er game meats. Can eas­i­ly over­pow­er poul­try.


Cher­ry
The sec­ond most used fruit wood. Slight­ly sweet fruity smoke that’s great with just about every­thing. It can black­en the skin of poul­try mak­ing it look unap­pe­tiz­ing, but will still taste great.  It’s an excel­lent can­di­date to mix with a lighter wood like apple or apri­cot to reduce the black­en­ing.  What black­ens the skin of chick­en makes a great smoke ring. Orna­men­tal cher­ry wood like dou­ble blos­som cher­ry can be used as a sub­sti­tute.
Good with all meats.

Cherry Wood - 1
Cher­ry Wood

That cher­ry wood is the pret­ti­est and cleanest wood in this post because it came from Bob’s Smok­in’ Hard­wood

Asian Glazed Pork Bel­ly smoked with Cher­ry Wood


Chest­nut
Slight­ly sweet, nut­ty smoke fla­vor.
Good with most meats.


Corn­cob
Although not con­sid­ered to be a true wood, the heart of the cob that holds the ker­nels is the fuel sec­tion of this alter­na­tive for wood. It is ground into small gran­u­lar bits that can be added to a smok­ing box or it can be com­bined with oth­er woods such as woods from fruit trees, to impart sev­er­al fla­vors. The corn­cob pro­vides a sweet fla­vor that may over­pow­er the food if too much is used to sea­son the food as it cooks. Begin by try­ing small amounts until the desired fla­vor is achieved.
It is often used as a smok­ing chip when grilling foods such as poul­try, fish and small game birds.


Cot­ton­wood
It is a soft­er wood than alder and very sub­tle in fla­vor. Use it for fuel but use some chunks of oth­er woods (hick­o­ry, oak, pecan) for more fla­vor as it is extreme­ly mild. Don’t use green cot­ton­wood for smok­ing.
Good for all smok­ing, espe­cial­ly pork and ribs.


Crabap­ple
Is essen­tial­ly inter­change­able with apple.
Good with poul­try, red meats, game and lamb.


Fig
Mild & fruity like mul­ber­ry.
Good with all meats.


Grape­fruit
Pro­duces a nice mild smoky fla­vor.
Excel­lent with beef, pork, fish and poul­try.


Grapevi­nes or grape wood
Tart, aro­mat­ic, but can be a heavy fla­vor so don’t over­do it.
Use spar­ing­ly on poul­try or lamb but oth­er­wise if used in mod­er­a­tion is good with red meats, pork and game.
Here’s a French cut pork loin smoked with grapevi­nes.


Guava
Flow­ery fruity taste.
Good for all meats,


Hick­o­ry
The most com­mon hard­wood used, even more so than apple and cher­ry. Sweet to strong, heavy bacon fla­vor.
Good for all smok­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly pork and ribs.

hickory wood
Hick­o­ry Wood

I use hick­o­ry when I reverse sear pork steaks as they are sauced at the end and thus I need a stronger smoke fla­vor to stand up to the pow­er­ful fla­vors in the sauce as opposed to my usu­al­ly pre­ferred lighter fruit woods like pear, peach and apple.


Kiawe
Kiawe (pro­nounced key-ah-vey) is a wood that  is only found in Hawaii. Very hard to come by. The wood is dense with a dark thin bark. It is sim­i­lar to mesquite with a sweet strong fla­vor
Good for beef, fish and poul­try


Lemon
Medi­um smoke fla­vor with a hint of fruiti­ness.
Excel­lent with beef, pork and poul­try.


Lilac
Very sub­tle with a hint of flo­ral.
Excel­lent for smok­ing cheese. Good with, pork and poul­try.


Maple
Mild­ly smoky, some­what sweet fla­vor. Maple adds a sweet, sub­tle fla­vor that enhances the fla­vor of poul­try and game birds, and out­stand­ing for plank­ing for those that don’t like cedar plank salmon.
Mates well with poul­try, ham, cheese, small game birds, and veg­eta­bles. Won­der­ful for smoked turkey!

Maple Planked Salmon


Mesquite
Strong earthy fla­vor. One of the most pop­u­lar woods in the coun­try, mesquite is a scrub­by tree that grows wild in the South­west. Sweet­er and more del­i­cate than hick­o­ry, it’s a per­fect com­ple­ment to rich­ly fla­vored meats such as steak, duck or lamb. Burns hot and fast and it prob­a­bly the strongest fla­vored wood.
Good with most meats, espe­cial­ly beef and most veg­eta­bles, but be care­ful as it can over­pow­er.


Mul­ber­ry
A mild smoke with a sweet, tangy, black­ber­ry-like fla­vor. Sim­i­lar to apple
Good with Beef, poul­try, game birds, pork (par­tic­u­lar­ly ham).


Nec­tarine
The fla­vor is milder and sweet­er than hick­o­ry.
Great on most white or pink meats, includ­ing chick­en, turkey, pork and fish.


Oak
Most ver­sa­tile of the hard­woods blend­ing well with most meats. A mild smoke with no after­taste. Oak gives food a beau­ti­ful smoked col­or. Red oak is believed to the best of the oak vari­eties.
Good with red meat, pork, fish and big game.

red oak wood
Red Oak Wood

Oak is great for the­se Fall Off the Bone Ribs


Olive
The smoke favor is sim­i­lar to mesquite, but dis­tinct­ly lighter.
Deli­cious with poul­try.


Orange
A tangy, cit­rus smoke. Medi­um smoke fla­vor with a hint of fruiti­ness. Orange gives food a gold­en col­or. Pro­duces a nice mild smoky fla­vor.
Excel­lent with beef, pork and poul­try.


Peach
Slight­ly sweet, woodsy fla­vor, milder and sweet­er than hick­o­ry.  Peach is a bit red­der than apple and pro­duces a bet­ter smoke ring and is a lit­tle more fla­vor­ful.
Great on most white or pink meats, includ­ing chick­en, turkey, pork and fish.

Peach Wood
Peach Wood

To see peach wood in action click here for Peach Smoked Jerk Ribs and here for Peachy Sweet Spare Ribs.


Pear
A nice sub­tle smoke fla­vor much like apple. Slight­ly sweet, woodsy fla­vor.  The smell is absolute­ly amaz­ing. And just like orna­men­tal apple and cher­ry, orna­men­tal pear tree wood can be used like Brad­ford and Cleve­land pears.
Good on Poul­try, game birds and pork.

Jerk Bacon Wrapped Ribs smoked with pear wood.


Pecan
Sweet and mild with a fla­vor sim­i­lar to hick­o­ry but not as strong. Tasty with a sub­tle char­ac­ter. An all-around supe­ri­or smok­ing wood. Try smok­ing with the nut shells as well. This is our pre­ferred wood for Brisket. See it here.
Good for most things includ­ing poul­try, beef, pork and cheese. Pecan is the best for that beau­ti­ful gold­en-brown turkey and we absolute­ly love it on brisket.

Pecan Wood
Pecan Wood

Click here to see pecan smoked brisket.


Pep­per­corn Tree

Has a very under­stand­ably spicy aro­ma. It also has high con­cen­tra­tion of nat­u­ral oils which means it can burn real­ly hot. For the­se two rea­sons, use it in mod­er­a­tion.
Use to smoke meats with bold fla­vors.


Per­sim­mon
A strong, sweet, and dry smoke that is pop­u­lar in restau­rants as it is said the dry­ness of the smoke increas­es drink orders of patrons.
Excel­lent with beef and pork.


Pimen­to
Also referred to as All­spice, Jamaican Pep­per, Myrtle Pep­per, or Newspice. This wood adds a nat­u­ral and some­what pep­pery fla­vor that may also include fla­vors of sev­er­al spices com­bined, such as cin­na­mon, cloves and nut­meg, sim­i­lar to the fla­vors pro­vid­ed when all­spice is used as a sea­son­ing to enhance the fla­vor of var­i­ous foods.
It is a com­mon wood used in grilling Jamaican foods such as jerk chick­en. Often used for grilling poul­try and fish.


Plum
The fla­vor is milder and sweet­er than hick­o­ry.
Good with most meats, great on most white or pink meats, includ­ing chick­en, turkey, pork and fish.


Sas­safras
A mild, musky, sweet smoke with a root beer after­taste. Some say this is not a good can­di­date for smok­ing. Oth­ers love it.
Espe­cial­ly good on beef, pork and poul­try.

sassafras
Sas­safras Wood

Sea­weed
The sea­weed is washed to remove the salt and air or sun dried before use. It pro­vides a some­what spicy and nat­u­ral fla­vor to the foods being smoked or grilled.
Com­mon­ly used for smok­ing shell­fish such as clams, crab, lob­ster, mus­sels, and shrimp.


Wal­nut
While pecan is hickory’s milder cous­in, wal­nut is the strong one. Often mixed with lighter woods like almond, pear or apple. Intense and can become bit­ter if overused.
Good on red meats like Beef, Pork, Venison and oth­er game meats. Can eas­i­ly over­pow­er poul­try.


Ital­ian Herbs
Not smoke wood, but great to smoke with. A strong smoke fla­vor that is com­plete­ly unique! Do not sprin­kle the herbs from a jar, use whole sprigs.  You can use fresh oregano, rose­mary, thyme or any com­bi­na­tion of them with oak wood to give zesty and robust fla­vors.  Soak whole sprigs in water to extend the smoke of the herbs.
Espe­cial­ly good for lamb, pork and poul­try. Good for piz­za too, when you cook it on the grill.


Ori­en­tal Herbs
A strong smoke fla­vor with oak that’s tru­ly amaz­ing! A blend of sesame seeds and gin­ger root with oak wood or mesquite gives a nice ori­en­tal BBQ fla­vor.
Espe­cial­ly good for beef, pork and poul­try.


Onion and Gar­lic
Soak gar­lic chunks and/or gar­lic cloves in water for 60 min­utes. Plop the onion and/or gar­lic right over the coals. Add more when smoke stops. Does not pro­duce a lot of smoke like typ­i­cal woods, but it doesn’t need to in order to add an incred­i­ble fla­vor to any meat.  Be care­ful the first time you do this.  Our first time we want­ed more smoke and used so much onion and gar­lic that it over­pow­ered the meat.  Very lit­tle smoke is need­ed to impart a pow­er­ful fla­vor. We call it the White Castle or Krys­tal effect, depend­ing on your part of the coun­try.
Great with all meats, seafood and game.

Onion and Gar­lic Smoked Ribs


Oth­er Woods:
Avo­cado, Car­rot­wood, Madrone, Man­zan­i­ta, Hack­ber­ry, and wil­low. The orna­men­tal vari­eties of fruit trees such as Brad­ford and Cleve­land pear, dou­ble blos­som cher­ry, crabap­ple, etc., are also suit­able for smok­ing, and very much akin to their non orna­men­tal fla­vors of apple, cher­ry or pear woods.


Wood that should not be used for smok­ing:

Aspen Locust
Cedar Osage Orange
Cypress Pine
Elder­ber­ry Red­wood (conifer)
Elm Spruce
Euca­lyp­tus Sweet Gum
Fir Sycamore
Hem­lock Tama­rack
Liq­uid Amber

Cook­ing salmon on a cedar plank is not the same as using chunks of cedar to smoke meat as the plank doesn’t inun­date the fish with smoke for hours at a time. Some peo­ple like to add pine or oth­er conifers in small amounts to their fire along with some of the reg­u­lar smok­ing woods. In oth­er words, some of the­se can be used, but in very small amounts.

Some more tips on what woods to avoid:

  • Nev­er use lum­ber scraps, either new or used. First, you can­not know for sure what kind of wood it is. Sec­ond, the wood may have been chem­i­cal­ly treat­ed. Third, you have no idea where the wood may have been or how it was used.
  • Nev­er use any wood that has been paint­ed or stained. Do not use wood scraps from a fur­ni­ture man­u­fac­tur­er as this wood is often chem­i­cal­ly treat­ed.
  • Nev­er use wood from old pal­lets. A pal­let may have been used to car­ry chem­i­cals or poi­son which could’ve spilled on the wood and soaked in. And there is no way of know­ing what kind of wood it is.
  • Avoid old wood that is cov­ered with any mold or fun­gus or is now uber porous and light like bal­sa wood due to rot­ting.

So, what kind of smoke wood is the best? Well, like I said, it depends…

If you have any ques­tions about the smoke woods and such please feel free to com­ment below or shoot me an email.

Full dis­clo­sure, Bob’s Smok­in’ Hard­wood is a client of the Grillin’ Fools so they are pay­ing me to tell you about their wood. If their wood was ter­ri­ble or even medioc­re, you wouldn’t read about them here. But they sent me some sam­ples, and the wood is fan­tas­tic. They wait till it gets to the per­fect mois­ture lev­el for the best smoke before they ship it out. And they don’t ship it until every chunk has been cleaned. No more messy bags of wood leav­ing saw dust and splin­ters every­where. This smoke wood is the best I’ve ever used and that’s why you are read­ing about them here.

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas, the Orig­i­nal Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to col­lege with a suit­case and a grill where he over­cooked, under­cooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thou­sands of fail­ures, and quite a few suc­cess­es, near­ly two decades lat­er he start­ed a web­site to show step by step, pic­ture by pic­ture, fool­proof instruc­tions on how to make great things out of doors so that oth­ers don’t have to repeat the mis­takes he’s made on the grill.
Scott Thomas

@GrillinFool

https://t.co/lVWgniik3V#Grill­Porn abounds here. All meat, all the time!
Pulled pork skills on point! . Video cour­tesy of @bbq_bboy : Pulling Pork Like A Boss 🐷 . You ready to take your I…… https://t.co/3QuPwwo0ZD — 7 hours ago
Scott Thomas

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114 comments

i’m going to print this as a ref­er­ence! i love smok­ing meats…my sig­na­ture dish is a mesquite smoked salmon…so i’m going to add this to my tool box. have you ever tried soak­ing chips in any­thing oth­er than water…like wine?!

Reply

I can’t say that I have ever soaked in any­thing oth­er than water. Have you tried this? What effect does wine have on the smoke fla­vor? Are there bet­ter wines, white or red, sweet or dry? How long should they be soaked for?

Reply

I occa­sion­a­ly soak my chips in draft cider (apple beer), Im not sure if it affects the fla­vor dra­mat­icly, but it sure smells great as the steam is ris­ing from the grill!

Reply

Soaked apple wood in whiskey, soy, with herbs. Smoked pork.

The herbs clung to the wood as I tossed the wood onto the coal.

The pork was out of this world.

Have no idea whether it altered the fla­vor — but it’s fun to exper­i­ment. :^)

Reply

Love the site…

A question…do you keep adding wood to keep smoke going through­out your full cook­ing time? Or, is there an opti­mal time for smoke, then just go low and slow for the remain­der of the cook­ing time?

Thanks!

Reply

Smok­in’ in NJ,

I ascribe to the rule that meat doesn’t real­ly take on any more smoke fla­vor after an hour and a half to two hours. May­be some­thing like a pork butt/shoulder for pulled pork can take on more smoke fla­vor but for some­thing like ribs, adding smoke wood after a cou­ple of hours is a waste of smoke wood. But, yes, you do need to add smoke wood as what you have burns out. But after a cou­ple of hours save the expen­sive smoke wood and main­tain your desired temps with­out it…

.……Scott

Yes try soak­ing your chips in beer in the hot sun for a while. The steam smells like fresh baked pret­zels and makes the meat taste great I also use beer when the fire gets a lit­tle too hot while low and slow­ing.

Is it ok if the wood is fresh (mean­ing cut alive direct­ly off of the tree), or must it be dead or aged wood?

Reply

Jmoney,

I have used wood cut that morn­ing and it is fine. Myron Mixon uses fresh peach and I think he knows what he’s doing around a BBQ pit…

.……Scott

Just curios if its okay to use two types if wood for abrisket? I am about to use a lit­tle bit of oak and pecan

Reply

Richard,

Absolute­ly. Both Oak and Pecan are great indi­vid­u­al­ly for beef and togeth­er should be out­stand­ing! Hap­py Grillin!

.……Scott

I have a hedge of choke berries or Aro­nia berries can I use the branch­es after dry­ing them to smoke. Have you heard of them being used in this man­ner?

Reply

Todd,

I’ve read con­flict­ing reports. Some say it can be used to smoke but only in small amounts. But the major­i­ty of what I’ve read is that it can be used and is sim­i­lar to cher­ry wood. One draw­back I found is that it can dark­en meat to the point that it looks real­ly bad but does not impact the fla­vor, just the appear­ance. If it were me, I’d toss it on with some hick­o­ry and do a com­bo for the first run and then go with it solo. Good luck and let me know how it comes out. If you like it, I’ll add it to the post…

.……Scott

I smoke over 200lbs a sea­son of Salmon every friend I know has me busy, I float an egg with Kosher salt and Apple juice (thats the brine) and some times I use some cider, I mix my wood chunks 50–50 Maple and Apple. you will have neigh­bors stop­ping in to see what is smok­ing I have been doing this for over 30 years. nev­er use water,try it this way you will like this a whole lot bet­ter. Nev­er block the smoke from escap­ing give it a try, soak it 6 to 12 hours.

Reply

I have an off­set smok­er and wal­nut wood. I want to smoke pork with the wood. It has not been split. My ques­tion is, how big should I cut the wood?

Reply

Jim­my,

I cut mine into base­ball size chunks. Wal­nut can be over­pow­er­ing. Might want to cut it with some nice mild apple or pear…

.……Scott

Look­ing to get into smok­ing, I have been using apple to smoke hot pep­pers before mak­ing them into a pow­der.

When doing meats am I using indi­rect heat the entire time and smok­ing the meat the entire time? Doing chick­en breasts would be one thing, but indi­rect heat on a whole chick­en would take all day.

I like to use cot­ton­wood as a base and then add the apple. I was told nev­er to use green wood. How long should the wood be dead before I can use it? I just had a live mul­ber­ry blow down and would like to give it a try.

Thank you.

Reply

Jeff,

I smoke whole chick­ens in under 2 hours at about 300. Some­times I do indi­rect the entire time, some­times I smoke first and then sear at the end. In the case of chick­en, it helps to tight­en up the skin and crisp it up. 

As far as green wood, you can absolute­ly use green wood. Myron Mixon, the win­ningest man in com­pe­ti­tion BBQ, uses the fresh­est, green­est peach wood he can. I used pear wood cut that morn­ing to smoke pork ten­der­loins that I served to a food crit­ic. I asked him if he could tell the smoke was acrid or bit­ter. He could not and he has the best pal­let of any­one I know. And yes, you can smoke with mul­ber­ry. I have a bag right now, but have not got­ten around to using it…

.……Scott

Hey there guys, I work at a tree farm and we have a abun­dance of orna­men­tal pears. Look­ing for a way to use them rather than just cut them down. They are too big for our hydraulic spades to dig.

How do you Bar-B-Que –ers take your wood? Logs, big chunks, etc????

Are there any of you out there that would like a semi load full of pear wood? Let me know.

Valar­ie
Wil­low Green Gar­dens and Tree Farms.
Rogersville, Mis­souri

Reply

Valerie,

I would love a bunch of pear. It’s my favorite smoke wood. I will send you an email and see exact­ly what this entails…

.……Scott

I would like a load of wood pls I pay for ship­ping

Tim,

We don’t sell wood. We just tell you the best wood to use. If you want wood chips, talk to the guys at Out​door​Gourmet​.com. They are start­ing to sell wood chips and have great prices.…

.……Scott

Hey guys,
It is nigh on impos­si­ble to pur­chase smok­ing chips/chunks over here in Ire­land at the moment.….what do you reck­on I could use instead?
Is it pos­si­ble to just cut some myself from apple, gorse etc and let them dry out and if so how long do u think the dry­ing out process would take?
Would I even have to dry them or just use fresh?

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Irish Simon,

I have no idea what gorse is, but you could absolute­ly cut dome branch­es off apple and smoke with it. You could also use oak, maple, alder, cher­ry and plum (all native to Ire­land). As for let­ting it dry? You don’t have to. Some swear you have to let it age for 6 months, but I’ve smoked with wood I cut down that morn­ing. Good luck!

…….Scott

If an oak tree dies before it is cut will it still be good to smoke with.

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Shawn,

Make sure it is good, dense wood, oth­er­wise I don’t see a prob­lem. If the wood is light because it began rot­ting while still stand­ing, and feels like bal­sa wood, then pass on it…

…….Scott

Osage Orange — from the mul­ber­ry fam­i­ly, also known as hedge apple — makes a great smok­ing wood, a light, del­i­cate, almost fem­i­nine smoke. Not a lot of colour impart­ed, works well with apple, oak and maple woods. Burns very hot and is very dense, has the most BTUs of any North Amer­i­can hard­woods.

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Thanks for that info, James. I need to find myself some Osage Orange. Since I don’t live far from Osage coun­try, that shouldn’t be hard, but I’ve nev­er heard of it. I real­ly appre­ci­ate this bit of infor­ma­tion.

Ter­ri­fic arti­cle, Scott! Man — some seri­ous knowl­edge drop­page going on here. I get asked this ques­tion often, and now I have a “GO TO” resource to share with peo­ple who so inquire! Appre­ci­ate all the hard work and effort that went into this post, man!

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Thanks. I wrote that 5 years ago, but it has evolved since then. I add woods and oth­er inter­est­ing things to smoke with from time to time. Next up will be Juniper Berries and All­spice Berrie.

Awe­some resource man! Def book­mark­ing this. Have you tried all the­se woods?

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What about sweet gum wood? Some say yes oth­ers say absolute­ly no.

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From what I’ve read, it’s a no go. But some peo­ple swear by it. Let’s just say I have one on my prop­er­ty and I’ve nev­er even thought about exper­i­ment­ing with it. Stick with the good stuff and let the sweet gum go…

I recent­ly cut down some pecan trees. Are the small­er pieces of wood, like limbs and branch­es, ok to use? Or is it strict­ly the big stuff? Thanks. Great arti­cle by the way

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Cook­in,

You can def­i­nite­ly use the small­er chunks. Heck, you can use the pecan shells too. It goes real­ly well with beef and brisket in par­tic­u­lar.

I am smok­ing 2 10/11lb beef inside round. I was going to mar­i­nate and freeze the meat and then two weeks lat­er smoke for cook­out. Any sug­ges­tions on wood I should smoke with. I was lean­ing towards mesquite but being this is my first time smok­ing I’m a lit­tle ner­vous as to over pow­er­ing with fla­vor. Also should I use a rub also? I thank you for your time and help.

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is aspen wood good for smok­ing salmon?
tanks, Ron.

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Ron,

I’ve done some dig­ging and have seen peo­ple actu­al­ly use Aspen to smoke salmon. I’ve nev­er tried it so I can’t say either way, but I’ve found a few peo­ple online that have used it and rec­om­mend it. I have nev­er tried it so I’m inter­est­ed in how it comes out. Keep me post­ed…

.……Scott

This is, very sim­ply the best smok­ing wood ref­er­ence I have found on the inter­net. I will be putting it to good use on a reg­u­lar basis.

I Thank you, as do my fam­i­ly and din­ner guests.

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Kris­tian,

Thanks. I appre­ci­ate it…

.……Scott

.…excel­lent work, sir. About Sas­safras, I know it is used around north­east Arkansas and Mis­souri as a prized smoke along with all the Hick­o­ries and Oaks. I have nev­er expe­ri­enced the “root beer” or typ­i­cal sas­safras taste which is only found in the root…in con­trast the tree wood has a unique and beau­ti­ful fla­vor not found any­where else…that is my expe­ri­ence. I would love to hear from oth­ers that know of this wood. Again, thanks for an out­stand­ing work.

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Stan,

Yeah, I need to use the root some­time and get that root beer fla­vor. Any idea of where I can get some?

.……Scott

I know you say not to use scraps of wood but I always won­dered how they did it in the old days? You can’t tell me they went to the local spe­cial­ty store to pick up some apple or hick­o­ry wood. I’m from a farm and always won­dered how it would taste if you just used dead trees you had lay­ing around. It would pro­duce that camp­fire aro­ma that can’t taste bad right?

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Steven,

There are two types of scrap wood. Scrap lum­ber that may or may not have been treat­ed. Some lum­ber has fire retar­dants put on them or anti ter­mite chem­i­cals, nei­ther of which are any­thing you want to infuse into food. The oth­er type is sticks or logs that you can’t iden­ti­fy what trees they came from. You don’t want to find out the hard way that the chunk of wood you are going to use to smoke that prime rib is pine…

.……Scott

Hel­lo first off this is a won­der­ful site for smoke info keep up the good work. My ques­tion is which woods go good togeth­er and what in opin­ion don’t work at all?

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Joseph,

I like using fruit woods to cut over pow­er­ing woods. Hick­o­ry, Pecan and Mesquite can be over­pow­er­ing. Hick­o­ry and apple or hick­o­ry and cher­ry make a great com­bo. As for woods not work­ing? I’m not sure I’ve found any oth­er than over­do­ing the smoke and that can hap­pen with any wood com­bo. What is your favorite com­bi­na­tion of smoke woods?

.……Scott

Im won­der­ing if Osage Orange (hedge apple) would be good for smok­ing and what the fla­vor is like?

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Shaun,

I’ve heard very good things and very bad things. The bad things range from mak­ing the mouth go numb up to parts of the tree being poi­so­nous. The good things range from great smoke fla­vor to it cur­ing can­cer. I’ve also heard the fruit is great for keep­ing mice and crick­ets at bay. I have no idea what to tell you oth­er than, if it were me? I would avoid osage orange (hedge apple). Pro­ceed with cau­tion my friend. If you do smoke with it, let me know how it comes out but I am in no way rec­om­mend­ing that you actu­al­ly smoke with it…

.……Scott

We call em Bodark trees in OK. I spelled it wrong. It’s a French word. Some call em hedges, or Horse Apple trees
Cause of its 5 lb Soft­ball sized green fruits that kids throw at each oth­er.
I’ve seen peo­ple bake the fruit to both eat and deter pests. Incred­i­bly unique tree and by far the meanest, tough­est tree in the US. I dread cut­ting them down. Dulls chain­saws, bends bars, shat­ters trac­tor win­dows, and I’ve had a branch tear a 6″ hole right through heavy expand­ed met­al n my doz­er, with no harm to the branch. Not to men­tion 4″ thorns that go thru a boot or tire like but­ter.
I per­son­al­ly wouldn’t smoke with it cause try­in to split the wood with an axe plum wears me out at my age. Real­ly hard heavy knot­ty wood,
The wood is bright yel­low, not yel­low tint­ed, but bright yel­low when fresh. Has brown rings and is Beau­ti­ful for wood­work­ing, the yel­low fades a bit over time. Can be sand­ed so smooth that it looks and shi­nes like it has clear coat is on it.
As some­one said above has the most btu’s of any wood. Many peo­ple use bodark over propane or lng tanks to heat their homes,
But Its tough get burn­ing. Pret­ty much have to add it to a rolling fire, which then makes it a ridicu­lous­ly hot fire.
So while Bodark has many uses, I don’t think smok­ing meat is one if them.

I know you have elm list­ed as a wood not to use for smok­ing, does that go for the Amer­i­can Elm (hard­wood) also? I have a big tree just had trimmed and saved the wood.

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Lin­da,

Elm is not real­ly good for smok­ing. First, it’s not sup­posed to be trans­port­ed to help save oth­er elms from Dutch Elm dis­ease. Also, it is incred­i­bly dense and holds water for years and thus it doesn’t smoke at low­er temps that oth­er woods com­bust. I can’t con­firm this, but some claim that the smoke is tox­ic. If it were me, I would pass…

.……Scott

I dis­agree with your com­ments on what woods not to use, espe­cial­ly cedar.If used in small amounts and mixed with oth­er woods such as pecan, it can add a tru­ly unique fla­vor boost to wild game, salmon/trout, and pork. Also, woods such as spruce can be used if used in mod­er­a­tion. If they couldn’t be used, Alaska native’s would have had a hard time pre­serv­ing meats and fish when no oth­er wood was or is avail­able.

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Let me first say this is a great site and huge insight to the low and slow way of savour­ing foods. I have seen a few com­ments about using osage orange, hedge apple wood. I am in south­ern mid­dle Ten­nessee. In this region they are called bodock or bodark. I have nev­er even enter­tained the thought of using for smp­king or grilling with it. This is the hottest burn­ing wood there is in North Amer­i­ca. I is very dense avy and has a btu out­put near to burn­ing coal. I have seen wood heaters glow red with the intense heat from this wood. I would be afraid the extreme heat wood be too hot for smok­ing. Just my hum­ble opin­ion. I per­son­al­ly use oak, hick­o­ry, cher­ry or pear. I cut all my own as our fam­i­ly farm has many wood­lots. I am going to exper­i­ment with some beech for pork and chick­en.

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Dave,

Yeah, I don’t rec­om­mend Osage Orange either. Too many oth­er options to mess with this one…

.……Scott

Bois ‘d arc would prob­a­bly be one of the worst pos­si­ble woods for smok­ing. Just cut a limb and observe the sticky milky juice that comes out of it. You can’t even wash it off your hands. On the oth­er hand, it’s at the top of the list for mak­ing bows and lots of oth­er wood projects.

What about Tama­rack and/or Hem­lock? I live on prop­er­ty that only has pine, doug fir, spruce, hem­lock and Tama­rack around. Try­ing to fig­ure out my options.

Thanks!

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Drakeo,

Hem­lock I believe is poi­so­nous. Not sure about Tama­rack. Let me research that one…

.……Scott

Drakeo,

OK, Tama­rack is a conifer and thus has resin. It has less than a pine, but it is still not good for smok­ing. You might be able to plank with it for short smokes, but for a mul­ti hour smoke, I would pass on the Tama­rack…

.……Scott

Dear Sir,
I am Viet­name­se, my name Tung, hp +84934561013, live in Hanoi. I am inter­est­ed how to smoke (fish, meat…) by wood chip and want to make that in Viet­nam.
Please, tell me the email add of Scott Thomas for con­sult.
Thank so much,

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Tung,

All you need to do is search this web­site to find your answers. Although I don’t smoke a lot of fish. I plank it a lot though. I place it on wood­en planks that have been soaked in water for an hour and then smoke the fish on the plank until done.…

.……Scott

Has any­one ever used Sun­burst Hon­ey Locust tree for smok­ing meat?

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Mari­beth,

I have not heard good things about Locust. Burns too hot and does not put off a good fla­vor. That being said, I hear it’s great for fire­wood with the high heat at which it burns…

.……Scott

This site is a great resource, my con­tri­bu­tion needs to be what I know, smoke and cook meat with wood fires for best results, start with lump and drop oak on that orange glow till you know what you like,adding hick­o­ry to oak has nev­er let me down, there are many rubs out there Hap­py Hol­la is the best com­mer­cial fall­back I have found,
escap­ing char­coal and lighter flu­ids will quick­ly up your results and allow you to focus on your next goals.

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This is a real­ly good ref­er­ence, thank you very much loco!!

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I have just an upright propane smok­er as a gift and did up a chick­en and pork roast tonight…I turned out pet­ty ok .….I soaked the chips as the instruc­tions on the bag said too.…I am aware that the cook­ing times are short­er with a propane over char­coal too… should I be using chunks instead and should I be soak­ing them…any sug­ges­tions you have would be wonderful.…we raise our own chick­ens ducks turkeys and geese and I can not wait to use my machine more.…thanks in advance for all your help :)

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Nicole,

I prefer chunks over chips as the liq­uid just turns to steam before the chips start to smoke and they have to replaced often. A cou­ple chunks and you don’t have to open the smok­er at all. Don’t soak chunks…

.……Scott

I moved from Kc to puer­to rico, the best woods around here are almond ( most abun­dant) , quenepa wood and acero­la ( native cher­ry) wood. Quenepa and acero­la wood are hard­er to find unless you know a few tree trim­mers.

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I’ve nev­er heard of those. Thanks for the tip…

.……Scott

Great web­site!
What woods are good for smok­ing cheese? I’ve done hick­o­ry w/Gouda, but want to branch out to Ched­dar and Edam to start.

Thanks!
Jay

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Jay,

I would start with the lighter fruit woods like apple, pear, apri­cot and work your way up to cher­ry, pecan, maple. Exper­i­ment. See what you like. Oh, and report back what your fave is…

.……Scott

I wouldn’t exact­ly say “nev­er” use wood pal­lets. I’ve sal­vaged tons of pal­lets and have yet to see one that is chem­i­cal­ly treat­ed. Pal­lets are always stamped with the method that was used. HT means heat treat­ed, which is safe. Every pal­let I’ve ever seen had this stamp. I’ve nev­er actu­al­ly run across a chem­i­cal­ly treat­ed pal­let. An MB stamp (methyl bro­mide) would be one you’d want to avoid but the major­i­ty of pal­lets you’ll see are heat treat­ed. The only pal­lets I can real­ly iden­ti­fy what type of wood they are is oak.

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we had a ice storm last week and got some Brad­ford pear wood was just won­der­ing if you can smoke with it or is it a good wood to use

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William,

Absolute­ly. I have smoked with Brad­ford many times. It’s fan­tas­tic. Very sim­i­lar to apple…

.……Scott

Great resource! After some exper­i­men­ta­tion this sum­mer I find that I real­ly liked smok­ing with chunks of a milder wood (like apple) mixed with soaked chips (usu­al­ly in apple juice or some­times white wine) of a stronger wood like hick­o­ry or mesquite. It makes it eas­ier to bal­ance the amount of smoke fla­vor you want on your meat. It also was a pret­ty fun way to exper­i­ment with dif­fer­ent wood com­bi­na­tions too.

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Start­ed smok­ing hot pep­per in the last few years. I have been buy­ing hick­o­ry chips at the store, but last year real­ly went through a lot. I want to start mak­ing my own but don’t have hick­o­ry in my area. I have my choice of maple, cher­ry, beach, oak or apple. What is best for smok­ing pep­pers in you opin­ion or are any of the­se not a good choice?

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Mike,

I would think that oak and apple would be great, but both are more sub­tle than hick­o­ry so there might not be as much of a smoke fla­vor with them. Cher­ry has a lit­tle bet­ter kick and maple might be a good alter­na­tive. Not sure on the beech. You might also want to give pecan a try if you can find it. Peach too. Also, what about get­ting hick­o­ry in chunks? You get WAY more bang for your buck with chunks. No soak­ing and one chunk lasts a lot longer than the equiv­a­lent weight in chips.…

.……Scott

I’m cook­ing my first brisket on Sat­ur­day and I’m look­ing to try some­thing new.… It may be a sin to the pit mas­ters but I’m using an elec­tric smok­er (so much eas­ier to main­tain the heat). That being said I was think­ing of mix­ing peach and Pecan with a lit­tle orange. Kind of odd I know but how do you think it will turn out?

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Kev­in,

I think it will be fan­tas­tic. One thing, the elec­tric smok­er will not pro­duce a smoke ring no mat­ter what you do. The smoke fla­vor will be there, but no smoke ring. Not a bad trade off, in my opin­ion, to not have to go get propane tanks. I have an elec­tric smok­er too. I think that wood com­bo will be out­stand­ing. Let me know how it comes out…

.……Scott

recent­ly acquired a wild cher­ry tree the city cut down. Now have more cher­ry wood than most. Also live in pecan coun­try and often mix the two togeth­er.
Also smoked a dozen pheas­ant over peach wood. Awe­some. I have both an Okla­homa Joes off­set smok­er and a brinkman elec­tric. Oth­er than the smoke ring, not much dif­fer­ent.
A friend of mine asked if I could smoke baloney. Smoked a chub over oak and he loved it. Did to!!

Thanks for the site. awe­some info.

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Skip,

I don’t smoke the whole chub any­more. I chunk it up and smoke it in chunks. Each chunk is about 2–3 bits. More rub to meat ratio that way. It also cooks faster and makes a phe­nom­e­nal appe­tiz­er…

.……Scott

I’m going to smoke goose sum­mer sausage and not sure which wood to choose?

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Jay, Julian, I would go with any of the milder fruit woods. Apple, Pear, Apri­cot, Peach…

.…..Scott

I’m going to smoke goose sum­mer sausage and I’m not sure which wood to use?

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I real­ly want to get into smok­ing so I recent­ly pur­chased a grill with an off­set smok­er. Is it ok to smoke chick­en and steaks with hick­o­ry? A lot of peo­ple say Apple or cher­ry wood for chick­en but I’m not a big fan of sweet meats. What is the best wood for a t-bone or new york strip?

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Don­ta,

Just because the wood is apple or cher­ry doesn’t mean the wood is sweet in the same way a cher­ry or apple is sweet. As for me, I prefer oak and pecan for beef…

.……Scott

Scott, I trimmed a pep­per corn tree for my neigh­bor in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia. It smells very pep­pery. Can this be used for smok­ing? If so, what type of meat would be best? Thanks

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Neal,

I did some research and added Pep­per­corn to my list. It is some­thing you can smoke with. Here’s what I wrote:

Has a very under­stand­ably spicy aro­ma. It also has high con­cen­tra­tion of nat­u­ral oils which means it can burn real­ly hot. For the­se two rea­sons, use it in mod­er­a­tion.
Use to smoke meats with bold fla­vors.

is all oak wood good? because i was told all nut bear­ing oak trees are good​.help, i get peach and almond all day. scott reply please

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Kei­th,

Yes, all oak is good. I love red oak for ribs…

.……Scott

does it mat­ter what type of red oak or white oak ? because there is a lot of oak out there and its clas­si­fied as white or red.

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Kei­th,

Both will do the job. Red will give a lit­tle bet­ter smoke ring. You can use either…

.……Scott

I just pur­chased a Smok­in It e!ectric smok­er, as I live in an apart­ment. Liv­ing in the Great Lakes region of the coun­try. I have access to sumac. Have you any knowl­edge or expe­ri­ence in the effects of using such a wood as this? I thought that it would would be and inter­est­ing wood to try. Thank you in advance for any help you may provide. Your arti­cle on wood vari­eties was extreme­ly help­ful.

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Tibbs,

I found that there are two types of sumac. One with white berries and one with redish/pink berries. The white berry sumac is poi­so­nous. The oth­er is not. That being said, I can’t find any­one that has ever smoked with sumac. In the­o­ry the redish pink kind should be safe, but I can’t rec­om­mend it as I have no idea if it is or not…

.……Scott

Thank you Scott! The sumac here is Staghorn sumac of the red berry specie. I know a tea can be brewed with the flow­er­ing pol­len head, and was told it’s effec­tive in sooth­ing headaches. I think I will try the wood in some smok­ing and will let you know the out­come.

Tibbs,

Def­i­nite­ly. Let me know how it comes out…

.……Scott

sir good day, aca­cia would be fresh or dry?

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Han­ni­bal,

You can go either way…

.……Scott

I have sun­burst locus have you smoked with this?

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Dave,

Locust burns real­ly hot and is great for a wood burn­ing stove, but not so good for the grill. If you do smoke with it, cut it with some light fruit wood like apple or pear…

.……Scott

I live in North­ern Ari­zona where green sage and oth­er desert plants are abun­dant. Any sug­ges­tions on what is read­i­ly avail­able that I could use to smoke trout here at home?

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Andres,

I’m not real­ly sure. If I were you, I would just go to https://​bbqhard​wood​.com/ and order some alder and have a blast!

.……Scott

Hey Scott I’m try­ing to smoke a turkey for Thanks­giv­ing I’ve got Apple Cher­ry Hick­o­ry and pecan what should I use what can I com­bine

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If one is cut­ting and dry­ing their own wood for use in smok­ing foods, what would be the pre­ferred wood mois­ture con­tent in the fin­ished pro­duct before use? Can a too low mois­ture in wood be an issue dur­ing smok­ing?

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Tibbs,

I don’t know which is bet­ter. I do know the guys at Bob’s Smok­in’ Hard­wood have it down to a sci­ence. They have THE best smoke wood I’ve ever used and they work on the mois­ture con­tent reli­gious­ly…

.……Scott

What wood chips would you sug­gest to use to smoke pesto infused turkey or chick­en?

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Jes­si­ca,

Lighter fruit woods like apple or pear…

.……Scott

Im from Sri Lanka. I got a prob­lem
Can i use rub­ber wood in the fire box for smok­ing?
In Sri Lanka we don’t have any wood that in all the web sights.
Can u rec­om­mend any wood in asia ro Sri Lanka? 

Thank u very much for ur time
Thank u.

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Dushyan­tha,

I would not smoke with rub­ber tree wood. Can you get Lon­gan, Lychee, or Orange wood? Duri­an or Jack­fruit?

If the duri­an smoke smells like the duri­an fruit, that should be inter­est­ing!

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I have some Cot­i­nus cog­gy­gria “Roy­al Pur­ple” wood and trees in my gar­den, is this wood any good for smok­ing

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I wouldn’t use it to smoke.

Hi Scott! Excel­lent infor­ma­tion. I live in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia (wine country)(Sonoma County)I have been buy­ing French Oak wine bar­rels that have had red wine stored in them for years. Once the win­ery bot­tles the wine they sell the used bar­rel. The­se cut up wine bar­rels are excel­lent for all types of smok­ing. The oak infused with red wine is out of this world. Just want­ed to share with every­one! Thank you!

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Kev­in,

As a wine fan and a smok­ing fan, I did know this hap­pened, but for some rea­son, I’ve nev­er smoked with wine bar­rels. I need to change that right away!

Wal­nut is tox­ic or so I was told !!

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