Smoke Wood

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 pork, beef, lamb and 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.

Wood Chunks vs Wood Chips

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.
  • All this being said, if wood chips are all you have, they make great BBQ too, so don’t sweat the final product. 

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

Ornamental Fruit Wood vs Traditional Fruit Wood

There really is no difference. Crabapple is nearly the same as apple. Bradford/Cleveland pear is no different than regular pear. That branch off the double blossom cherry in the flower garden smoked just as well as a branch from a cherry orchard. 

The Most Complete List of Smoke Woods on the Internet


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.


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.


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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

Asian Glazed Pork Belly smoked with Cherry Wood


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


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.


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.


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


Mild & fruity like mulberry.
Good with all meats.


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.


Flowery fruity taste.
Good for all meats,


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 (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


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


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


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


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.


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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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. 
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.


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.


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.


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.


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 Wood


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.


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.

Fresh 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

Onion and Garlic Smoked BEEF 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:

CedarOsage Orange
ElderberryRedwood (conifer)
EucalyptusSweet Gum
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.

Also, you can follow us on our GrillinFools Facebook page, Instagram, and YouTube feeds

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

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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?!


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?


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!


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. :^)


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?



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…


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?



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…


When ordering wood to smoke meat, is there an “curing age” of the wood you recommend, say three months or five months age?


I go with whatever it is Bob’s Smokin’ Hardwood does. Their wood is better than anything on the market.

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



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


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?



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…


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.


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?



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


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.



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…


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.

Willow Green Gardens and Tree Farms.
Rogersville, Missouri



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…


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


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


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?


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!


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



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…


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.


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!


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?


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


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



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.


is aspen wood good for smoking salmon?
tanks, 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…


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.



Thanks. I appreciate it…


….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.



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


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?



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…


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?



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?


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



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…


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.



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…


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.


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.



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


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.




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



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…


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,



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….


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



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…


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.


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


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 🙂



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…


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.


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


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.




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…


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.


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



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


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.


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?



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….


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?



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…


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.



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…


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


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


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


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?



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, 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



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, i get peach and almond all day. scott reply please



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


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.



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


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.



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…


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.


Definitely. Let me know how it comes out…


sir good day, acacia would be fresh or dry?



You can go either way…



When you say Acacia, what species or genus are you referring to? I’m from Portugal and we might have different names for the tree… here we have mostly “Acacia melanoxylon”

I’m not sure if that’s the same or not. Sorry.

I have sunburst locus have you smoked with this?



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…


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?



I’m not really sure. If I were you, I would just go to and order some alder and have a blast!


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


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?



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…


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



Lighter fruit woods like apple or pear…


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.



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!


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


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!



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 !!


I use onion and green bell pepper with pecan and white oak when smoking turkey. All around great taste.


Was wondering about Alder
If using chunks
How green a wood could you use?
As it grows wild like weeds around here.

Was wanting to smoke up 4 salmon.



I’m normally a fan of smoking with green wood, but I’m not so sure with alder. I would leave it split, out in the sun for 6 months before I would smoke with it…


Can’t find any info on if Russian Olive is any good to use for smoking, and for what types of meat, if it is.



I’m sorry, but I’ve never heard of Russian Olive…

Also known as oleaster


Can you smoke meat with wood from a Smokebush. I have tons. I had to cut down half of a huge one.



Sorry, but I’ve never heard of that one. I can’t say for or against here…

Scott, this is a fantastic article! Man, this article is dropping knowledge like rain. I am frequently asked this question, and now I have a resource to send to those who ask! Thanks for all your hard work and effort on this post!


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