So you’ve bought an all-new smoker and learned how to use it. You’ve probably enjoyed a few batches of smoked meat and loved how it tasted and, perhaps, enjoyed the novelty of the flavor it imparted to the meat as well.
If the above statements stand true for you, you will be excited to know that it is possible to impart a huge range of flavors to your meat by varying the wood you use to smoke it. However, before you turn on your smoker, read through this article to know what are the best types of wood for smoking your meat, and which types are best for different types of meat, since different types of meat behave differently with different flavors.
Oak is a very popular wood for smoking wood, and you might have encountered it a lot in your culinary voyages since it imparts a heavy smoky flavor to the meat which is liked by a wide range of people.
It is most often used with pork, fish, sausages, brisket and red meat.
Hickory, again, is very similar to oak in the sense that it imparts the same strong, smoky flavor which a lot of people tend to like. However, it has a slightly stronger flavor than oak and has a wider flavor range as well- both sweet and savory. Due to this, it is a great wood to use with almost every type of meat-most commonly ribs and pork.
However, excess smoking with this wood will impart a slightly bitter flavor which can be overpowering.
It is a wood which is not as common as oak and hickory but has an amazing flavor profile. It has an exceptionally intense, unique and strong flavor which can be a bit overwhelming for most people. Hence, it is recommended that small quantities be used. It has perhaps the strongest flavor of most woods that are used for smoking. This is why, whenever you use it, do so in very small quantities and for a very short time.
It is best used with red meat and sometimes vegetables.
This is another wood which is preferred by a vast majority of people and for good reason. It has all the great qualities of hickory without the negative aspects. It is much subtler and lighter without the bitterness associated with hickory. It has a nutty flavor as well which sometimes gets enhanced when used with other types of wood like Oak.
It can be used with almost any sort of meat due to its light smoky flavor.
Apple, much like its fruit, is mellow, sweet, fruity and mild. Due to the extremely mild nature of the flavor, it might take a long time for the flavor to get absorbed by the meat, which is why it is not often used with red meat. It gives the best results with fish like salmon, trout etc. and chicken.
This a wood that is similar to Mesquite with a much lighter flavor profile. It is sweet, mild and nutty without being overpowering. It can be used for smoking most types of meat and vegetables and is quite good with beef.
True to the flavor of its fruit, the wood of this tree also gives a flavor that is slightly sweet and nutty. It goes well with almost every type of meat and has the added advantage of softening it slightly due to various compounds present in it. It is best used in conjunction with varied spices and wood since the flavor profile is very narrow.
This is a type of meat best used with the softer meats like fish and poultry due to its very mild flavor. It is extremely light and delicate flavor with a slight hint of sweetness reminiscent of scented herbs. A slight hint of this wood can give a refreshing taste to the meat.
Apricot is a fruity wood which is pretty close to hickory in terms of flavor, except that it is a lot milder and sweeter. It also doesn’t impart that hint of bitterness associated with hickory.
It is a very versatile flavor that can be used with almost every type of meat. However, milder meats tend to shine when flavored with this wood!
This is again a fruity flavored wood which is sweet and mild- forming a great combination with almost all types of meat.
No prizes for guessing that this wood imparts a wonderful sweet flavor to the meat while smoking. While the flavor is a bit too mild for red meat and lamb to absorb, it goes really well with salmon, trout, and seafood.
It also gives a great flavor to vegetables.
While fruity, lemon also imparts a zesty, tangy and fresh flavor to meats. It has a medium level of strength and goes well with pork, poultry, and beef, but can ruin the taste of seafood.
While different types of wood play a role in imparting flavor, it is to be remembered that there is something called as too much smoke as well. Remember, you eat the meat, not the smoke. So, keep in mind that you do not overdo the smoking process too much and make sure to keep the inherent flavor of the meat intact.
Another thing to keep in mind is that while you need to use bigger chunks of wood for red meat, the more delicate meats like chicken, fish, and seafood need only a few chips and a short smoking time of a few minutes to absorb the flavor and transform from a decent piece of meat to a rich, flavorful morsel.
Also, contrary to popular belief, dunking the wood in water makes no difference apart from causing the wood to take a bit longer to heat up since the water gets converted to steam before the wood starts smoking at all. Therefore, it is best to use dry wood to get the smoking process completed as soon as possible.
Once you get a hang of the various flavors given by different types of woods, you can start to combine different sorts of wood like you would combine spices.