How to pick the best smoking wood

Flavoured wood chips are a great way to infuse flavour into your food.

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Wood types

  • Apple – Mild and fruity, apple wood complements pork well. However, it can overwhelm poultry if smoked for too long.
  • Cedar – This wood’s strong flavour is best for smoking fatty fish like salmon rather than poultry.
  • Cherry – Sweet and fruity, the flavour of this wood blends best when smoked with hardwood-flavours, like oak. It also adds a nice colour to poultry.
  • Maple – Mild and subtle, the sweetness of this wood is perfect for smoking pork and poultry. Sugar-maple is exceptionally good for turkey.
  • Mesquite – This strong, smoky wood should be reserved for open-air grilling of poultry rather than contained smoking because of its concentrated flavour.
  • Oak – A great wood for smoking beef but tends to overwhelm poultry.
  • Pimento – A difficult wood to source but has great flavour for smoking authentic jerk chicken.
  • Hickory – A classic wood excellent for pork—especially bacon—but can be too heavy for chicken.
  • Pecan – Similar to hickory, pecan wood has a nutty smell that mixes well with fruit-wood when used for smoking poultry.

Wood configuration

  • Wood chips have a short burn life, which is why they should be a last resort.
  • Three to four-inch wood chunks burn longer than wood chips and mix well with charcoal.
  • Small splits are long, thin wood pieces that burn evenly and yield consistent smoke.

Should I soak my wood?

  • Simply put, no. According to North Carolina Prime BBQ Pitmaster, Christopher Prieto, soaking wood actually diminishes smoke production. Still skeptical? Check out these studies for more information.

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