When it comes to smoking meat, great results start with the type of wood you choose for your smoker. The hot temperatures and quick burning attributes produce a momentous burst of smoke that gives meat a distinct flavor unparalleled to meat cooked any other way.
There are several different wood chip options available on the market, all of which deliver unique and individual flavors that can be used alone, or combined to create new tastes. If you are preparing to smoke pork, beef, poultry, nuts, cheese, or fish, you might want to review which wood chip options will give you the type of flavor you are aiming for. Continue reading to learn which options you have to choose from, and how they differ in flavor profiles, composition, burning points, and more.
Hickory – Hickory wood chips are popular because they deliver strong, sweet, bacon-like flavors that are capable of pleasing any palate. Although many claim that hickory wood is too pungent, the aromas produce a strong flavor that is suitable for all cuts of meat.
Maple – In contrast to hickory, maple wood chips deliver a more subtle flavor that can be described as mildly sweet. It is a great “go-to” option for any type of poultry, including chicken, quail, turkey, and small birds. It is also a good choice for grilling cheese and vegetables.
Mesquite – If you are looking for a strong, unpretentious, earthy flavor, mesquite is the classic option to choose. It has one of the hottest burning points among all other wood chips, and works well with any type of red or dark meats, including beef, bison, lamb, and more.
Oak – As a classic wood chip option, using oak can is a full-proof choice because it can be used for any type of meat. It gives off a medium smoky flavor that is slightly lighter than hickory or mesquite. It is commonly blended with other woods, such as cherry, hickory, or apple, but works great by itself too.
Apple – If you are looking for a fruity flavor that isn’t too strong, apple is the way to go. It delivers subtle sweet apple flavors, and works well with most meats, especially ham. It is a suitable choice for some seafood as well.
Pear – If you smoking poultry and small birds and would like a unique flavor, choose pear wood. You can expect a light, sweet, and fruity flavor.
Cherry – Cherry wood is one of the most popular choices for smoking meats because it can be used for everything. It gives a mild, sweet fruity flavor, and works well with poultry, beef, pork, small game, and more.
Peach – Peach wood delivers a very similar result as pear and other fruit wood chips. It’s a great option for small birds, poultry, and pork.
Mulberry – Mulberry wood chips are a terrific match for pork, poultry, and fish. Because it is very similar to apple wood, it is commonly skipped over as an option. But it is an interesting flavor that is great for white meat and fresh water fish.
Grape Vine – Grape vine wood chips are great for those who want a strong fruit flavor in their product. Even when used sparingly, they will provide a robust, tart fruity flavor that works well with poultry, lamb, pork, and small game birds.
Olive – Olive wood produces results that are very similar to mesquite wood chips. It is slighter lighter in flavor, and works best with chicken.
Nut and Flower Varieties:
Pecan – Pecan is actually another classic. As a fruit nut variety wood chip, you can expect stout fruity flavors in any of your smoked meats. Compared to hickory and mesquite, its flavors are milder.
Walnut – Walnut wood is great for red meats and wilderness game. It delivers a strong and slightly bitter flavor, so it is often combined with other varieties to soften the flavor.
Alder – Alder is a very delicate wood variety that produces soft, mild sweetness in smoked meat. Although most commonly used for salmon, it is also a great option for other kinds of fish, as well as poultry and pork.