How to Pick the Best Smoking Wood

Flavored wood chips are a great way to infuse flavor into your food.

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Wood Types
1. Apple – Mild and fruity, apple wood complements pork well. However, it can overwhelm poultry if smoked for too long.
2. Cedar – This wood’s strong flavor is best for smoking fatty fish like salmon rather than poultry.
3. Cherry – Sweet and fruity, the flavor of this wood blends best when smoked with hardwood-flavors, like oak. It also adds a nice color to poultry.
4. Maple – Mild and subtle, the sweetness of this wood is perfect for smoking pork and poultry. Sugar-maple is exceptionally good for turkey.
5. Mesquite – This strong, smoky wood should be reserved for open-air grilling of poultry rather than contained smoking because of its concentrated flavor.
6. Oak – A great wood for smoking beef but tends to overwhelm poultry.
7. Pimento – A difficult wood to source but has great flavor for smoking authentic jerk chicken.
8. Hickory – A classic wood excellent for pork—especially bacon—but can be too heavy for chicken.
9. Pecan – Similar to hickory, pecan wood has a nutty smell that mixes well with fruit-wood when used for smoking poultry.
Wood Configuration
1. Wood chips have a short burn life, which is why they should be a last resort.
2. Three to four-inch wood chunks burn longer than wood chips and mix well with charcoal.
3. Small splits are long, thin wood pieces that burn evenly and yield consistent smoke.
Should I Soak My Wood?
1. 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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