Are you confused by which smoking woods best compliment different types of smoked foods? You are not alone. Mankind has been cooking over burning woods for thousands of years. Through much trial and error it is obvious that certain types of woods best flavor specific foods, better than others. There are many varieties of wood that are used in the process of both hot smoking and cold smoking foods. The combinations of woods to foods are positively endless. Most people equate the process of smoking with meat, poultry and seafood. There are a great many other choices for smoking however. Cheeses, nuts, vegetables and even fruits are also excellent choices. That being said, there is little wonder that this can be a bit baffling. Exactly which wood flavors compliment what food types will be clarified in this article.
I have been smoking many varieties of food for over 40 years. I believe that the flavor introduced into the foods through the smoking process makes the food some of the finest culinary tastes in the world. The key here is that the wood should compliment the flavor of the foods not overpower it. When I began smoking many years ago it was very confusing to me as to which species of wood I should use with which food. Although many people have personal taste preferences, there are certainly general rules to follow. With a vast array of choices, I will do my best to try to simplify this for you.
First and foremost, there are many woods that absolutely should NOT be used for food smoking. Some of these woods are actually toxic to human beings while others just impart a horrible flavor. The general rule of thumb is to avoid the evergreen family. Some of the woods to avoid include, cedar, cypress, elm, pine, fir, redwood, spruce and sycamore. Now that we know what NOT to smoke with, let’s get onto the good and flavorful woods that you should use.
There are many woods that you can smoke with. I am going to elaborate on the top choices, finest tasting, and most popular smoking woods. Fruitwood trees are amongst the most popular with the seasoned food smokers and are well known for their sweet delicate flavors. This list is organized from the mildest smoking woods to the most robust.
1. APPLE – Mild flavor, light sweet taste, and imparts a fruity smoked flavor. Best foods – Beef, Poultry (especially game birds), Pork (in particular hams), Cheddar Cheese and Oysters Foods can be smoked for longer periods of time due to the mildness of this wood. Excellent for cold smoking.
2. CHERRY – Delicate flavor, sweet taste, and also imparts a fruity smoked flavor. Best Foods – Poultry (especially game birds), Pork, Scallops, Eggplant, Bananas, and Cheeses Foods can be smoked for extended periods of time due to the mildness of this wood. Excellent for cold smoking.
3. ALDER – Mild delicate flavor, with an impressive and unique taste. Best Foods: The traditional choice for Salmon. Swordfish, Sturgeon, Halibut, Steelhead, Prawns, Shrimp, Rattlesnake, Chicken and Corn on the Cob. Normal standard smoking times are the rule. Another good choice for cold smoking.