Advice to New Smoker on Wood to Use

Discussion in 'Woods for Smoking' started by markadams, Apr 12, 2015.

  1. I have smoked 3 different times starting with baby back ribs (hickory and cherry), Salmon and shrimp (pecan) and pork chops (hickory and cherry). I used hardwood lump charcoal and kept wood chunks on the fire from start to finish.  All three meals were good, except the salmon and especially the shrimp had a strong smoke taste (at least that's what my untrained palate tells me).

    I would like to know what wood experienced smokers recommend for pork, seafood, chicken, and beef. 

    And, do you usually keep wood on the fire the entire cooking time?

    Thanks for helping me out.
  2. waterinholebrew

    waterinholebrew Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    This is just my personal preference....

    Pork & Beef.... Hickory, pecan, apple, kiawe*

    Poultry.... Apple, pecan, kiawe*

    Seafood & fish.... Apple, alder

    * note, this is a great smoking wood I was lucky enough to try !
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2015
  3. timberjet

    timberjet Master of the Pit

    x2 for me. Well, I have not tried pecan but it's on my list.
  4. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member

    Sea Food  Alder

    Pork Hickory Pecan Apple

    Beef Hickory 

    Poultry Pecan

    These are what I have used 

    Cheese Apple
  5. I really don't do seafood so I could not advise you there.

    On the others these guys gave good advice but don't be afraid to expirement a bit.

    When I first started I had a lot of people tell me that hickory was too strong of a flavor for chicken but I (and a number of people I have made it for) really like it.

    I think if you go by what the suggestions above are you won't go wrong but try some new things as well and have lots of fun!
  6. delbbq

    delbbq Fire Starter

    I use apple or alder for salmon.
  7. foamheart

    foamheart Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You can use any wood on any meat. Even haevy smokes like mesquite and hickory are good on seafood when you learn to control the amount.

    There is two controling factors with the smoke, both type of wood (be it splits, pellets, chips, etc) and amount used. I have always recommended to all smokers in the begining go lite on the wood. May people do not like a heavy wood taste on their meat where a light application maybe perfect.

    Everyone when starting out smoking believes that you need all the smoke you can apply. Some seasoned veterans will agree with it, but some don't.

    Since you are trying woods, try to stay simple and see what you think. Try a single smoke flavor before jumping off and doing a 50% A, 35% B, 10% C and 4% D. Also try a light hand with the wood.

    Wait until your meat is warm and then apply half what you are currently using and see what you think. Its a learning experience.

    When starting try to use what is local in your area. If you live on the east coast Mesquite is not going to be a normal flavor. If you live in Texas, cherry would be unusual. People will assoc with the normal local woods most favorably at first. Then start trying the pango pango tree roots from lower Solivia.

    I am guessing from my experience that the most common woods to meats are:

    Mesquite or Oak - beef

    Hickory - Pork

    Nuts and fruits - Fowl and seafood

    And I assoc. the above match ups probably because of where I have lived. I have pecan trees on my property so I use mostly pecan for everything. I love it as a nice intermediate wood both in in flavor and color. If its too strong for your palete, use less in the smoke. Learn to manipulate the quantity to allow the the opportunity to use all the wood types on all the meats you will have available.

    Don't hang a sign on ribs that they can't be smoked with mesquite becuase its harsh, or pecan on seafood because its too strong.

    Its part of the fun of smoking, its also a good reason to smoke more often. Remember, "Honey its hot outside and I hate for you to need to heat the house up and get all tired and drained preparing supper. Let me run to the store and see about something special to smoke for you."
  8. grillmonkey

    grillmonkey Smoking Fanatic

    If you got these results with your Char-Griller, I'm going to say that the problem may have been that your smoker was smoldering, and you weren't getting a clean burn. The smoke coming from the stack (which should always be wide open) should be thin blue, not white and billowing, or even worse, brown or black smoke. If you are loading your side-firebox up with a heavy load of charcoal/wood, and have to choke it down to maintain your desired temp you won't get a clean burn, which will make your meat taste like it was smoked on an old ashtray.

    I would suggest that you get your charcoal going first (using only as much as you think you'll need to hit your desired temp and get the meat done), get your smoker to the desired temp and producing nearly invisible smoke, and then add the wood a little at the time once you've put the meat on while observing your smoke. It will probably puff white smoke when you first add it then it should clean up to thin and blue.

    I now use oak exclusively in my side-firebox (no charcoal) and I've never had it come out too smokey once I learned how to control the fire. The pic below is of my stack while smoking with just oak at about 275 degrees. You have to look closely in just the right light to even see it.

    Last edited: Jun 5, 2015

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