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Grilling And Smoking Woods


A wide range of woods are suitable for grilling and smoking food. Hardwoods are much better to use than softwoods because hardwoods burn longer and provide more heat. Hardwoods also add more flavor to foods because of the aromatic smoke that is produced as the wood burns. Softwoods burn quickly and the flavor that the smoke imparts into food is often undesirable.

Wood can be used as the primary fuel source for a fire intended for cooking or it can be added in small quantities to fires fueled by another material, such as charcoal. In either case, the smoke produced from the burning wood imparts unique flavors into the food.

It is important to remember that several types of wood should not be used for grilling and smoking food. Although, as previously mentioned, softwoods may be unsuitable for grilling and smoking, several other types of wood can be quite hazardous if used. See the information below in regard to woods that are not suitable for grilling and smoking.

Suitable Grilling And Smoking Woods

Popular woods used for grilling, barbecuing and smoking food


Alder is most often used for grilling and smoking salmon. It is also used for other species of fish, poultry, small game birds, and pork, providing a subtle, sweet flavor to the meat.


Applewood provides a sweet, fruity flavor to most meats but is especially good for smoking ham. The wood is dense and very hard in texture.


Generally readily available, this hardwood provides a flavor similar to oak and several other hardwoods. The wood of the beechnut produces a mild, somewhat delicate smoked flavor. Since it is a hardwood, it remains longer for smoking before it turns to ash.


Much like the woods provided from fruit trees, the small diameter trunks of the blackberry bush provides a slightly sweet and delicate flavor for grilling poultry and other meats, such as small game birds like grouse, pheasant, partridge, and quail.


A very common wood used to grill fish, poultry and various meats such as pork and beef. White or red cedar are the species most often available, which provide a distinctive natural and aromatic flavoring for a variety of foods. Salmon and other types of fish are often grilled or smoked using cedar.


Cherry is used for all types of meat and like apple, it provides a subtle, sweet, fruity flavor to foods. Cherry can be used to grill and smoked turkey, chicken, small game birds, and pork.


Although not considered to be a true wood, it is often used as a smoking chip when grilling foods such as poultry, fish and small game birds. The heart of the cob that holds the kernels is the fuel section of this alternative for wood. It is ground into small granular bits that can be added to a smoking box or it can be combined with other woods such as woods from fruit trees, to impart several flavors. The Corncob provides a sweet flavor that may overpower the food if too much is used to season the food as it cooks. Begin by trying small amounts until the desired flavor is achieved.

Grape Vine

Small in size, the chips from matured grape vines provide a flavor that is much like other species of trees bearing fruit. Somewhat sweet and fruity, the grapevine is most often used for poultry, small game birds, pork and sausage.


Hickory is more common in the South but is popular in many regions. It is used just as often if not more often than oak. Hickory provides a strong smoky bacon flavor and can be used for all types of meat, but is especially good for cuts of pork, wild game, chicken, and ribs.


Maple provides a mild, smoky and somewhat sweet flavor to foods. It is best used with pork, poultry, small game birds, and is often considered to be a good wood for grilling vegetables.


Mesquite burns very hot and provides a strong flavor to foods. Because of its more intense heat properties, it may burn too hot for some foods. It is very popular in Texas and the Southwest United States where it is most often used for grilling or smoking cuts of beef; however, it is also a good choice for a variety of other meats and vegetables as well.


When mulberry wood is burned, it produces a sweet-smelling smoke similar to an apple. It is a good choice for imparting flavor into poultry, fish, and pork.

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