There’s nothing that compares to the flavor of smoked meat. Whether it’s beef, pork, chicken or fish, smoking adds a unique and downright delicious flavor that’s simply not achieved through other cooking methods. However, it’s important to choose the right wood when smoking meat, as this will affect its flavor and overall quality.
One of the best all-around woods for smoking meats is hickory. It creates a medium-to-heavy sweet flavor with a hint of bacon. Hickory wood is great for smoking pork, ham and beef, although it’s perfectly fine to use it for other meats as well, assuming you want a sweet flavor. Hickory is inexpensive and easy to find, making it the “go to” choice for many backyard chefs. Of course, there are other woods to consider when smoking meats, so don’t limit yourself to only using hickory.
Hickory might be the most popular wood for smoking meat, but oak is a close second. A good rule of thumb is to use heavy woods like oak and hickory for heavy meats like beef and pork, while lighter woods should be used for smoking lighter meats like chicken and fish. Oak offers a similar flavor as its hickory counterpart, adding a touch of sweetness to your meat.
We can’t talk about woods to smoke meat without mentioning maple. Classified as a lighter wood, it offers a milder and more subtle flavor than its heavy wood counterpart.
Walnut creates a strong, heavy smoking flavor. For this reason, many people prefer using it when mixed with lighter woods like maple. Walnut is great for any type of red meat, but you should follow the rule “less is more,” using a small amount of walnut when smoking meat.
Regardless of which wood you choose when smoking meat, make sure it’s dry. If it contains too much moisture, it will burn slowly and produce more soot, which can negatively impact the flavor of your meat. The bottom line is that you should allow your wood to dry out before using it to smoke meat. If the wood is store-bought, it’s probably already dry. But if you harvested it by hand, there’s a good chance that it contains a high moisture content, in which case you’ll have to dry it.
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