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Smoking wood . . . . Can you really tell which is which?

DavidRDavidR Posts: 178
edited 7:43AM in EggHead Forum
Have any of you experimented with different woods for different meats?
If you have, would you mind sharing your results? [p]For instance, on pork butts, what did you notice from pecan vs. apple, or maple, or cherry, or hickory? Same goes with beef tenderloin, briskets? And then poultry, turkey, chicken? [p]Or, (be honest now) is smoke just smoke? In other words, you really can't tell one from the other when tasting the meat?[p]What exactly are looking for when you use pecan, or apple, or cherry, or maple, or hickory?


  • DavidR,
    Now that entirely depends on two variables..... if the meat had been marinated in a pungent marinade or the amount of smoke chunks, chips or pellets used. I personally notice a drastic difference. For instance, if you were to try using Mesquite on a low and slow cook, the results would be poor, for mesquite will over power the meat when it is used extensively. I have had the best results with maple, hickory and oak for low and slow cooks. For seafood I used alder (I use cherry for lobster, shrimp and crab). For quick steaks, I use black walnut or mesquite, and for almost everything else I use oak, hickory and maple for. I have apple and various other flavors, but they just don't do it for me. It really boils down to personal preference. I find most fruit bearing trees have a sharp, almost sweet taste to them.... usually I only like it for seafood, but ocasionally i'll do a tri tip with cherry or apple.
    Hope I helped.

  • nikkignikkig Posts: 514
    Joel Ferman,
    Hey Joel! Where ya been? Glad to see you posting again.[p]~nikki

  • Tim MTim M Posts: 2,410
    DavidR,[p]Joels taste buds are much better than mine. I can tell mesquite from most anything else because it is strong and will provide a strong pungent taste. I like it on steaks or burgers that cook fast and need a heavy smoke for a short time. Pecan, apple, cherry, alder could fool me on a taste test if done on pork. Hickory is nice on pork but too heavy on foul, in fact I avoid all smoke on foul because it absorbs it so easily. I suggest trying a few to see what you like but they run together somewhat to me.[p]Tim
  • Steve-OSteve-O Posts: 302
    I agree with Joel that different woods make a significant difference in the flavor of the meat. Of the woods that I have used, hickory and mesquite are the strongest, and I tend to use them only for fast cooks on beef and occasionally on ribs. Apple, pecan and cherry are milder and go nicely with pork and poultry. Alder is the mildest of the woods I have used and others here seem to prefer it for fish and sea food. I'm going to try some apple and/or hickory on my next trout just to see how they compare to the alder.

  • DavidRDavidR Posts: 178
    Joel Ferman,[p]I never mentioned Mesquite because I know that you'd never use that on a low & slo. Strickly steaks, and hamburgers.[p]I hear that you're a prime rib man. What would you use for that? I've had people tell me that apple is a great choice, but to be honest, I don't know that I could tell the difference if I used cherry, or pecan, or even hickory for that matter. I guess I'm like Tim M, my taste buds aren't that sensitive.

  • DavidRDavidR Posts: 178
    Tim M,[p]I'm like you on the taste buds thing. I just don't know what keys to look for as far as taste/flavor. For instance, cherry/apple/maple as compared to pecan/walnut.[p]The mesquite, I didn't mention, because I was referring to low & slo.

  • Tim MTim M Posts: 2,410
    DavidR,[p]Some people use mesquite for lo & slo. I think it makes a huge difference in how much you use as well as of what type. One guy, haven't seen his posts here in a LONG time, use to say to put 8-9 chunks in for lo& slo. I don't think it makes much difference what kind of wood it is if you use that much of it - it will be smokey. If you added 1 chunk of mesquite it would be less smokey tasting than 8-9 chunks of alder. I suggest people start with a little or none and work up to the point where it's too much. I can't ever taste any "sweetness" to fruit woods and I don't get that claim. Apple is one of my favorites, along with hickory. Those 2 would be all I have if I had to pick 2. Cherry is a bit stronger than apple and I have never tried maple. Oak and pecan are nice too. [p]Tim
  • Picture%20056.jpg
    <p />nikkig,
    Well as some of you guys know I set up quad raid 0 with my computer and was having some problems. I ended up getting a new mother board (with a differnet RAID controller) new pc3200 DDR ram, Nvidia ti4600 graphics card, and a raidmax psu. I got a clear sided case and was "tricking" it out.... so needless to say I didn't have too much time to post here, but I should be back in full force in the next week or so. Here are a few pics of my computer so ya can see what i've been up to. The pics don't do it justice, but I have a cold cathode ray tube that illuminates all of the wires (they are special round IDE and power cables that are uv sensitive).... as far as computers go, it's pretty bad ass.[p]Picture%20032.jpg[p]Picture%20039.jpg[p]Here is one of the cinnamon buns I made the other day. I was messing around and injected them with frosting as well.... came out pretty well. [p]Picture%20031.jpg[p]Oh yeah.... this is me....

  • SpinSpin Posts: 1,375
    DavidR,[p]Smoking wood is like a spice added to the meal. Each variety of wood has its own flavor and tends to work better with some meals over others. Mixing a couple of varieties together adds something of each. A 50/50 mix of hickory and apple is nice on pork ribs.[p]Below is a link on the BGE webspace to descriptions and uses of various smoking woods.[p]Spin
    [ul][li]Smoking Woods[/ul]
  • DavidR,
    For prime rib I pretty much exclusively use brown sugar coated oak (which I currently need to make more when the rain stops..... I should post a "How to" guide)[p]Something that no one has considered as well.... when the chunks/chips are put on. I personally like to smoke the hell out of most of my stuff, so I don't add the chips/pellets/chunks until RIGHT before I put the food on, and I usually try to put the food on at a much lower temp than I'd use for cooking, then I slowly increase the temp for maximum smoke absorption...... so yeah, when you use that method you can tell the difference between the types of smoke.
    Example.... If I am making a tri tip, I will start the fire, keep the temp at about 175 degrees and let it ride for about 20-30 minutes, then crank it up to 300-350 to cook.

  • DavidR, My ex has such a discerning palate, she can tell whether the bacon I cooked on my kettle was cooked using cherry chunks or cherry wood chips. I sure can't tell the difference but I can taste the difference of these following woods on meats.[p]As for my taste preferences, I have burned cords of hickory and I don't like it one bit on ANY cut of beef. In fact, the only cut of beef I will put any smoke on is brisket. For brisket I like cherry, apple, maple, pecan or oak. I use these woods on pork and chicken too. Usually I will burn just one of the first four woods and mix this with oak, which IMHO is one of the more neutral flavored smoking woods.[p]I will use straight hickory for pork, sausage and poultry, but if I am cooking a quartered hog which takes up to 20 hours or longer, I will mix in oak with the hickory. I also like hickory for smoking cheese and cashews.[p]For seafood and fresh fish, I prefer peach when I can get it, but I have found that alder, plum or pear work pretty good too.[p]You will notice I left out mesquite. I don't like mesquite for smoking at all.[p]Beers to you,[p]JDB

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