There’s no doubt that wood-smoking your meat can turn a basic meal into an amazing meal. However, the wrong smoking wood can make some meats taste odd, so it’s important to pick flavor profiles that go well with whichever meat you’ve chosen to cook. To aid you in your decision, here’s how to pick the best smoking wood for each type of meat.
Beef often tastes like what the cattle was fed. For example, a grass-fed cow will have a deep, earthy, subtly grass-like flavor. Because of this, you’ll want to pick out smoking wood that isn’t overly sweet or citrusy but that instead deepens the earthy flavor of the meat. Here are a few choices:
- Hickory: Gives a smoky, spicy flavor
- Sassafras: Gives a medium sweet flavor (don’t use a lot of this one)
- Pecan: Gives a medium nutty flavor
- Oak: Gives a medium earthy flavor
Pork is a versatile meat that matches just about every type of smoking wood you can think of. The only kind of smoking wood that isn’t ideal for pork is mesquite. You certainly can still use it, but you’ll want to use it only on large portions of pork, as it can easily overwhelm the pork’s sweet flavor.
The phrase “it tastes like chicken” comes from the fact that poultry generally doesn’t taste like much. Because grape, sassafras, hickory, and mesquite woods are so strong, they aren’t ideal wood types for chicken, mainly because you won’t find a chicken big enough to absorb all that flavor. Instead, you can try:
- Apple, peach, and mulberry: All of these offer a mild, sweet, fruity flavor.
- Oak: Has a medium earthy flavor (you may need to use larger chunks of this wood)
Lamb generally tastes very gamey. Because of this, you’ll want to season it well to get rid of most of that musk-like flavor. You can use almost any type of smoking wood for this purpose, but mesquite, mulberry, and alder are much too sweet, and they can enhance that musky flavor. Therefore, these woods are generally advised against unless you’re cooking an entire lamb.
Now that you know how to pick the best smoking wood for each type of meat, nothing is stopping you from cooking up a delicious meal that any meat-lover will enjoy. So grab your next cut of prime rib roast for sale at Vincent’s Meat Market—although anything will do now that you’re an expert!