Page 1 of 2

Wood condition for smoking

Posted: Wed Feb 29, 2012 21:16
by olek
Hi, I've been trying to find information about the condition of wood for smoking but haven't found a good resource, so I wanted to ask what people here have had success with.

I've been using green maple wood. Is there much of a difference between green and seasoned wood other than green releasing a lot more moisture in the form of water vapor? Really, I'm curious if there's a good reason I shouldn't be using it until I have seasoned wood.

I've heard that leaving the bark on produces a lot of soot so I've been removing it. It's easy with green wood but much harder with older wood. Is the soot really bad? Is it worth the effort to remove the bark?

I'm able to use split logs since it's the least amount of work and my fire source is separate and the smoke cools before it enters the smoking chamber. I've found that I can keep the logs smoldering for a very long time. Are there benefits of switching to wood chips or sawdust?


Posted: Wed Feb 29, 2012 21:46
by ssorllih
Wet wood won't burn! By the time you have a fire the wood is dried enough to burn. If you cut it into short(3 to 6 inch ) lengths it will dry more quickly. I have been using wind fall limbs that have had time to dry but even those check a little when cut. I am quite partial to the smoke from Bradford pear and I also use some maple, hickory and oak.

Posted: Wed Feb 29, 2012 21:58
by unclebuck
I season my red willow, alder, DEBARKED birch, & maple for at least one year in my garden shed before I use it for smoking. Unseasoned wood leaves quite a bitter taste on whatever you are smoking.

Posted: Wed Feb 29, 2012 23:40
by ssorllih
I try to never cut live trees for fire wood. There is always enough wind and storm damage to keep me well supplied. A five gallon bucket of small pieces will make smoke for me for two days.

Posted: Sat Mar 10, 2012 04:22
by ssorllih
A very good place to not buy wood!
I was leaving the supermarket the other day and they had a pile of shrink wrapped firewood beside the front door for about six dollars for an armful for a small child. On top of that display was some neatly wrapped alder for kindling wood for five dollars for a package smaller than a Sears-Roebuck catalog. I could pick up that much kindling just walking across my front yard.

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 15:30
by tjb77494
I have a question for you pros.
Can I use a Red Oak for smoking kielbasa and Hams. I live in the Texas and Pecan, Hickory, Mesquite is popular here but I need a good wood to achieve a golden color related to good Polish Hams, Szynki.
Polish forum has no equivalent of using above and Alder id not easily available here.

Thanks in advance

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 18:34
by ssorllih
Oak is available across the northern hemisphere and as such is used almost everywhere. Hickory is prefered when it can be had and pecan is a first cousin to hickory. Mulberry is also very nice. Living in texas is not difinitive because El Paso is entirely different from Houston as are the trees that grow there.

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 19:43
by ssorllih
I came into a supply of freshly cut mulberry wood last month from where they have been cutting trees under the powerlines. Just for the sake of knowledge I cut a piece about three incheit. 6.76 pounds on March 22 today just one month later the piece weighs 4.96 pounds. That is 73% of the green weight. This means that we don't need a year to season the wood if we cut the pieces short enough.

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 20:16
by Keymaster
tjb77494 wrote:I have a question for you pros.
Can I use a Red Oak for smoking kielbasa and Hams. I live in the Texas and Pecan, Hickory, Mesquite is popular here but I need a good wood to achieve a golden color related to good Polish Hams, Szynki.
Polish forum has no equivalent of using above and Alder id not easily available here.

Thanks in advance
Here is a link that may help you out, they dont specifically say red oak but I would think it would be considered Oak.

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 22:26
by redzed
The native oak in Poland is Quercus robur or known to us as French oak or English oak. And that is the variety that is most used in smoking in Poland. Red oak and white oak are native to Eastern North America. Red oak does now grow in Poland, but some places it's considered an invasive species. Where I live on Vancouver Island we have Garry Oak. One of these days I will give it a try in smoking. If anyone has used Garry Oak, let me know.

I did find a reference to red and white oak use in smoking on the Polish site:

Dąb czerwony - jedno z najszybciej palącego się drewna, wyczuwalny smak miodu, oraz posmak ziemisty z odrobiną goryczki, daje barwę brązową.
Red oak - one of the faster burning woods, with a detectable taste of honey, with a slightly bitter earthy after-taste, gives off a brown colour

Dąb biały - jest nieco łagodniejszy, nadaje potrawom zabarwienie ciemnożółte, polecany do wędzenia wołowiny, ryb i drobiu;
White oak - is somewhat milder, giving food a golden colour, recommended in smoking beef, fish and poultry.

Hope this helps.

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 22:58
by ssorllih
Red oak and white oak are broad definitions used in the lumber industy. There are about twenty species of red oak and about twelve of white oak. White oak is more durable than red oak and is used for making whiskey and wine barrels because it has closed pores. White oak is also slower to dry than red oak.

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 23:30
by redzed
You are right about the plethora of oak species available. The Polish Quercus Robur is in fact a white variety. The lumber industry categorizes the wood by the color of the wood. And while most oak used in smoking will have similar characteristics, there will also be differences in varying proportions. I'm sure most are suitable for smoking but one simply needs to experiment with the wood available locally.

So to answer the question whether the red oak will give the same colour as in Poland, it seems that it probably would not, since the finish will be darker and taste a bit sharper.

Posted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 20:41
by ssorllih
I made some repairs to my smoker fire box today and it is necessary to heat furnace cement to cure it. As a result I built a fire and ran it with the draft door open. After everything was good and hot and the fire had burned to coals, I added some mesquite to check the smell of the smoke and the effectiveness of my repairs. I once posted here that I would not use mimosa wood for smoking meat because the odor of the smoke on the wind was unpleasant. The odor of mesquite is even more so. I remarked as much to Nancy and she said that a wiff had come into the house with me and that the hickory yesterday was pleasing but this was offensive.
There are so many woods that are pleasing and only so much meat that we can smoke.

Posted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 22:39
by Baconologist
Ironwood (Hop Hornbeam) smoke is very pleasant smelling, sweet and aromatic, yet I never hear of it being used for smoking meat.
I'll try it someday.


Posted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 22:57
by ssorllih
I have a fine walking stick that I made from Hornbeam.