Cooking with real wood smoke from smoking wood or a firewood fire is the
ultimate in outdoor cooking. The flavors and aromas several varieties of
savory aromatic woods can greatly enhance your raw ingredients. As I've
mentioned elsewhere and you probably already know, the most widely available
and familiar wood types for smoking are mesquite and hickory. However, wood
types don't end there! Just about any wood you can cook with can also be
used as chips or chunks as a source of aromatic smoke. The total list is
vast, but below you will find a list of many of the most common, and best,
woods which you can find and use to smoke your food, either on a charcoal
grill, smoker or even in a smoking box on your gas grill. You will see that
many of these types are the same woods which are great for cooking over if
you are cooking over a real wood fire. Several of these types can be found
in grill specialty shops in your local area but others are also available

There are several ways to get real wood smoke flavor into your food. The
most common ways are listed below but also see my Smoking Box
for instructions on how to use smoking woods:

   - Fire Pit Cooking Over Real Hardwood Fire - Cooking over good hardwood
   embers or an open fire is probably the ultimate way to get real, rich wood
   smoke flavors into your food. However, this takes a longer time to build the
   fire to a point you can cook over and can require fire pit accessories we
   don't all have.

    - Cooking on a Charcoal Grill - Good hardwood lump charcoal does impart
   a nice wood smoke flavor to food, but to really get intense smoke flavors
   smoking wood chips or chunks can be added to the charcoal to develop a
   thick, rich and aromatic wood smoke. You can add the wood directly to the
   hot charcoal or place it in a smoker box.

    - Cooking on a Gas Grill - Gas grills don't supply any wood smoke.
   However, with a smoking
box<>you can
add chips of smoking wood which will give off real wood smoke as
   they heat up in your grill.

    - Cooking in a Smoker - A smoker is basically a charcoal grill which is
   optimized for slow cooking over low heat with smoking woods. You can get the
   same results with a good charcoal grill if you cook over indirect
add aromatic smoking wood chips or chunks to the charcoal.

    - Adding Liquid Smoke Flavoring to Your Food - Many brands make liquid
   smoke flavor additives which can be added to marinades or sauces. While
   these are created by real wood flavors, purists will argue that they can
   never compare to real wood smoking. However, for indoor
may be the only way you can get smoke flavors into your food unless
   are lucky enough to have an indoor wood-burning oven.

   Some Excellent Types of Smoke Woods
      - *Alder* - Delicate flavor with only a hint of sweetness. Good with
      lighter flavored foods like fish, pork, poultry and some game birds.

       - *Almond* - Sweeter smoke flavor which is great with most meats.

       - *Apple* - Mild, mellow, and subtle with a slightly sweet flavor.
      This is great with poultry and pork.

       - *Cherry* - Mild and fruity. Also great with poultry, pork and even

       - *Grapevines* - Very dense smoke but it is rich and fruity flavored.
      Excellent accompaniment to rustic poultry, red meats, game and lamb.

       - *Hickory* - This, along with mesquite, is one of the most common
      and popular smoking woods. Sweet but quite strong and almost has a
      bacon-like smoke flavor. Good with full-flavored pork, ham and beef

       - *Maple* - Slightly sweet and mellow. Accents pork, poultry, and
      most game birds very nicely.

       - *Mesquite* - Another of the most commonly used smoking woods.
      Strong earthy aroma which if too intense can be mellowed by
combining with
      other more mellow woods like apple or cherry. Can compliment beef, fish,
      chicken and game nicely.

       - *Mulberry* - Slightly sweet and not dissimilar to apple.

       - *Oak* - Very heavy smoke flavor. Good with red meat and pork
      (particularly on ribs!) as well as fish and heavy game.

       - *Pear* - Subtle, mellow and sweet flavor similar to apple. Very
      good with poultry and pork.

       - *Pecan* - Somewhat like hickory but with a bit sweeter and milder
      flavor. Excellent with poultry, beef, and pork.


W. Justin Sealy
Area Forestry Teacher
Georgia Department of Education