Pairing wood chips with meat is little like pairing a wine with a meal. The right wood with the right meat makes the meal that much better. Before talking about which wood works best, let’s get some wood chip smoking myths out of the way. Here are a few myths you can ignore:
1) Mesquite – adds a hint of sweetness with a strong earthy smoky flavor to it. It is very popular and often used in restaurants. Sweeter and more delicate than hickory, it's a perfect complement to richly flavored meats such as steak, duck or lamb.
2) Hickory – the classic BBQ flavor and is more pungent and smoky producing a bacon-like flavor. The most common wood used. Good for all smoking, especially ham, pork and ribs.
3) Apple – has a more delicate flavor than either Mesquite or Hickory. Apple works wonderfully with poultry, game birds, seafood and pork. Serve with a chutney made with apples to accentuate the flavor even more. Slightly sweet with a fruity smoke aroma.
4) Grape (Cabernet) – is traditionally used in Italy and France, and offers a more delicate flavor than hardwoods. Grape wood is recommended for use with fish and poultry. Aromatic, similar to other fruit woods.
5) Pecan – is the best for a beautiful golden-brown turkey. Try it with other poultry products, game birds, seafood and even pork for that delicate pecan flavor. Similar to hickory, but not as strong.
6) Cherry – is also a lighter smoke than mesquite and hickory. It has lighter, sweeter smoke and is excellent with poultry, game birds, seafood and pork. Serve with a chutney made with cherries to accentuate the flavor even more.
7) Maple – is lighter than mesquite and hickory but stronger than apple, alder or cherry. The smoke is slightly sweet and is excellent with poultry, game birds and pork.
8) Oak – is a heavier smoke, similar to mesquite and hickory. Oak is excellent with beef, pork and game meat.
9) Alder – another lighter wood. It’s the perfect choice for salmon and turkey.
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