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Oct 31, 2012 03:47 PM

Fantastic woods for BBQ - Now's the time!!!

While my hearts go out to all of those who have been dealt a tough hand...I have always been the type to go with the flow no-matter-what. In my business as a caterer, you have to learn to go with it and do the best with what you have. In that spirit, now is the time to keep your eyes peeled for good bbq (or firewood) woods. IMHO fruit woods are best used green/wet and everything else is best used dry. Here is a short list of good trees to keep your eyes open for depending on your protein.

Apple: Produces a sweet, fruity taste.Good mild wood which works well on poultry, and coupled with hickory is award winning on your ribs or brisket ( or for that matter cheddar cheese)

Alder: What can I say about this barbecue wood... it is the wood that is greatly preferred for most any fish especially salmon.

Mulberry: Widely available all over the east coast. It burns at a high temp and offers a sophisticated fruity bouquet.

Cherry: Similar to apple... sweet and usually very fruity depending on the age of the wood. Tends to be mild making it a good choice for poultry & fish

Hickory: Probably the most well known woods and while lots of folk may disagree, it tends to be a bit to pungent for my own taste therefore great care must be taken so that it is not overused. Most feel it is excellent on ribs and most red meats. Can also be used very sparingly on cuts of poultry.

Maple: Gives a light and sweet taste which best compliments poultry and veal.

Mesquite: Best not used for larger cuts which require longer smoking times but I have been known to be quite successful at it by using it in tandem with another type of wood. One of my favorites is Mesquite with Wine barrel woods, so so wonderful for your Thanksgiving birds!

Oak: Good choice for larger cuts which require longer smoking times. Produces a strong smoke flavor but usually not overpowering. Good wood for Brisket.

My 5yr old son who was off of school today helped me drive around and score nearly 2 cords of A+ woods, namely a whole Cherry tree (I did not chop it down;), a mulberry tree and three vans full of red and white oak. Awesome!!!

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  1. I agree about the fruit woods - I really enjoy the subtle sweet flavor they impart to the Q - Another favorite of mine is pecan -

    2 Replies
    1. re: weinstein5

      love love love pecans (pɨˈkæn). Pecan and mesquite were the two most readily available woods back home and next door in NM, the land of enchantment. Without pecan trees that I know of anywhere north of the Virginias, I left your favorite out. Another great one that is possible to find up here is sassafras, though the root is even more potent, but it's but a small tree not like the 7 story one my kid is perched on above, waiting to be harvested...good times!

    2. Don't like mesquite. Do like hickory on everything, and probably far more smoke than you like. Plum works out well for everything, as does apricot. It's true, mostly used them green, because it was available when I had nothing else, and free. Oak is good, but I like hickory better, and the price difference is minimal here. Pecan is great for brisket. Apple is a bit neutral, but nice. Never used cherry, and though I've eaten alder-smoked fish, never used it. You can't go wrong with storm-downed smokewood trees. Almost wish I were there, but thankful now that I live in SoCal.

      3 Replies
      1. re: ganeden

        I have been thinking of doing home cured pastrami, what wood would you recommend for that?

        1. re: chazzer

          I've done hickory, pecan, and a combination of hickory and pecan, and I liked the combination one the best. In my opinion, it's more important to get good quality meat, with nice amount of fat, which will make more of a difference than the smoke, but that's just me

          1. re: koshergastronome

            You need great meat to for great bbq, no doubt. But the woods you use can make all the difference in the world as to what your flavor profile will be. For a complete breakdown check out this 5 page breakdown


      2. Picked up this apple tree today. So beautiful, I am going to have to set aside a couple of these logs to make into a Challah board to two. Going to be so so tasty!!!

        4 Replies
        1. re: gotcholent

          Unfortunately, I now have cut 12 cords of wood from trees downed on our property during Hurricane Sandy. We have Maple, Oak, Birch, Apple and Cherry.

          Apple and Cheryy for the smoker, Maple for the grill, Oak for the outdoor Pizza oven. Oak, birch and some maple for 4 indoor fireplaces. Small branches will go through the chipper for mulch

          The last week it feels as if we have been running a boarding house. We did not lose power, although most of our town did. With 19 rooms and 5 bathrooms our kids invited tons of friends and classmates to eat, shower and sleep. My SIL and family, and Bro and SIL moved in. Our washing machines and dryers have been going nonstop.
          Hanochet Orchim to the extreme.

          Many non-Jewish, and non-observant Jewish neighbors and friends asked if they could cook and eat their defrosting and refrigerated food supplies before they spoiled. We couldn't do this in the house or on our grills, so we moved 2 neighbors' refrigerators into out freestanding garage to hold the food, and they brought over their gas grills. We set up an area behind the garage with picnic tables and lots of paper goods and fed about 50 per day for 5 days.

          90 % of our town has power back as of last night. Our kids went back to school today and the house is finally quiet.

          1. re: bagelman01

            Good for you bagelman! It's so nice to see someone who offers their home and food. I hope the damage wasn't too bad in your town

            1. re: bagelman01

              I second that emotion! Be safe Bagelman.....tizsku l'mitzvot!

              1. re: gotcholent

                Yasher koach, Bagel. We finally got power back late last night and are very grateful for our friends, even the non-kosher ones!, who took us in when we needed it.

          2. What about oak used to age wine (somewhere somehow, I got about a pound from Herzog)? Also, what does pecan work best with?