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Wood Smoke Flavours

Wood Smoke Products

Wood is the source of the smoked flavour imparted in foods during the smoking process. Wood smoke not only flavours food, but also seals it during the cooking process helping to retain the natural juices. Any aromatic fruitwood or hardwood is suitable for use in a smoker and can be used in pellet, chip, chunk, shaving, dust or mini chip/grain form. Certain speciality woods also contain spikes, flowers, twigs and leaves as well as chips and even within the wood type categories there will be significant variance, for example some dusts are extremely fine whilst others have a larger 'bittier' consistency. You can even use your own wood supplies chopped roughly into chunks but do steer clear of resinous woods such as pine and treated timber.

Your choice of wood type will depend on the smoking technique and smoking equipment you are using. For hot smoking, choose a wood smoking chip or compressed pellet or for those longer low and slow hot smoked projects try wood chunks. These smoulder for longer and produce wonderfully mellow smoke flavour. To prevent wood chips from simply igniting which will produce a bitter smoke flavour we advice soaking the chips in warm water for 20 minutes before adding directly to white hot coals, or place them in a stainless steel smoker box or a homemade foil pouch. 

For cold smoking you generally need a wood dust, though this can vary depending on the smoking kit. For the ProQ Cold Smoke Generators a fine dust works best, for the Smokai you need a chip or a pellet and for Bradley cold smoking you need their branded Bradley Bisquettes, compressed discs of pure wood. Wood dust or our mini chips are the best choice for stainless steel hot smokers such as the Camerons range. Here the stainless steel conducts the heat which sets the wood smouldering, so a smaller wood size is desirable.

For a twist on wood smoke, try our grilling planks, which should be soaked before placing your food directly on top of them and then putting the planks in your smoker, bbq or your kitchen oven indoors. Used in the oven or in other indirect heat environments these planks can be re-used several times.

Selecting Wood Smoke Flavours

Selecting a wood smoke flavour is mostly a matter of personal choice. However, its worth putting some thought into which woods should be teamed with which foods, particularly as there is such a wonderful selection of wood flavours to choose from. Consider the flavour strength of your food and aim to match this with a wood flavour with a complementary flavour strength. The flavour itself might be quite different to the wood it is derived from - so apple for example, does not give you a taste of apples, but it will deliver a slightly sweeter tone than a hardwood such as beech. 

In general the fruitwood flavours - apple, plum, cherry and pear - provide a sweet smokey flavour with varying degrees of subtlety. They are ideal for use with poultry or light meats. Hardwoods tend to have more robust flavours and the most popular, oak, is the most universal flavour which works with a wide range of foods from red meat to fish. Alder is the flavour most associated with smoked salmon and is also ideal for any light meats whilst hickory and mesquite provide a spicy smoked flavour more generally associated with smoked foods.

 

Top Tips

Here are our top tips for wood flavour selection:

* Always use a pure hardwood or fuitwood. Steer clear of resinous softwoods, treated wood or engineered offcuts which may be contaminated with oil.

* Less is usually more. Aim for a harmonious blend of food and wood. 

* Take care not to oversmoke as this will mask the natural flavour of the food itself. 

* Soak wood for hot smoking in warm water to give you a mellow, longer-lasting smoke production

* Use straight from the bag without soaking for a dryer smoke production or for cold smoking

* Mix whole or crushed spices, dried citrus peel, loose tea or fragrant rice with your wood products to add additional flavour dimensions

* Combine different woods to introduce more complex smoke flavours - eg maple and apple for pork

* For a quick hot smoke effect on your barbecue just add a handful of chips to your heat source

 

Wood 'Strengthometer'

Strong                           Strong to Medium                            Medium                              Medium to Light                               Light

Oak                                                 Apple                                                                        Maple                                                     Alder                                                                          Beech

Mesquite                                       Chestnut                                                                   Cherry                                                    Olive                                                                          Lemon

Hickory                                          Heather                                                                     Pecan                                                    Pear                                        

Whisky Oak                                  Gorse                                                                         Almond

Cabernet Oak                              Mulberry                                                                    Juniper

Walnut

 

Tasting Notes

Alder              
Light and delicate smoke flavour, famous in the Pacific Northwest for smoking salmon, but also complements most fish dishes, seafood, pork, poultry and light-meat game birds. Also great with vegetables.

Apple             
Strongest of the fruitwoods, apple is a complex, sweet and fruity yet dense smoke flavour ideal for meats and game and particularly good with poultry and ham. A good all-rounder apple also works well with fish. 

Beech
A mild hardwood with a slight nutty flavour. Ideal for more delicate flavoured foods particularly chicken, white meats, fish and seafood. Also an excellent subtle alternative to oak with smoked salmon.

Black Walnut/Walnut  
Intense smoke, slightly bitter, ideal for red meats, game and particularly venison

Bourbon Soaked Oak
Oak, but soaked in whisky! Available in Camerons Grains and not has a similar effect to Jack Daniels pellets or Whisky Oak chips - so a combination of the very versatile oak flavour with a hint of alcohol

Cedar
An aromatic hardwood which has a dense smokey flavour. Suitable for most foods

Cherry           
A slightly milder flavour than apple, though still sweet and fruity. Will give a rosy tint to light coloured meats during the smoking process. Ideal for poultry, pork and ham.

Chestnut          
A great combination of sweet and intense smoke flavours, much stronger than a fruitwood option but not as strong as other nut hardwoods such as walnut. Ideal for meats and game which will carry the flavour density, and although too strong for light white meats we'd recommend you try it with the Christmas Turkey!

Douglas Fir     
Light, feathery dust with distinctive pine aroma. Use as a mix with other flavours to increase bulk and to add colour to food.

Gorse   
Spikey shrub with edible flowers and a pungent coconut scent. Strong, tangy smoke flavour great with game and fish. Also highly flammable and was originally used to fuel traditional bread ovens.

Hazel   
Smooth bark tree known for its hazel or cobb nuts and astringent qualities. Strongish smoke flavour great for poultry, meats and game.

Heather   
Hardy shrub sourced from Scottish moorland. Has a distinctive aroma ideal for gamebirds or salmon. Growing tips are also used to flavour ale and tea.

Hickory   
Strong flavour commonly used with pork and bacon, but highly versatile giving a robust b ut mellow flavour without bitterness. Try with nuts, mackerel and beef. 

Jack Daniel's  
Made from the mellowing charcoal used as a filter during the distillation of Jack Daniel's whiskey. Strong, sweet flavour with aromatic tang, great for red meats.

Juniper   
An evergreen, coniferous wood with high oil content giving dense smoke and a balsamic fresh scent. Will cut through fattier meats so works well with pork and lamb but also beef and game.

Maple             
A mild, smokey flavour with a slight sweetness which works well with poultry, ham, cheese, small game birds and vegetables.

Mesquite        
Strong, spicy and distinct flavour of cajun cooking ideal for any meat, poulty or fish

Mulberry        
Mild, sweet, tangy, blackberry-like smoker flavour good for pork, ham, poultry & game

Oak                
The most versatile of the wood flavours which will work with most foods, oak provides a heavy smoke flavour which is particularly suitable for red meat, heavy game and pork. It is widely used in commercial smoking and is commonly used with salmon and other fish.  It's also fantastic with sausages and can be blended with a fruitwood flavour for smoking turkey.

Olive   
Dense grain giving a longer burn and smouldering time. Light and aromatic flavour, punchy enough for red meats without overpowering poultry or vegetables. 

Orange           
Mild, tangy citrus smoke, great with fish and seafood

Pear                
Slightly more subtle flavour than apple but with similar taste effects.

Pecan            
Mild, sweet, nutty smoke flavour, great with fish, meat and game

Sugar Maple  
Very light, sweet smoke flavour for pork, ham, poultry and cheese

Sassafras        
Musky, mild smoke with root beer taste superb with beef, pork and game birds

Savoury Herb
Strong, zesty, robust herb flavour ideal for lamb, pork and poultry

Special Blend
Bradley Smokers own mixture of a range of wood smoke flavours, designed to work with any food and cooking assignment.