Barbecue smokers can be used all year round to produce delicious flavored foods using the smoking process. Smoking and curing are ancient methods of food preservation used for protein-rich foods, such as meat and fish, which would otherwise rapidly decompose. There are essentially two types of smoking, hot and cold, although it is possible to combine the two. Nowadays, it is really easy to smoke your own food at home, using barbecue smokers.

Whilst our ancestors used smoking and curing as essential elements for their overall survival, in modern times, barbecue smoked food is considered something of a delicacy. This is in no small part due to the flavor that the smoking process imparts. Also, the range of smoked flavors that can be created, depending upon the selection and mixing of the smoking woods, is endless. This probably explains why home barbecue smokers are now fairly commonplace and rising in popularity.

Nonetheless, selecting smoking wood for barbecue smokers can be rather daunting at first and it is not uncommon for many aspiring “wood smokers” to play safe and buy commercially flavored BBQ wood chunks or chips. As flavorsome as these products may first appear, it is unlikely that you will be able to recreate the authentic smoked taste that real wood chunks emit on the barbecue. Smokers are only as good as the raw materials that are used. So, if you are going to take the time and effort to smoke your own food then you should only use authentic woods in barbecue smokers and not some highly flavored substitute.

There are numerous woods that can be used to smoke food produce. Each will add its own distinct flavor, and sometimes color, to the product being smoked. Some of the most popular BBQ smoke woods include hickory, mesquite, oak, pecan, apple, alder and cherry. These are all widely available to purchase online. Fruit tree woods can also be used for barbecue smoking. However, not all hardwoods are suitable for all meats or fish and you need to ensure that you match the wood to the food that you plan to smoke in your barbecue smokers.

Softwoods are never used for smoking primarily due to the resin in the woods. In any event, the smoking flavor that softwoods generate is typically bitter or tarry and rarely appetizing. Also, hardwoods are denser than softwoods which means that they burn longer and at higher temperatures. This makes them more suitable than softwoods for smoking. Woods to avoid include soft pine woods such as cedar, cypress, fir and spruce. Pressure treated woods should NEVER be used in barbecue smokers as they usually contain toxic chemicals such as arsenic. For this reason alone, you should always ensure that you purchase woods for barbecue smokers from a reputable source.

Here are the top 7 BBQ woods that you can use on barbecue smokers this summer.

Hickory Wood

Hickory is the most popular smoking wood in the United States. It can be likened to a heavy bacon flavor and is typically used for smoking ribs, pork, brisket, ham, and beef. It is one of the strongest flavored woods and resembles the sweet smoked taste that most of us would associate with everyday barbecue sauce. You can blend hickory with more subtle flavored woods such as apple wood to avoid overpowering your food.

Mesquite Wood

One of the hottest and smokiest woods you can select for barbecue smokers, Mesquite is a strong, sweet flavored smoking wood. However, it is liable to generate a bitter taste, particularly if the wood is green and has not been suitably aged. When smoking with mesquite wood for the first time it may be advisable to blend with a milder flavored smoke wood. Suitable for most red meats, in particular large cuts of beef, but not lamb.

Oak Wood

White oak is a popular smoking wood that is widely used for commercial smoking. Long burning, white oak is a classic smoking wood that is particularly popular in the United Kingdom. It produces a heavy smoky flavor that is good with red meat, especially beef, brisket, pork, fish and heavy game. You can also use red oak in barbecue smokers, which is sweeter in flavor but a good choice when smoking ribs

Pecan Wood

Burns at a lower temperature in barbecue smokers than other smoking woods and thus is an ideal choice for slow cooking. Subtly sweet, pecan can be blended with mesquite and oak. Suitable for poultry, beef and pork.

Apple Wood

Applewood produces a mild, slightly fruity and sweet flavor. Good for blending with other woods as it emits less smoke. Typically used for smoking pork, ham and poultry. However, as the flavor is so delicate, it can also be used for smoking fish and seafood.

Alder Wood

Best used with fish, it is commonly the red alder which is used for smoking. Alder produces an extremely light, delicate flavour with a hint of sweetness when used in barbecue smokers. Can also be used to give a lightly smoked taste to poultry and pork.

Cherry Wood

Subtle, smooth, fruity, slightly sweet flavor that is good for smoking beef, poultry and pork. If you’re smoking turkey then try blending cherry wood with oak wood. Also suitable for smoking vegetables.

These are just some of the most popular BBQ woods that can be used for barbecue smokers. As you become more experienced, you can begin to experiment with other woods such as almond, ash, walnut and fruit tree wood varieties such as orange, grape pear and plum. Over a period of time, it is undoubtedly possible to create and refine your very own unique blend of woods for barbecue smokers. Or you can relax and enjoy your barbecue at