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Best Woods for Smoking Cured Meats

Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer / Forager / Harvester | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching in the craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through eat cured meat online resource.

(Last Updated On: November 5, 2023)

I’ve used about 15 different kinds of wood to smoke-cured meats.

Often, I’ve found it easier to categorize wood used for smoking into light, medium, and strong flavors.

The best woods for smoking cured meats are often the woods you’ll find locally in abundance and sustainable.

Local, Non-resin-filled, deciduous wood is often the best wood for smoking cured meats. This has been evident for hundreds of years across the Middle and Eastern parts of Europe, with Beech wood used extensively. Other Universal Woods for smoking-cured meats are Oak, Apple, and Olive Wood.

I’ve noticed in Central and Eastern European countries, there is a tendency to have a strong smoke smell for a lot of the dry cured meats.

Also in southern European places like Serbia and Montenegro, strong smoke was used traditionally to help preserve.

And that flavor has continued on for hundreds of thousands of years.

Various Smoking Wood large
Pecan pellets, pohutukawa, grape wood, manuka, oak, (and they say you can use corn husk too like early American settlers!)

My Personal preferences are to have mild smoke flavors, not overpower good-quality ingredients and spices.

For this reason often the maximum I will Cold Smoking is for 12 to 15 hours over two or three sessions.

There are some really strong flavored woods such as Mesquite or Hickory, my preference is to blend these with some of the lighter woods as below, as well.

Pellet Tube Smoking large
Pellet Tube Smokers, are one of the easiest cold smokers.

Best Woods for Smoking Cured Meats

  • Beech Wood (European)
  • Apple
  • Grape Vine
  • Oak
  • Fruit and Nut – Generally

All of these above woods I would consider the light to medium category, which is ideal for nearly every type of smoking you can do with cured meats.

Why Are These Woods the Best for Smoking Cured Meat

It’s more about not being too overpowering and hopefully also being locally sourced, I have also used corn on the cold husks that have been dried.

This was something early settlers did in America when they didn’t have the wood resources. They probably wanted to smoke meat traditionally for the goal of preservation. The goal is always preservation before refrigeration.

Beech Wood (Central European)

I haven’t found many cured products whole muscle or salami across Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and other countries around this area that have used predominantly beech wood.

As many people know out there, having enough airflow through the smoking is also important, and not just bellowing huge amounts of smoke which will lead to flavor of the meat.

Apple

We have used a lot of Apple wood for cured meats making, of course cold smoking.

Luckily, friends with Apple trees are regularly pruning them annually which provides plenty of smoking wood.

I would consider Apple wood having a lighter smokiness and can be used for cured pork or traditional cold smoked bacon.

Also defends itself well for poultry or fish.

Grape Vine

The area of the world in which I’m currently residing has many grape vineyards, I started using grapevine wood and I was surprised how amazing it was.

Often not talked about online in this making community grapevines which I consider grapes to be kind of preaching weed. Can provide a huge amount of smoking wood.

Oak

Oak is definitely a wood that is often talked about in the smoking recipes I’ve seen.

Whether it’s fish, pork or beef Oak can definitely create a good smoke flavor.

Wouldn’t say strong, but it’s definitely medium to strong on the spectrum in my opinion.

Fruit and Nut – Generally

I covered apple, but there are many other fruit tree woods that you could use to smoke your cured meats.

Pecan or Walnut wood can also be used, just check. I believe some types of walnuts are not so suited to smoking.

Please note this is just a useful summary to highlight availability and personal preference, the ‘best’ smoking wood will depend on your preferences.

Smoking Woods for Cured Meats from Different Regions of the World

RegionSmoking Woods
OceaniaManuka, Ironbark, Pohutukawa
AsiaCherry Blossom, Oak
North AmericaHickory, Maple
South AmericaQuebracho, Apple
United KingdomOak, Apple
Northern EuropeJuniper, Birch
Central EuropeBeech, Oak
Eastern EuropeOak, Alder
Southern EuropeOlive, Grapevine
Writer / Enthusiast / Meat Curer / Forager / Harvester | About Tom

For decades, immersed in studying, working, learning, and teaching in the craft of meat curing, now sharing his passion with you through eat cured meat online resource.

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