Smoking wood" and "meat" spelled out with wood chips and a curved line underneath, suggesting the smoke produced during the wood smoking process and its flavor pairing with meat.

Wood Types for Smoking Cured Meats

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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.

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 intense flavors.

The best woods for smoking-cured meats are often found 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.

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

I’ve noticed that many dry cured meats in Central and Eastern European countries tend to have a strong smoke smell.

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

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

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
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 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.

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

Woods for Smoking Cured Meats

I would consider all of the above woods to be in 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.

Early settlers did this in America when they didn’t have the wood resources. They probably wanted to smoke meat (here is a article on whether or not you need to cure before smoking also) 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, having enough airflow through the smoking is also important, not just blowing huge amounts of smoke, which will lead to the flavor of the meat.

Apple

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

Luckily, friends with apple trees regularly prune them annually, which provides plenty of smoking wood.

Applewood has a lighter smokiness and can be used for cured pork or traditional cold-smoked bacon.

It 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.

It is often not talked about online in this making community grapevines, which I consider grapes to be kind of preaching weed. It can provide a huge amount of smoking wood.

Oak

Oak is 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.

I wouldn’t (wood’nt joke) say strong, but it’s definitely medium to strong on the spectrum, in my opinion.

Fruit and Nut – Generally

I covered apples, 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, check. I believe some types of walnuts are not so suited to smoking.

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


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