Which wood is good for which food?

July 24, 1996|By Pat Dailey | Pat Dailey,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

The wood flavors imparted through smoking vary, and traditions and preferences have developed that match wood with the food: Salmon with alder, bacon with applewood, pork with hickory are among the matches that set lips smacking.

Bill Jamison, co-author of "Sublime Smoke," suggests that there's a little bit of hyperbole in such partnerships.

"Unless you're pit-smoking for 6 or 8 hours, you probably won't taste the difference," he suggests.

Others would counter that with a suggestion: Find out for yourself.

Don Hysko, president of Peoples Woods Co., a supplier of cooking wood in Cumberland, R.I., insists there's a pronounced difference in aroma and flavor.

Wood for smoking is available in different sizes, from sawdust to logs. Sawdust burns very quickly so it can be used in stovetop smokers. We've also had good results using wood chips in a stovetop smoker. Water smokers can burn chips or the larger chunks, and pit smokers are designed for logs.

If the wood is green and reasonably fresh, Hysko says, soaking the wood isn't necessary. However, most wood sold for smoking will benefit from at least 30 minutes soaking before use. Water is just fine for this but beer, wine and fruit juice are other ways to add a whiff of flavor and aroma.

Hysko suggests the following wood and food pairings:

Alder: salmon, trout, tuna, swordfish

Apple: pork, sausage, chicken

Basil wood: lobster, salmon

Butternut: venison, buffalo

Cherry: Cornish hens, pheasant, turkey

Hickory: ribs, pork chops, brisket

Mesquite: beef and pork ribs

Peach: duck, goose, turkey

Pecan: chicken

Pimiento leaf: jerked chicken, pork

Rosemary wood: lamb

Sugar maple: vegetables, ham

Sassafras: hot sausage

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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