Smoking food is a great way to introduce unique flavors into your food truck’s menu, and picking out the right kind of wood for each dish is important. Whether you’re cooking on your truck, using a fire pit, grill, or smoker, there’s nothing better to flavor your food than creating heat from 100 percent natural hardwood. Each type of wood has a distinct flavor; in this wood selection guide we will look at the best woods for every kind of food, and the best forms of wood to use.

Wood Selection Guide For Your Smoked Food Truck Menu

Most food truck owners that aren’t used to smoking can’t identify the type of wood used to smoke their food, but the wood selection does affect the flavor.  Smoking is an art, not a science, so choose whatever wood speaks to you.

Common Wood Types

  • Alder: Fragrant and delicate with a sweet yet musky smoke that is the perfect complement for fish, especially salmon.
  • Ash: Fast burning with a light smoke flavor that’s good for beef, pork, and poultry.
  • Beech: Mild wood with a delicate smoke flavor that is good for beef, pork, ribs, ham, seafood, and poultry.
  • Birch: Similar in flavor to maple but a little softer and burns much faster. Good for pork, poultry, seafood, and cheese.
  • Cedar: Great for plank smoking but not for low-and-slow smoking; best with salmon and other seafood, but also works well with cheese and vegetables.
  • Hickory: Hickory is the most popular hardwood. It has a rich and full-bodied, sweet flavor, especially when used for smoking bacon—my favorite. It’s also great with beef, ribs, pork, ham, sausage, game, poultry, seafood, and cheese.
  • Maple: A wood that burns hot, with a spicy and earthy smoke; great with poultry, pork, ham, bacon, and cheese.
  • Mesquite: An extremely hard wood that’s milder and sweeter than hickory and is best used with beef, ribs, pork, lamb, poultry, and game. Mesquite is a southwest smoker’s delight.
  • Oak: A great wood for all types of meat and for smoking larger cuts for longer periods of time. It imparts a medium-to-heavy flavor, which is why it’s the brisket smoker’s wood of choice

Fruit Wood Trees

  • Apple: The most pungent and fragrant of all fruitwoods and an excellent choice for poultry, ribs, pork, sausage, and ham.
  • Apricot: A mild and sweet fruitwood; good with seafood, pork, and poultry.
  • Cherry: Distinctive and flavorful with a sweet smoke that’s great with beef, lamb, game, poultry, and hams.
  • Citrus (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit): These fruitwoods have a sweet and fruity smoke that isn’t overpowering and works well with more delicate foods, such as seafood and poultry.
  • Grapevine: An aromatic and tart fruitwood that burns quickly and is wonderful with chicken, turkey, seafood, and pork.
  • Olive: Smoky flavor similar to mesquite but much lighter and best used in Mediterranean-flavored dishes with lamb, poultry, and seafood.
  • Peach: Slightly sweet fruitwood; delicate in flavor and complements seafood and poultry.
  • Pear: Sweet and woodsy flavor that is similar to apple and great with poultry, game birds, and pork.

Nut Wood Trees

  • Almond: Imparts a nutty, sweet flavor that is good for beef, pork (ribs or ham), poultry, and game.
  • Black walnut: An intense smoke that has a slightly bitter flavor; pair it with stronger flavored meats such as beef, ham, lamb, game, and turkey.
  • Chestnut: Slightly sweet, nutty smoke flavor that compliments beef, pork, and game.
  • Pecan: Similar to hickory with a sweet, buttery flavor and great with brisket as well as other cuts of beef, pork ribs, ham, bacon, and poultry; works beautifully with cheese, too.

The Bottom Line

Now that we’ve provided this wood selection list and you know the best kinds of wood to use for the food you smoke, it’s time to get out the smoker and start cooking. What wood do you use in your smoker? Share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section, our food truck forum or social media. Facebook | Twitter