When smoking meat, you want to find wood that's light in flavor and color so that any other flavors don't taint your final dish. Whether it be wet or dry smoke, light colored wood will produce flavorful food, whereas darker woods often add earthy or savory tones to their smoke.
You'll also want to pick out a wood that's easy on the smoker, so that it doesn't ruin your food. Though once you get used to smoking, you can make adjustments to your coals, temperature and wind speed to eliminate any problems caused by the best wood for smoking steak.
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Important Attributes to Consider When Buying Best wood for smoking steak
Depending on what you want your smoked meat to taste like, you'll want to consider the smoker flavor of the wood you choose. If you want a more intense layer of flavoring with some sharp notes, go with cherry or hickory woods. They impart a nice BBQ-like flavor to your meat, which will really stand out.
You'll get more subtle flavors from apple and applewood. These types of woods have milder tones that mix well with the natural flavors of your meat without overpowering it. But they don't have the strong intonation that's so popular in other types of smoking woods like cherry or hickory.
If you're using your wood as a fuel source, it probably doesn't matter how large it is. But if you're smoking meat with your own wood, you'll want to make sure the wood is small enough to fit in your smoker without clogging up the air path or blocking any important parts like vents or fans.
Some woods come in bigger sizes and you'll want to break up these chips before putting them in your smoker. If it's not already broken up into smaller pieces, use a hammer or grinder to do the work for you. Otherwise, you might have some trouble getting them into your smoker at all.
Pick a wood that's small enough to fit in your smoker without clogging up the air path or blocking any important parts like vents or fans.
You won't want to spend too much time soaking wood chips before using them in your grill or smoker. You should soak them for anywhere from one day to several weeks, depending on what type of wood you choose and how much smoke you want in the meat. For example, applewood will take longer than hickory to absorb smoke, so if you want a stronger layer of flavor than hickory can provide, use applewood instead.
Soaking wood chips will take a while, but it just depends on the amount of time you want to spend soaking them. If you're pressed for time, try using cubes instead because they don't need any preparation and are ready to use as soon as you take them out of the box.
Best wood for smoking steak is available as either chips or cubes, both of which are great choices. You can break up the chips into smaller sizes if you like, but most of them are packaged in big chunks. If you have a smoker that's big enough to hold a lot of wood at once, it might be cheaper to buy larger chunks. As for prices, you can expect to pay anywhere from $6-$10/pound depending on where you buy it from.
A few dollars may seem like a lot when you think about how easy it is to make your own wood chips. But you'll save yourself a lot of work and hassle. For example, if you buy chips, which is the cheapest option, you'll need to soak them in water for a few days before using them. This will take a while and might be a pain in the neck if you don't have the time to do it. If you choose to use wood cubes instead, which comes in pre-dried form, soaking them is all that's needed. This cuts down on your costs and make for a faster smoking process overall.
What to look for in terms of wood when selecting the right smoking wood
Here is a guide to the three most commonly used woods and their respective qualities:
- Hardwoods: These are the most expensive types of wood. With hardwoods, it is best to use them whole, as they are not good for splitting or trimming. Hardwoods have a moisture content between 40% and 55%. They range from walnut, hickory, maple, and beechwood to oak and cherry. Hardwoods give off more smoke than fruitier woods with a strong lemon or orange flavor.
- Fruitwoods: This wood is best prepared and used in chips. The light and fruity smoke is good for fish, pork, poultry and game birds. They are more tender than hardwoods and cost less. Fruitwood chips have a moisture content of 45% to 50%. Examples of fruitwood are apple, cherry, peach, plum and pear.
- Mesquite (Acacia Frutescens): Mesquite has a flavor similar to hickory with an aroma that reminds one of bacon or ham. Mesquite comes from Central America and Texas. It is said that mesquite gives meat a sweet-sour taste with bright flavors like honey or molasses. The burning of mesquite chips only takes about 10 minutes to heat up the smoker.
- Briquettes: Briquettes are cheap, easy and convenient. They can be found at grocery stores and hardware shops. The drawback with briquettes is that they burn very fast, giving off too much smoke that makes meat taste bitter. Smoke them for no longer than 20 minutes.
With these three woods, it is easy to find the right wood to smoke your meat with. For a quick guide on the smoking process, click here.
Some tips on buying The wood for smoking steak
- Always buy seasoned wood when you're smoking meat, otherwise it will burn and ruin your food. This means that you'll have to break it yourself, which can be a pain if you bought a big chunk of the tree. If you can't find seasoned wood, then just use a little bit of oil to seal the cracks. But if it's been stored in room temperature or low temperatures, then this oil will leach into your food and create an odd taste.
- Choose light colored or natural woods over stained or painted woods if possible. Otherwise, you'll get a stronger taste that might not be as pleasant.
- Make sure the wood is rectangular.
- Avoid using pines, spruces or cypress as they have strong flavors and are often used for smoking steak. It might be good for cooking other meats though so it's worth a shot to check them out in case you can't find anything else you like better.
- Some people recommend using apple wood to smoke meat, but it's too strong and tannic for the purpose so it can ruin your food. However if you'd like to try it, you should be careful not to burn your food or the smoker will get overwhelmed. Another alternative is pecan wood which is similar if you have a taste for that kind of thing.
- Hickory is also considered a good woods to smoke meat with as its strong flavors are nice and sweet. You might even try oak wood if you're looking for an earthy flavor but not necessarily as intense as other types of woods discussed in this article.
- Mesquite makes the best steak because it adds more smoke and a distinct smoke flavor without being too overpowering. But it's not as easy to find, so it's not a great choice for beginners.
- If you'd prefer to try something more exotic, then guava or avocado woods might be a fun experiment for you. Both of these woods are quite strong but still retain a sweet note like other woods we've identified so they're worth checking out especially if you want something that's truly wild and different from anything else popular in the smoker hobby.
- Don't forget about the woods used in making barbecue sauce and other foods such as maple syrup, cherry syrup and even pizza woods. These can be great additions to your meat as well. And they're affordable as well so you can experiment with all sorts of flavors to see what you like best.
What wood is best for beef?
A common question that's asked by newbie smokers is what type of wood is best for beef. The answer, unfortunately, isn't what most people want to hear: it depends on your smoker. But you can't expect oak or mesquite to work well in a smoker that doesn't use wood.
As a general rule, we recommend staying away from oak as it can overpower your food if you use too much of it. Cedar can also be too strong for some foods like beef and chicken so you'll want to steer clear of this as well.
What is the best wood to smoke a steak?
There is no straightforward answer to this question, but we can say that cedar and mesquite are both excellent choices.
The reason these woods can be so tasty is because they're smoky on their own so using them for smoking doesn't require a lot of preparation or pre-soak. That said, you can soak them for several days or weeks if you want even more smoke to come out of your smoker.
Is it safe to use mesquite in a smoker?
It's okay to use only in small amounts since the wood is known for its sweetness and smokiness. But as we've pointed out earlier, mesquite can be too strong for some people so it's something you'll have to test out before you decide to use it.
What is the best way to season wood?
If you're using raw wood for smoking, then it's a good idea to add some oil or vinegar on top of it. The wood will absorb these liquids and give off a nice flavor if the holes aren't too large and the wood is not dried out.
For seasoned wood like applewood, you don't need to add anything else. Your meat already tastes great so there's no need to cover up that natural flavor with any other additions.
There are a lot of options when it comes to wood to use in your smoker and each type of wood has its own purpose for smoking steak. Whether it's to impart more smoke, add a distinct flavor or enhance the flavor of your food, you'll be able to find a style of wood that stands out in this list.
If you want some suggestions on how certain types of woods work together for smoking meat or what combinations are worth trying out, then check out our guide on how different types of woods affect each other. It's well worth reading if you want to know what specific combination will give you the flavors you want from your smoking sessions.
To finish things off, check out our articles about what types of woods exist and what their effects are on the food we eat. You'll soon enough be able to find exactly which type of wood will work best for what you're smoking. Good luck!