Which wood should I use?
Where to Start / Flavour Master

Which wood should I use?

A guide on which woods are best to use, and advice on those to avoid.

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The aroma of smoke is what draws a crowd to your BBQ, and wood smoke can add real depth of flavour to your food. We've made up a quick reference list so you can pair your meat like a pro. If you're a scavenger, then there's a list below of wood's to avoid and handy information that you need to know!
  • Wine Oak Chips - Chips are great on smaller smokers, just make sure you soak them in water first.

    Wine Oak Chips - Chips are great on smaller smokers, just make sure you soak them in water first.

  • Hickory Chunks - Chunks burn slower and longer.

    Hickory Chunks - Chunks burn slower and longer.

  • Mesquite Logs - Logs are great for bigger smokers, but take longer to burn to embers.

    Mesquite Logs - Logs are great for bigger smokers, but take longer to burn to embers.

Which wood should I use?

Chips, Chunks or Logs?

Chips - Chips are about 2.5cm wide. Chips smoke quickly, but they burn quickly too, which is why you soak them for up to 30 mins before putting on your smoker. Chips are best on smaller grills, like kettles, offset smokers, electric smokers, ceramic BBQ’s – like our Kamado as well as gas grills.

Chunks - Chunk are well, chunks! They're bigger (about 4-10cm). They burn a bit slower than chips and you don't need to soak them. They produce smoke relatively quickly and burn for longer than chips will. They're better on slightly bigger smokers like upright barrel smokers and offset smokers, basically any larger smoker with foods that smoke all day.

Logs - At 30-45cm long, logs will need to have space to burn. They suit large smokers and aren't suitable for kettles or smaller units. You also need good airflow as it takes about an hour to burn the logs down to embers. They generate both heat and smoke though, so if you want, you can do without charcoal as a heat source.

How much to use

Chips: 2 handfuls every 30 minutes (Kettles, Kamado, Small Offsets)

Chunks: 2-4 chunks per hour (Charcoal Grills, Kamado, Upright Smokers, Offsets)

Logs: 1-3 logs per hour (on a large Offset)

The Flavours

Apple – Apple wood has a subtle, sweet and fruity flavour that is ideal for poultry, beef, pork, game birds and some seafoods.

Cherry – Cherry wood has mild, well-rounded sweetness and fruity flavour that goes well with all meats and vegetables.

Hickory – Hickory wood has a strong, sweet, almost bacon flavour. Because of it’s strength it is perfect for pork and other game meat.

Mesquite – Mesquite wood has a strong, bold, earthy flavor that adds a nice taste to most red and dark meats. It burns hotter than most other woods.

Pecan – In flavour pecan is similar to hickory but more subtle and ideal for poultry, beef, pork, and lamb.

Manuka – Manuka has a broad, robust flavour producing a heavy smoke with a touch of sweetness. Works well with any meat, but particularly good with seafood.

Pohutukawa – Goes well with all white meats.

Wine Oak – Wine oak has a heavy smoke flavour and hints of fruity wine barrel. It is good with red meats and game.

Woods to avoid

It’s tempting to go out scavenging and find your own wood, and that’s great, but make sure you know what you're getting. Some woods aren't suitable for smoking and could be harmful, eg.Pine, Fir, Spruce, Redwood, Cedar, Cypress, Elm, Eucalyptus, Sassafras, Sycamore, Liquid Amber and Redwood.

Generally, you're OK with trees you eat fruit or nuts from; orchard trees or nuts are fine.

Rule of Thumb

If you're using your own wood, make sure it’s completely dry. Don't use mouldy or musty wood, this will release a nasty smell into your food. Don't leave too much bark on your wood, it can create a smoke that is bitter and very smoky. Also, make sure it’s not treated.

If you're using native wood, make sure it’s not a protected tree. Remember, Pohutukawa is protected.

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