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Steve Bakken

anyone smoke with oak?

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Here's my take...I smoke about 500-750 pounds of summer sausage and snack sticks for friends and myself a year. I have used mesquite, maple, cherry and apple, but not oak. Mesquite gives a little heavier flavor, maple in between, and cherry and apple a bit sweeter. Mostly I use apple because that's what my friends like versus a heavier flavor (which you would want on ribs or something). You will notice the flavor of the smoke more on snack sticks versus summer sausage because of the casing. One you can eat, the other you shouldn't.

I suspect if you use oak you will get a heavier flavor in the meat. I appreciate that you want to use what you have, but Fleet Farm(and they're all over the state) sells chips for under $3.25 a bag I've got to wonder if it's worth it?

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I found this a while back and thought it was a pretty good guide.


Alder is commonly used with fish, but also works well with pork and poultry. It has a light, slightly sweet flavor and is not overpowering. It is much less dense than other smoke woods, and reminds me a little bit of cedar in it's look and smell.


Apple has a light, fruity, slightly sweet aroma and is commonly used with pork and poultry. I especially like to use it with pork ribs. It can be mixed with other smoke woods like oak and cherry with good results.


Cherry is one of my favorite woods to use with chicken. It has a slight red color and a subtle, sweet, fruity flavor. It goes well with beef, pork, and poultry and can be mixed with oak and apple.


Hickory is probably the most popular smoke wood used in barbecue. It has a strong flavor that complements all meats. Some people find that hickory alone can be overwhelming, especially if too much is used. I never use hickory alone, but mix it with oak. I use two parts oak to one part hickory.


Mesquite is the official smoke wood of Texas barbecue. Its strong, hearty flavor complements beef, but it also works with fish, pork, and poultry. The wood is dense and dark red/brown in color with a very rough bark.


Oak is a favorite smoking wood. It goes with just about any barbecue meat. It has a medium smoky flavor that is stronger than apple and cherry, but lighter than hickory. As a result, it mixes well with these three woods, but also works great by itself. It has a dense, tight grain and a color ranging from almost white to yellow to red.


Pecan is great with beef, pork, and poultry. Its flavor is described as sweet and nutty. It can be used by itself or mixed with oak. I especially like it with chicken and ribs.

Wine Barrel Chunks

When wine barrels reach the end of their useful life, they're often cut into chunks and sold as smoke wood. These oak chunks show the dark stain of red wine on one side and the natural oak grain on the other. They have the same aroma you experience when you visit the cellars at a winery. Do they provide a unique flavor to your barbecue? Hard to say, but they're fun to try if you have the chance. These chunks came from Trader Joe's gourmet food market.

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As a general note of caution, there's a wide variety oak species in MN alone which may provide varying results. In other words, I wouldn't expect it to taste the "same" as what you'd get from one bag to the next of the store-bought variety.


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Joel, good point. I have always used red oak for my smoking. I soak the chunks in water overnight to get them to smoke slowly, not just burn up on the coals. CH

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Oak is one of my favorite woods to use. I have used red and white oak and I can't really taste a big difference.

I have used it on salmon, pork butt, spare ribs, chicken, venison sticks and jerky. It is a somewhat heavy smoke and you can definitely taste it on the finished product. Everyone I know seems to like what I make.

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I use oak quite a bit, mainly for spare ribs or pork loin. I love hickory but I get enough of that elsewhere. Using oak at home I get a different, but still excellent, flavor.

BTW, I never soak my wood anymore. I used to be finally figured all I was doing was getting steam. To me, a clean, hot smoke from dry wood give a better flavor that a low temperature, steamy smolder. Then again, I'm using chunks about the size of your fist, not chips.

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