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Illustration by Scott Garrett

Adding wood chips or chunks to a charcoal fire amps up the flavor of your food, but some varieties work better than others. We talked to chef Barton Seaver, the author of Where There's Smoke, to get the lowdown on foolproof pairings.

Apple wood:

The most popular fruitwood (found in grocery stores and home centers), it lends a tangy, sweet flavor to food. "Think of it as the butter of smoking wood. It goes with almost everything, though it's great with pork and poultry," says Seaver.

Hickory:

This wood's deep, bacon-like flavor is a good match for hamburgers, fatty beef cuts, and lean pork.

Mesquite:

A staple of Southwest cooking, this wood has an aggressive flavor that's best reserved for a steak with a spicy herb rub.

Oak:

An all-star player. Oak goes with all meats and many types of seafood. It's also an excellent choice for long, slow smoking, imparting a mild, woodsy flavor with a hint of vanilla and citrus.

Peach:

Delicate and light in flavor, this fruitwood works especially well with seafood, shellfish in particular, though you can also use it with pork and poultry in a pinch.