As a smoker, you without a doubt already know that you have an abundance of options when it comes to wood. You have everything from applewood to hickory. While these might be some of the most popular currently available on the market, there are no doubt tons of other options that can be just as satisfying.
In fact, all it takes to find that right wood is a little bit of experimenting and research. Some individuals prefer that intense smokey flavor, while others opt for something a little lighter. Whatever the situation is, there are plenty of viable options out there. And, it is possible that ash is the exact right wood for you.
This article is going to look at ash as a wood and what it has to offer smokers from around the world.
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A Bit Of History On The Wood
Before you just run out and buy a bunch of meat and ash wood, it is pertinent to understand ash as a wood. And, the only way to do this is to look back at its origins. You’ll find that ash has a long and storied history just like most other smoking woods. That being said, ash is one that is unique because it comes available in a variety of species.
In fact, there are a total of 16 different species to choose from. You have everything from the white ash to the green ash and more. The white ash is also commonly referred to as the American Baltimore or cane ash and is without a doubt considered the best amongst the species.
This rapidly popular growing tree is native to the United States and Canadian regions and can be used for an abundance of activities, including smoking. It is oftentimes used to make baseball bats and tool handles as well. And, this is all in part thanks to its strength and flexibility. It offers strength and flexibility that is hard to match.
Various woodworkers also dote on the white ash because it can be bent into various shapes without jeopardizing the overall strength and integrity of the wood.
Despite its low BTU output, ash is still a type of wood that is commonly preferred for firewood as well as smoking. This probably has to do with the fact that it splits very easy and has an extremely low moisture content. A freshly cut piece of ash wood contains a moisture content that is just slightly higher than a seasoned piece.
This is extremely handy if you are running low on wood and need to fell a tree in the middle of the winter. You won’t even have to season the wood before utilizing it. You can go straight to burning it.
This is extremely handy given the fact that some species of smoking woods can take nearly 2 years to season and ripen for cooking activities.
On another note, the green ash is the species of the wood that is the most abundant. This species grows to nearly 70 feet tall and can live for almost 100 years. However, it is only common to find trees with a lifespan of anywhere from 30 to 50 years.
The green ash does have similar characteristics and is oftentimes even mistaken for white ask, although it is not nearly as popular in the smoking industry.
Facing An Extension
There is no denying that the ash tree is a hardy one and resilient at that, but it is currently facing a dilemma, unlike anything the tree industry has seen before. There is one major invasive insect that threatens the whole existence of the tree. This insect is known as the Emerald Ash Borer.
It is a destructive pest that is already responsible for killing millions on top of millions of ash trees. It was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 but has since spread across to 14 different states.
The Emerald Ash Borer is a small, 1/2-inch long insect with a bright metallic green color. However, it is the larva of the species that is causing all the damage to the ash tree.
They’ll tunnel under the bark and disrupt how the tree transports its food and water, eventually causing the tree to thirst and starve to death.
You’ll notice right away if the ash tree has been affected by the bug because most of its bark will be gone and the tree will just look dead. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still utilize the wood because you can.
The Characteristics Of Ash
Ash might be a popular choice for firewood, but it does have some distinctive characteristics that one would think would deter people from using it for this very purpose. It could be these very reasons that ash might not be the right wood for smoking meats either. However, this does not mean that the wood doesn’t possess qualities that are good for smoking.
It just means that it does have some characteristics that make using the wood questionable. To start out, it doesn’t produce the BTUs as other smoking woods like oak or hickory. Along with this, the wood burns extremely fast.
What exactly does this mean? It means if you are going to be smoking a big meal, you are going to need a lot of wood on hand. For instance, if you were going to smoke an entire brisket, you might be at least a cord of wood or more.
The Flavor Profile
Despite the characteristics of the wood, it does possess a flavor profile unlike anything else that you’ll find available on the market. It might be an extremely mild and light flavor, but it is one that is completely unique. In fact, this is one of the reasons that ash is the best wood to start smoking with.
If you aren’t sure if you even like smoked meats or just want to test the waters, you’ll want to start with something that offers a light smokey profile like ash. This is without a doubt the best place to start, but remember that it is completely unique, so it won’t offer near the same flavor profile as other smoking woods.