How To Season Wood For Smoking: [Plus Other Tips]

How To Season Wood For Smoking

There is simply no denying that smoked food just tastes better. There is nothing like that sultry oak-infused or cedar-infused prime rib. Heck, there was a time when the only way to make barbecue was with wood heat.

This might not be the case in today’s time, but there is no denying that the old school method approach methods just tastes better. And, this is why more and more people are willing to pay those higher prices for real smoked food.Opens in a new tab.

Of course, if you have all the accessories, wood, and the right grill, you can simply smoke your own foods. The whole process might require a little bit of work and know-how, but there is nothing more rewarding than tasting the fruits of your own labor.

However, if you are going to smoke your own foods there are a few things that you need to be aware of. This is especially true when it comes to the type of wood you use as well as how long you let it dry.

A Brief Overview Of Smoking Foods

The real truth of the matter is that you can really use whatever you want to smoke foods. Heck, there are some people over in Iceland that actually use dried sheep dung to season their foods.

That being said, wood is without a doubt the most commonly used material. And, a lot of this has to do with the unique properties that it possesses.

Wood not only burns at extremely high BTUs for longer periods, but certain woods put off certain odors that will infuse into your foods and make them taste all the better.

All that aside, you need to understand that there are two main ways that you can use wood as your fuel source when you are smoking foods.

As The Main Fuel Source

Your very first option will be to use wood as your main fuel source. This simply just means that you are going to start a fire with certain types of wood and cook your meats over this wood-fueled fire.

This is one of the most popular methods because the combustion of the wood not only produces large amounts of heat, but it imparts a smokey flavor on your meats.

One of the most effective ways to take advantage of this method is to build a fire with logs in an offset smoker. Pellet smokers are also another excellent option because it will not only allow you to take advantage of the heat produced by the wood, but it will allow you to take advantage of that desired smoky flavor.

As The Source Of Smoke Flavor

Of course, just because you want that smokey flavor it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to use all wood. In fact, there are a number of individuals that will smoke meats with charcoal or gas.

Some even do it with electric smokers. Whatever the situation is, if you toss in a few wood chips halfway through the process, you can still impart those smoky flavors into your meats.

Wood can come in a variety of shapes to help make the process easier. Some individuals like to use wood chips, while others will utilize sawdust or even commercially bought pellets.

The best method will really depend on your grill set up, your budget, your time frame, and what you are looking to get from the process.

Some individuals like to go all out and spend tons of money trying to produce that perfect commercial smoked taste. The very best approach is to know when and how to use certain woods in their different forms.

This will not only save you more money, but it will just make the investment all the more worth your effort.

The Best Woods To Smoke With

You will find that most pitmasters today use either charcoal, electric, or gas as a primary heat source. They will just throw in wood chips or sawdust halfway through the process.

You can do any amount of research you want and speak with a number of barbecue pros and you will get a variety of answers to this question. A lot of this will just be barbecue myth, but there are a few things that hold true.

Oak – Oak is a wood that not only burns slow and even, but it produces a mild flavor that is considered generally good for smoking projects.
Hickory – Hickory is also considered good for smoking. However, it does produce a stronger flavor than what you would normally get with oak.
Pecan – Pecan is another excellent option, as it produces a smoky, sweet flavor. It is also believed that pecan is much better for shorter smokes. If used for long-term cooking it is believed that the flavor will almost be overwhelming.
Mesquite – This is always an excellent option for smoking because mesquite is a wood that not only produces a strong flavor, but it burns quite hot and fast.

Drying The Wood

Once you’ve collected the wood, you’ll need to make sure that its moisture content is minimized. This is essential for many reasons. If the wood is not sufficiently dried, it might not burn correctly.

And, you might have a tough time getting the fire started. With that being said, you need to dry the wood thoroughly first. The amount of time this will require depends on the age of the wood. If it has been sitting around for a long period, it won’t take long to dry.

Either way, it is pertinent to ensure that the moisture content of the wood is minimized to obtain the best results.


Ultimately, it is important to prepare the wood before using it for this purpose. If you do not, there is a good chance that you’re not going to get the desired results.

With that being said, you need to make sure that the wood is chipped. You can use a wood chipper to achieve this goal. If you need a small quantity, you can rely on a band saw or chisel.

Chips work better than large pieces of wood. You’ll also need to make sure that the wood has dried sufficiently. Otherwise, it is not going to burn or smoke well enough

Brian Koller

Growing up on a farm in eastern PA, I’ve grown fond of wildlife and the woods and learning about the critters and firewood and everything else in-between. I made this site to share my experiences and knowledge.

Other Articles