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Whether you have been in the smoking game for years or are just starting out, there is tons of information out there to grasp. Considering the different types of smokers and the different species of woods available to smoke with, one could never really know everything that they need to know about the smoking industry.
This is even true for experts that have been smoking meats for years. There is simply just too much information to grasp. And, people are learning new things about the practice every day. That being said, when it comes to smoking meats, walnut is without a doubt one of the most talked-about woods for the job.
And, this probably has to do with the fact that it is a nut wood, meaning that it should have properties that make it perfect for smoking just about any type of meat. The only problem is that walnut really isn’t a great option when it comes to smoking certain meats. Walnut is actually a hardwood that gives off a heavy, bitter flavor profile that is oftentimes too acidic and tart for some individuals.
Now, don’t let this deter you completely because walnut might be exactly what you are looking for. You just need more information.
Popular Types Of Walnut
Before you start learning all about smoking with walnut take a look at two of the currently most popular species of walnut available. While there are tons of species currently available, it is these two that are the most popular. This would be the black walnut and the Carpathian or English walnut.
Black Walnut: This species can be found growing in the North American region, where it is extremely popular, but somewhat hard to find. In fact, it is hard to locate that it is mostly used for manufacturing furniture, not smoking.
Carpathian Or English Walnut: This is pretty much the same species with similar characteristics to that of black walnut. In fact, the only real major difference is that this version is a bit milder. It still produces someone of a powerful, dense smoke, just on a milder level.
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[Related Article: Pecan Wood For Smoking]
A Rundown On Walnut
You do any research in the smoking industry and you’ll no doubt hear someone, somewhere raving about walnut and how good it is for smoking meats. Well, doesn’t this just totally contradict what was said above?
Yes, it does, but here is what you really need to know about walnut. You already know that it is a hardwood. In fact, out of all the hardwoods available today, walnut is considered the heaviest.
It has a similar genus to that of pecan and hickory trees. If you were to buy a piece of walnut furniture, it would be one of the more expensive pieces on your shopping list.
Walnut is oftentimes referred to as the premier hardwood in the North American region. And, this is because of its grain pattern. It gives off a grain pattern that is totally unique and looking unlike anything else available. This is just one of the many reasons that it is an extremely popular wood for woodworking and carpentry.
That being said, it is on the higher price end because it is not only extremely durable with unique grain, but it is actually hard to find.
That’s right, people in the industry are having a hard time finding more and more of the walnut species. This is one of the reasons that most experts would recommend using walnut for woodworking as opposed to smoking. In fact, there are tons of more affordable alternatives that are probably much more suited for smoking meats.
Simply put, walnut is considered by many to be unsuitable for smoking. You’ll probably even find it on some people’s woods to avoid list. So, what are you still finding so many people raving about how good the wood is for smoking? It really comes down to personal preference.
Things To Watch Out For With Walnut
If you find someone that does not like walnut for smoking the number one reason for the dislike will be the taste that it gives off. Walnut smoke gives meats a bitter taste that is extremely intense. The reason that it gives off such a powerful taste like this is that the tree contains an abundance of what is known as tannic acid.
Tannic acid is the very substance that produces the acidic bitter flavor. On a side note, black walnut is even considered dangerous for some humans and animals because it contains what is known as juglone.
Juglone is a poisonous toxin that the tree uses to compete with other trees for resources like water and soil. Walnut is so powerful that there are some individuals that can be extremely allergic to the sawdust and smoke alone. Eating foods smoked with it would probably put these individuals in a coma.
For this reason, you have to be extremely careful if you are trying it for the first time. Officially, the walnut tree is not classified as a toxic tree to humans, but it would be wise to approach it with caution.
When cooking with the wood you’ll want to be extremely careful about the amount of wood that you use and the time you smoke the meats. Going for too long with too much wood will completely ruin your outcome.
You’ll only want to use the wood sparingly and only use small pieces.
Foods That Can Work With Walnut
This whole thing probably makes walnut seem like it is a bad wood for smoking. This is not entirely the case at all. Sure, it does have some drawbacks and you need to be extremely careful when using it for the first time, but it can offer a great flavor profile for the right meats.
Red meats like beef, pork, or game red meats go extremely well with walnut flavors. In fact, smoked walnut venison is oftentimes a favorite among many because of the strong flavor profile that it gives off.
The taste of walnut is very earthy and somewhat similar to that of mesquite. This is why the wood works so well with red meats that already have a strong flavor profile.
Mixing The Wood
Mixing walnut is always a good option to help drown down the intense flavor. The best woods for mixing are other nut woods like almond and pecan.
Oak and fruity woods like pear and apple will work extremely well with walnut. It’ll help kill out the intensity and leave you with something a bit lighter and smoother.