Wood Smoke Flavour - Since different species of tree have different ratios of components, various types of wood impart different flavours to food. Another important factor is the temperature at which the wood burns. High-temperature fires see the flavour molecules broken down further into unpleasant or flavorless compounds.
The optimal conditions for smoke flavour are low, smoldering temperatures between 300 and 400 °C/570 °F and 750 °F. This is the temperature of the burning wood itself and not the temperature of the smoking environment, which sees much lower temperatures.
Woods that are high in lignin content tend to burn hot; to keep them smoldering requires restricted oxygen supplies or a high moisture content. When smoking using wood chips or chunks, the combustion temperature is often lowered by soaking the pieces in water before placing them on a fire.
Varieties of woods for Smoking - The following list is sourced from the internet and I must admit held a few surprises for me. For the many woods I’ve tried, I agree with their recommendations and comments. For those I haven’t tried I can only say have a go yourself. The list is accurate for the woods I’ve tried so far and I have no reason to doubt the remainder. As I get round to trying them all. (Don’t know where I’m going to get Orange, Nectarine, Olive or Lemon wood from locally) I’ll post a comment alongside them as I try them out in the smoker.
Alder - Very delicate with a hint of sweetness. Good with fish, pork, poultry, and light-meat game birds. Traditionally used in the pacific northwest to smoke Salmon.
Almond - A nutty and sweet smoke flavour, light ash. Good with all meats.
Apple - Slightly sweet but denser, fruity smoke flavour. Beef, poultry, game birds, pork (particularly ham).
Apricot - The flavour is milder and sweeter than Hickory. Good with most meats.
Ash - Fast burner, light but distinctive flavour. Good with fish and red meats.
Birch - Medium hard wood with a flavour similar to maple. Good with pork and poultry.
Cherry - Slightly sweet, fruity smoke flavour. Good with all meats.
Chestnut - Slightly sweet nutty smokey flavour, plentiful in the UK Good with most meats.
Grape Vines - Aromatic, similar to fruit wood. Good with most meats.
Hickory - Pungent, smoky, bacon-like flavour. The most common wood used in the US. Good for all smoking, especially pork and ribs. Available in the UK mainly through DIY outlets.
Lavender - Light aromatic smoke. Excellent with white fish and meat.
Lemon - Medium smoke flavour with a hint of fruitiness. Excellent with beef, pork and poultry.
Lilac - Very light, subtle with a hint of floral. Good with seafood and lamb.
Maple - Mildly smoky, somewhat sweet flavour. Good with pork, poultry, cheese, vegetables and small game birds.
Mesquite - Strong earthy flavour. Good with most meats, especially beef and most vegetables.
Mulberry - The smell is sweet and reminds one of apple Beef, poultry, game birds, pork (particularly ham).
Nectarine - The favour is milder and sweeter than hickory. Good on most meats.
Oak (White or English) - One of the most popular wood's, Heavy smoke flavour. Good with red meat, pork, fish (especially salmon) and heavy game.
Olive - The smoke favour is similar to mesquite, but distinctly lighter. Delicious with poultry.
Orange - Medium smoke flavour with a hint of fruitiness. Excellent with beef, pork and poultry.
Peach - Slightly sweet, woody flavour. Good with most meats.
Pear - Slightly sweet, miild woody flavour. good with poultry, game birds and pork.
Pecan - Similar to hickory but a little more peppery, but not as strong. Try smoking with the shells as well. Good for most needs.
Plum/Prune - The flavour is milder and sweeter than hickory. Good with most meats.
Walnut (English) - Very heavy smoke flavour, usually mixed with lighter woods like pecan or apple. Can be bitter if used alone. Good with red meats and game. Even the shells can be used so don’t throw them away at Christmas