How to Choose the Correct Wood for Cooking, Smoking, and Grilling

How to Choose the Correct Wood for Cooking, Smoking, and Grilling

Guest writer Kyle Upchurch of growokc.com

GrowOKC is owned by a college degreed Professional Horticulturist, Kyle Upchurch. Growokc specializes in the finest cooking, mushrooms, organic food and gardening products.

When you choose a wood for cooking and smoking meat, it is important to look for the correct wood to use with what you are going to be cooking.

Grilling and Smoking Fish

Fish is delicate so it is important to not use a smoking wood that is overbearing. The types of smoking wood that are not recommended for grilling fish is smoking woods like hickory wood and mesquite wood.

Mesquite Wood

For example, mesquite wood is so powerful it will overtake the flavor of the fish. It may be so intense that it may not be edible. Mesquite wood is a favored smoking wood in Texas and is used on nearly everything but fish.

Hickory Wood

Hickory wood is another that is going to be too overbearing for grilling fish.  The types of smoking wood that should be considered are woods like Pecan smoking wood. Pecan wood is a great choice for fish because it is a light cooking wood and it will let the natural flavors of the fish come through.

Smoking Wood Combinations

Smoking wood combinations are another great way to cook well. Having two woods at the same time can increase and compliment your cooking. One great combination is mixing hickory wood with pecan wood. On some occasions it is advised to use 50% / 50% ratio and on some times it works best by changing that.

Let’s take smoking pork for example. I would not use such a high percentage of hickory wood because pork can be fairly delicate and too much hickory wood would really overdo it.  Pork like boston butt would call for a ratio of 25% hickory wood and 75% pecan wood. When you choose the correct cooking wood, what you end up eating will make all the difference!

A Tale of Blueberry Sleeve Cake

A Tale of Blueberry Sleeve Cake

See that iced coffee sweating in the carafe? Yep… that’s late August in Florida

With this many years in cooking and catering—and please don’t ask how many—I often get this type of question: “Jorj, what would YOU bring to an event like ______ (fill in the blank).” I have to say that most people who approach me for advice in the “provisions” department have unique circumstances; for example, it is an outdoor event and they are worried how the food will hold up, or they are going to a party full of people with special dietary needs.

In the most recent case, it was a volunteer event on a blisteringly hot day in Florida. Everyone was going to be gardening!  While I would happily have steered my friend toward pastry from one of my books like Sunday Best Dishes, her gardening party was on a Sunday after all, I have shared her zip code in Florida and the heat this time of year there is UNREAL. When you work outside there are bugs to contend with and a perspiration problem that even a hundred and ten tons of Gatorade cannot cure, not to mention close to 100% humidity—these are definitely conditions where an extremely detailed, painstaking cake recipe just would not be appreciated….soooooo, I passed down a very basic blueberry cake recipe and recommended she cut slabs of cake placing them in their own portable sleeves: like clean coffee filters! I am told the volunteers at the Coral Springs Community Garden liked the cake, and it seemed to make them smile more than the Dunkin Donuts that the ants were also fighting over that day!

his recipe produces one loaf per ½ pint of blueberries—while blueberries are best April through September in places like Maine, we can enjoy them year round, thanks to imports from Chile and Argentina. I checked the facts at the Blueberry Council!

Enjoy and take this to your next outdoor party!


Blueberry Sleeve Cake

Serving size: 1 loaf / serves 6
Preheat oven to 375 degrees

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup chilled butter
  • ¾ cup half and half
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup blueberries

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter. You can use your electric mixer if you wish but mixing by hand works, too.

In a separate bowl, mix half and half and the egg; fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Add the blueberries and stir well, using a large spoon or spatula.

Coat a loaf pan with vegetable oil spray and pour in the batter. Bake for 30 minutes until the top of cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into its center comes out clean.