Many southern pit masters will tell you that cherry wood isn’t the only one that brings some sweet smoky flavor to barbecue. If you have a great cut of meat you want to add some special nutty flavor to, don’t overlook pecan wood for smoking that cut of your favorite meat to mouth watering perfection!
While not as common in the northern United States, pecan trees are quite common in the more Southern climates and while they might be most famous for the delicious pies that can be made from their nuts, you’re really missing out if you haven’t used this wood to prep some tasty barbecue! This is one of those sweet Southern secrets that hasn’t become widespread yet, but there’s good reason not to just toss all those branches after a storm cleanup.
Pecan wood has a rich flavor that is similar in taste and smell to the smoky pungent smell of hickory, except a bit more subtle. This creates a smoky semi bacon-like flavor that many Southern meat smokers adore.
What meats love the kiss of some smoky pecan flavor? What meats should you avoid? Let’s jump into the best practices for smoking meat using this popular and common Southern wood.
Smoking With Pecan Wood
If you know a lot about these trees then it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that it’s a great choice for smoking. Related to hickory, one of the most popular woods for smoking meat in the world, pecan has a reputation for a touch of sweetness to go with a good smoky flavor that combines in a way that allows for some truly wonderful results.
It’s no secret among backyard smokers that when you can get it this wood can be an excellent option when it comes to adding a touch of sweetness, a touch of smokiness, and just a little bit of a nutty kick to the flavor profile. When you want a touch of everything a good smoked bit of meat has to offer but you don’t want any of it to be too overpowering, chances are that pecan is a choice that will straddle that line perfectly.
If you want to understand the taste profile a bit better, the smoke flavor that comes from pecan is a sweet and mild fruity taste that is also just a little smokier than usual for a fruitwood, and sweeter than the non-fruit woods. It even adds a bit of a nutty flavor, meaning it’s one of the extremely rare woods (and some of us would argue the only one) that hits all three common notes: smoky, fruity, nutty.
And this wood hits that balance very, very well when it comes to smoking!
This excellent wood can be used to enhance the taste of several types of meat including:
- Wild game*
*This mostly applies if you like a little gaminess in your game meat or you have meat that has a low amount of gaminess. Otherwise going with the much stronger smoky flavor from a wood like hickory makes more sense.
In addition to those more popular options you can also use hickory or pecan wood when preparing to smoke smoke:
- Beef Brisket
There are mixed opinions on whether or not to use this for fish. Personally, I can see the argument with salmon since salmon has delicate flavors that tend to work better with sweeter fruit woods. That said, with many common fish that have a whiter flesh I think this can work well, though because fish can have such a different taste from one species to another it’s all about testing each and seeing how the taste hits you in each case.
I can tell you from experience, pecan-smoked salmon, trout, carp, and walleye all have wildly different tastes and flavors in comparison to one another.
What To Know About Smoking Meat with Pecan Wood
While it might still remain more famous for its pies, this wood has some really amazing qualities and a taste profile that you just won’t get with a different type of wood. The flavor is distinct and there’s a reason that so many backyard meat masters use this wood for smoking over and over again with many different meats, looking for those perfect combinations that will produce an unforgettable flavor and taste combination that virtually everyone can appreciate.
Things to know about the smoking process:
- Pecan wood burns cool so it’s best for very low heat smoking
- A little sweet, a little smoky, a little nutty when it comes to flavor
- Bacon-like flavor
- The flavor is much more smoky than sweet
- Burns cold making it great for longer slower smoking jobs
- Better for leaner red meats
Pecan goes well with a very large number of woods and generally is the answer any time you think a great fruit wood would be amazing if it just brought a touch more smoky flavor to the table, or if the smoky flavor would be great with just a touch of nuttiness or sweetness.
The fact that this doesn’t give off a harsh smoke also makes it a good choice with audiences who like a touch of smoky flavor but tend to have sensitive palate and can only handle so much.
Pecan Is Amazing for Smoking Pork
There’s no question that although pecan can be amazing with a large number of different meat types and recipes, pork is a meat that just absolutely thrives when doused with pecan smoke. Not only that, but if you are a true beginner to smoking, pork butt to make smoked pulled pork is one of the most forgiving meats you can smoke where you don’t have to be completely on the mark and can still end up with a delicious meal.
This means pork end, pork ribs, bacon, or even a whole ham! Or maybe sausage, pork chops, or Iowa chops (which are pork chops but you know, 3x bigger).
These are all great candidates for smoking meat with pecan wood, whether smoking for barbecue or a pure smoking/grilling experience. I’ll say as someone who has had a lot of great smoked pork brisket – that’s a meal that’s hard to pass up on!
Is Pecan Good for Smoking Bacon?
Absolutely! Keep in mind that “Hickory Smoked Bacon” is a major selling point and pecan wood is not only related to hickory, but it has even been described as giving a bit of a bacon flavor to some meats.
A little bit of sweet, smoky, nutty flavor sounds like the ideal set of flavors to add to bacon, and yes, for those reasons pecan wood is one of the best options out there for smoking bacon.
Is Pecan Good for Smoking Pork Ribs?
Pecan is a very popular choice for pork ribs and infuses a bit of nutty flavor while also working as a wood that has a sweet hint of smoke without being too overpowering. There are many options used to smoke your conventional recipes and while there are some veterans who just stick with hickory, this is worth a try.
Rich and more subtle than hickory, but similar in taste. This is a wood that burns cool, so ideal for very low heat smoking. Use of pecan wood in this way is often for the extremely sought-after sweet and nutty flavor. Pork and beef and both benefit from its careful use.
Which makes it ideal for those long smoking jobs, like with good pork ribs ready for that dry rub…or however you prefer to enjoy them.
Questions About Using Pecan Chips in Your Smoker
There are plenty of questions that seem to float around about using pecan for smoking. Some make a lot of sense, some are based on old rumors or stories, and others are from beginning smokers trying to figure out the best way to use this versatile and interesting wood.
What Are the Best Meats for Smoking with Pecan Wood?
Well some of this we went over already, but the short answer is anything pork, chicken, and then a lot of other stuff, too! It’s worth noting that pecan is a wood that doesn’t mix well with most other woods so if you’re smoking with pecan it is generally best to just use pecan wood and not add in any additional chips or logs of a different type since that can throw off the flavor combination.
The short list of great meats for smoking with pecan are:
- Beef Brisket
- Wild Game
I have heard of some people swearing by turkey as a great choice if you get your brine/moisture plans down perfectly but I can’t personally attest to this. It’s worth experimenting, especially if you have someone who can share their tips or tricks for getting the job done.
Doesn’t Using Too Much Pecan Wood Leave Odor in The Meat?
This is a one of those wives’ tales that got started somewhere and has had a hard time shaking loose. The truth is that this idea is nonsense. If you’re smoking meat the outstanding aroma to go with the smoky sweet flavor is the whole point, and there isn’t a low “saturation point” where a ton of unpleasant
Does Smoking with Pecan Wood Affect Nut Allergies?
No. The actual wood from a pecan tree does not have any of the nut proteins in pecans that would cause a possible allergic reaction in anyone with a nut allergy. This is of course assuming the wood itself is used and nothing idiotic is done like throwing in a bunch of branches with clusters of nuts on them – this can cause problems for people with allergies – not to mention being terrible practice for smoking!
Is Pecan Good for Smoking Brisket?
Yes. Pecan is one of the premium choices when it comes to smoking brisket. One of the reasons pecan can work well is that beef brisket is a staple in competitions and a meat that takes a very long amount of time to smoke and that means a long slow burning wood is ideal and that description fits pecan to a tee.
Does Pecan Wood Smoke A Lot?
Nope. Pecan is a slow burning wood and it gives less smoke than many of the other options that might be considered. Because of that this wood is also an excellent choice for a slightly lighter touch on the smoky flavor.
Can You Smoke with Fresh Pecan Wood?
You can but you shouldn’t. All wood used for smoking should be dried out. This is better not just for burning but it allows time for the flavor that comes from dry wood to set and develop.
Not only does dry pecan wood burn better and deliver a more consistent smoky flavor than the fresh stuff, but the flavor is going to be better for smoking.
What Other Fruit Wood Is Pecan Most Like?
Apple. While the two are different, pecan is most like apple when it comes to other fruity smoke woods. In fact, although pecan wood chunks don’t mix well with other types of wood for smoking, the one possible exception (with a light touch) is with apple wood.
What Smoky Hardwood is Pecan Most Like?
Pecan wood is most like hickory, although it is definitely a milder version of that wood bringing less smoky flavor to the table while also adding a touch of sweetness and nuttiness to offset the most biting tones of the smokiness.
How To Store Pecan Wood Chips
Pecan wood chips designed specifically for smoking should be kept in an air tight container to preserve the flavor as much as possible. Vacuum sealed containers are ideal, but any closed container is better than them just being out in the open or not stored at all.
These are dried wood chips, after all. As long as they are properly stored they should be at least usable (even if not optimal) months or even years after their acquisition, though some flavor fading can be expected over enough of a timeline.
Should You Using Pecan in Your Smoker?
If you have a steady source of pecan in your area, it’s absolutely worth playing around smoking with these sticks and logs to see what type of flavors you can pull out. That rare combination of smoky, sweet, and nutty often creates a smoked meat flavor profile that is an absolute winner and will be hard to match.
I am personally a huge fan of smoking with pecan and wish I had more local access to it instead of having to order online based on my current location, but if you haven’t given it a try yet then pecan wood should definitely be on your shortlist of options to give a shot and add to your smoking experience. Your stomach with thank you!
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