The Eight Best Woods for Cooking Over a Flame

Cooking meat over fire is about as old school as it gets. It’s also deeply satisfying and a great way … Continued

cooking over coals
Hunks of wood almost ready to cook a wild-game meal. Christopher Testani

Cooking meat over fire is about as old school as it gets. It’s also deeply satisfying and a great way to add rich new flavors to wild game and fish. Here are the best woods for the job.

Oak: What this log lacks in distinct flavor it more than makes up for in smoke. Versatile and common in much of the country, it’s the go-to wood for cooking.

Alder: Native to the Northwest, is it any wonder alder is the best choice for smoking salmon? The sweet, light smoke is also a good choice for upland birds and puddle ducks.

Mesquite: Some folks love the heavy bite mesquite smoke adds to red meat and pork; others hate it. The dense, wiry wood burns hot and fast, but no Texas campfire is complete without it.

Pecan: Pecan smoke adds a sweet, nutty taste to whatever meat it touches. If you can, throw a handful or two of pecan shells into the fire for another layer of rich flavor.

Hickory: Probably the most popular wood for smoking all types of meat, hickory adds a hearty taste to venison. It’s also favored for larger cuts of wild pig, thanks to its long-lasting burn.

Apple: Far from the forbidden fruit, apple is the ideal smoke for adding a light, sweet and, yes, fruity flavor to meat.

Olive: A rare treat, olive provides a soft, earthy flavor. Perfect for a hard-earned grouse or other prized gamebird.

Corncob: No, it’s not a wood—but a corncob or two thrown into the flames delivers a sweet smoke. Be careful though: Too much can ruin the meal.

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