One of the advantages of cooking food with wood (pellets), is that the fuel used to cooks your food, also produces flavor that is absorbed into the final product as well. Selecting the correct pellets for the food you are smoking is as important as the selection of rubs and sauces. The smoke must complement your food.

The chart below will help in getting you started.

 Remember to always use dry pellets or you may have issues with maintaining temperature or clogging the auger in the smoker.

 Never use pellets that are not designed for cooking. There are pellets created for pellets stoves (to heat a space) and can cause off flavors and even create carcinogens in your food.

Pellet Types and Flavor Profiles
  • Alder - A mild flavored wood with a hint of sweetness. Used with Seafood and poultry.
  • Apple - If you are looking for a fruity flavor profile, then apple is the way to go. Used with poultry, lamb, beef, pork, and sausages.
  • Black Walnut - These pellets produce a strong and intense smoke. Be careful with these pellets! Too much smoke and you can get a bitter taste in your food. Used with wild game, pork, and beef.
  • Cherry - For a slightly sweet smoke, use cherry. Used with pork, chicken, turkey, beef, and side dishes.
  • Hickory - A common pellet used to add a rich smoky flavor to your meat. The smoke from this pellet can be described as bacon-ish. Used with all meats and poultry.
  • Maple - A gentle mild flavor that is great for white meats. The sweetness from this smoke is the reason it is a very popular pellet with backyard cooks. Used with poultry, pork, and side dishes.
  • Mesquite - The wood of Texas. This strong, burnt-wood flavor is commonly used for red meats. Use this pellet for southwestern and Jamaican Jerk recipes. Used with beef and wild game.
  • Oak - These pellets are (in my opinion) not used a whole lot in backyard BBQ. They have a mild non-descript flavor and can be used if you are cooking at high temperatures. Used with beef and seafood.
  • Orange - Citrus is the name of the game with these pellets. They can produce a golden color on your food. Used with pork, poultry and seafood.
  • Pecan - A backyard favorite! This wood produces a sweet and gentle smoke that is a step or two above oak in intensity. It is used with beef, pork, poultry, fish, and side dishes.
 Hint: Don’t be afraid to mix pellets of different types. You can get some very unique flavors into your food using this technique.