If you’re new to smoking sausage at home, you might think smoking wood is just a tool that allows you to cook your sausages. However, smoking wood is so much more than that!
If not chosen carefully, your sausages could quickly get a turpentine taste that not even your dog would eat.
It’s essential to buy a specific wood type that’ll give your sausage a distinct flavor you’ll love. There are so many options to choose from, including hickory, apple, mesquite, oak, cherry, acacia, pecan, and peach. That’s why I’ve prepared this guide on the best wood for smoking sausage to help you.
Keep reading to find out how each wood type will affect your sausage and give it its own unique taste.
Types of Wood for Smoking Sausage
Smoked sausages are hugely popular among sausage makers. If you know the proper techniques, you can easily get that smoky, heavenly taste in your sausage at home. After choosing the type of sausage you want to smoke, the next most important step is choosing the best wood type.
Different types of wood produce different smells – some are strong and aromatic; others are light and sweet. That very smell is going to transfer to your sausage during the smoking process.
Now you understand why picking up random wood sticks from your backyard wouldn’t be the best idea for smoking your Italian sausage.
Some of the most popular wood for smoking sausage include hickory, oak, apple, cherry, and mesquite. In the end, it comes down to your personal preferences and taste.
For example, if you can’t stand a bit of sweetness in your sausage, you shouldn’t go with cherrywood. If you want your sausage to have a strong yet mellow taste – go for oak. My general advice would be to go with hardwood (see the sections below the table).
This table gives a quick overview of the best wood types to help you make an informed decision. In addition to the types of wood you can use, you’ll find their flavor profile, the type of smoke they’re suitable for, and the sausage type they’re best used for. For more details on each type of wood, continue reading to the sections below the table.
|Type of Wood||Flavor Profile||Hot vs. Cold Smoke||Type of Sausage Best for|
|Hickory||Strong, bacon flavor||Hot||Italian, Summer, Polish|
|Apple||Light, slightly sweet||Both||Polish, Italian|
|Oak||Strong, mellow||Both||Venison, Summer, Italian, Polish|
|Cherry||Fruity, sweet||Both||Polish, summer|
|Pecan||Sweet, nutty||Hot||Summer, Italian|
|Peach||Sweet, fruity||Both||Summer, Italian, Polish|
|Acacia||Strong, mesquite-like||Hot||Italian, Polish|
Hickory is an all-time favorite smoking wood. It gives off a pungent, bacon-like smell. You want to use this hardwood in moderation. It’s best to use it sparingly at first and then figure out what amount works best for you. If you overdo it, your sausage will taste more bitter than it was supposed to.
Here’s the favorite smoking wood of the northern United States. Apple wood’s sweet taste will do a great job if you want to add just a touch of sweetness to your sausages. Apple pairs well with stronger wood types such as hickory.
Mesquite has quickly risen to become one of the best smoking woods for Americans. Like hickory, I love it for its strong taste, even if it is a bit milder than hickory. Mesquite will burn fast and hot, so it’s best for short smoking.
Oak is probably the best wood for smoking meat in general. It fits perfectly for sausages, too – giving them a strong (but not too strong) flavor and a light brown color.
Cherry is one of the best options if you want to add a sweet, fruity taste to your sausages. Also, cherry gives off a slightly red color to the meat, which only adds to its overall taste. You can pair cherry with hickory for a symphony of strong yet fruity smells.
This one belongs to the same family as mesquite, but it’s not as strong. Because it has a lighter flavor than mesquite, acacia is one of the best wood types for smoking meat. It will give away a lemon-type color.
Pecan is an excellent choice for light meat but will also go well with sausages. This mild nut wood does have a smell similar to hickory or walnut but much milder. Just like hickory, pecan can be a bit intense, so I recommend using it in moderation.
Peach wood, just like any other fruitwood, has a light and slightly sweet taste. You won’t go wrong, opting for fruitwoods for smoking. You can add peach to mesquite or hickory wood to impart a savory flavor to your sausages.
Wood Types to Avoid
Taking a look from another perspective, here are some wood species you should avoid: pine, fir, cedar, Cyprus, sassafras, sycamore, elm, eucalyptus. Basically, stay in the range of hardwoods, and avoid softwoods. Not only do they transfer unpleasant smells that are sure to ruin your delicious sausage, but they can also make you sick.
Best Wood for Smoking Italian Sausage
Without a doubt, the best wood to smoke Italian sausage is hickory. After three hours of smoking your Italian sausage with hickory, it should reach the internal temperature of 165°F and get a slightly reddish color from the wood.
If you have oak leftovers from the last smoking session, feel free to use those. Just like I stated above, any hardwood tree will do the trick as long as it suits your personal preference and taste.
Best Wood for Smoking Summer Sausage
If you can find hickory or cherry wood chips to smoke your summer sausage, go for it. They will transfer their natural flavors to the summer sausage perfectly. You can go for a mix of these two, as they’re a great combination of a fruity and robust smell.
When choosing the wood for smoking summer sausage (and any other sausage, for that matter), your starting point should be whether you like its smell or not. If you think mesquite is too strong and cherry too light, go for hickory.
Best Wood for Smoking Polish Sausage
Again, hickory and cherry lead the competition here. You can use hickory in pretty much any form: wood, sawdust, or chips. You can add a bit of cherry to your hickory here as well. And if you’re more of a sweet smell sausage eater, you can only use cherry or switch to apple.
If you’re a beginner at smoking Polish sausage, you can go for oak. This hardwood is quintessential for any smoking meat type.
The only wood type I really don’t recommend for smoking kielbasa is softwood (like spruce, cedar, pine, or fir). You want to stay away from these when it comes to smoking any sausage in general.
Best Wood for Smoking Venison Sausage
The best wood types for smoking venison sausage include oak, hickory, and walnut. All of these will stand up to venison’s rich flavor perfectly. They’re also great wood types to use for meat smoking beginners.
However, if you’re looking for a robust final flavor, you can go for mesquite, as this is the strongest hardwood when it comes to flavor.
Regardless of your wood choice, remember not to overcook venison. It being lean means the smoking process will take less time than with other meats.
Best Wood Chips for Smoking Sausage
My top recommendation for wood chips would be hickory or cherry. They’ll produce a smell that will complement your sausage’s natural flavors perfectly.
Other than these, you can go with apple, oak, mesquite, or use a variety (something like Western BBQ Chips).
There’s an ongoing debate about whether you should soak your wood chips beforehand or not. If you’re up for a bitter sausage flavor, you can use wet wood. Basically, the only reason for soaking wood chips in water (or any other liquid) is to give off a specific taste.
Of all the wood types mentioned in this article, the two I’d like to point out are hickory and cherry. These are your safest bet if you’re new to smoking sausage. I’d also add oak to the list of go-to smoking wood for beginners.
Remember, the wood type you opt for depends primarily on your personal taste. You should avoid cherry or other fruit woods if you want to stay away from sweetness. If you prefer the bitter or pungent taste, go with mesquite. This also means you can mix and match different wood types to find that perfect combination your taste buds will enjoy.
The general advice is to go with hardwood (or medium-hard) and stay away from softwood. All the rest is really up to you.