Pitmasters have options aplenty when it comes to choosing wood for the smoker. It can be overwhelming to think about, but fortunately, some woods are better suited for certain meats than others.
In this guide, we’ll point out the best ways to use almond wood for smoking.
Almond Wood For Smoking
Almond wood produces a sweet, nutty, mellow-tasting smoke. It’s ideal for poultry, pork, and fish, and even pairs well with most vegetables. Since the wood provides even, consistent heat and has a minimal ash output, it’s an excellent option for the smoker.
How To Select Wood For the Smoker
Not all woods can be safely used in the smoker. Most hardwoods are suitable, but some might impart a strong, bitter flavor. That’s why you should always read up on the type of wood you’re planning to try next.
Softwoods, such as cedar and pine, should never be used for smoking. They contain substances like sap and pitch, which make food taste unpleasant. Even worse, they can contaminate the food and make you sick—not an ideal outcome.
It’s possible to harvest and season your own hardwood for smoking, but we don’t recommend this unless you have a lot of free time. You’ll need to make absolutely sure that the wood you’re cutting is safe, for the reasons we’ve just discussed.
What’s more, it takes a long time to season wood for the smoker. Once you’ve cut the wood, it will need at least 6 to 12 months to dry out. When the wood is too “green,” the flavor will be off. It also won’t burn as well unless it’s completely dry.
Instead of cutting your own wood, buy wood chips or pellets from a reputable source. Some companies also sell the wood in chunk form, which is a great option for charcoal smokers. We’ll talk more about these options in Which Type of Wood To Buy, below.
Can You Use Almond Wood For Smoking?
Almond wood is suitable for the smoker, so you don’t have to worry about food safety. The question is, what does it taste like, and when should you use it?
Most nut woods tend to mimic the flavor profile of the nuts themselves. For example, the wood of the black walnut tree has a strong, bitter taste. Pecan wood, on the other hand, is mild and sweet—perfect for cold-smoking cheeses.
Almond wood gives off a similarly sweet smoke that’s great with poultry and pork products. We also enjoy the flavor it imparts to vegetables like asparagus and squash. If you enjoy making your own smoked trout, almond would be a great wood to try.
The wood burns cleanly and gives off a fair amount of heat, much like oak wood. Though the flavor isn’t quite as intense as oak, almond wood will create a hot, long-lasting fire that leaves behind only a small collection of ashes.
Things To Watch Out For
Some folks claim that meat smoked with almond wood can turn bitter-tasting after a couple of days in the fridge, even if it tastes fine at first. We haven’t experienced this ourselves, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Mixing the almond wood with another type of wood might help to alleviate this issue. We would recommend using oak as the second wood, since it burns in a similar fashion. If you’d prefer something milder, try using alder or ash instead.
Another way to avoid having bitter-tasting leftovers is to consume as much of the meat as you can within the first day or two. We usually try to make sure there are plenty of leftovers available, but in this case, you might want to use them up quickly.
Alternatives to Almond Wood
If you’re having a hard time finding almond wood (or just want to experiment with something else), here are a few possible alternatives:
- Pecan: Another nut wood with a sweet flavor profile
- Apple: Gives off a mild, clean, fruity smoke
- Ash: Distinctive-tasting without being overpowering
- Oak: A couple of steps up on the intensity scale, with an earthy aroma and flavor
Which Type of Wood to Buy
Even if you’ve narrowed your choice down to almond wood, you still need to decide whether you want to go with wood pellets, chips, or chunks.
Pellet smokers only work with pellets, so if that’s the type of unit you have, the choice has already been made for you. It’s fine to put pellets on a charcoal grill too, but they won’t work as the primary fuel source in this case—they’re only there to provide flavor.
Wood chips are suitable for charcoal, gas, and electric smokers, though we think they work best on charcoal-fired units. Then again, we prefer to use charcoal most of the time anyway because it provides a good flavor base on its own.
It’s easy to find wood chips and pellets at big-box retailers. For this reason, these two options tend to be popular among amateur pitmasters. You shouldn’t have any difficulty finding the flavor you prefer when you purchase wood in these forms.
You can also use wood chunks in a charcoal smoker. They’ll burn longer and provide more consistent smoke than the chips, which tend to work only in short bursts. Be forewarned, though, that it can be harder to find certain types of wood in chunk form.
How Many Different Woods Can You Combine?
In theory, you can combine as many different wood types as you’d like. In practice, though, we think it’s better to limit your blend to two or three.
If you were to combine too many wood types, the flavors could become muddied so that no particular taste stands out. Your goal is to give the meat a distinctive smoke flavor without overpowering its natural qualities.
We prefer mixing strong-flavored woods like mesquite, hickory, and walnut with larger amounts of a mellower wood. You can also try combining two or three milder woods to lend complexity to the finished product.
Do You Have To Soak Almond Wood?
Soaking wood chips before putting them on the smoker is a popular pastime. It keeps the wood from combusting too quickly and can even add another layer of flavor if you soak the chips in apple juice, cider or beer.
However, as we mentioned before, wet wood doesn’t produce the type of smoke you’re looking for. While it does give off a noticeable vapor, this is more like steam than actual smoke, and it won’t have the same flavor.
Don’t bother soaking wood chips or chunks before adding them to the fire. You’ll only prolong the cooking process and minimize the smoky taste.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t soak wood pellets, as this will gum up your firebox and potentially damage your pellet smoker. Even if you plan to use them with charcoal, soaking them doesn’t provide any benefit and will cause them to disintegrate.
If you can find almond wood for smoking, go ahead and give it a try. It should pair well with just about any type of meat, although it might be too mild for robust and fatty beef cuts like brisket and chuck. Experiment with different meats and see what you think.