You don’t hear much about using mulberry wood for smoking, maybe because it’s not as popular as woods like oak and maple. That’s not because it’s unsuitable. On the contrary, mulberry is a fine smoking wood that deserves more recognition.
Mulberry Wood For Smoking
The wood of the mulberry tree has a mellow, tangy, and slightly sweet flavor. It’s best when used to smoke poultry, fish, and game meats. Mulberry also pairs well with smoked rabbit. The wood from the monecious and female dioecious specimens offers superior flavor, since these are the only specimens capable of bearing fruit.
Is It Safe To Use Mulberry Wood For Smoking?
When you’re choosing wood to use in the smoker, the first question you should ask yourself is whether it’s considered a safe wood.
You should never burn softwoods like pine in the smoker. These woods contain resinous substances such as sap and pitch, which will vaporize and infuse the smoke—and therefore the meat—as the wood burns.
Tree resins have a nasty flavor, but that’s not the only reason you want to avoid getting them in your food. If you eat smoked meat that’s been saturated with resins, you could wind up getting sick.
With mulberry wood, though, you don’t have to worry about that. This is a type of hardwood that sheds its leaves during the winter months. So you don’t have to worry about mulberry wood contaminating your food.
Mulberry is also an excellent firewood, as it burns even hotter than woods like white oak and birch. It is prone to giving off heavy sparks, though, so keep that in mind if you choose to use the wood in chunk form.
Mulberries are naturally sweet, so it follows that the wood from the tree would carry similar flavors. The sweetness is relatively mild, though, as is the overall flavor. Don’t expect your smoked meats to taste like a fruit pie when you’re finished.
If you’re used to stronger-tasting woods like oak and hickory, the flavor of the mulberry smoke might be a little too tame for you. On the other hand, it’s perfect for those of you who want the smoke flavor to take a backseat to the natural taste of the meat.
What Meats Pair Best With Mulberry Wood?
Like many mild-flavored woods, mulberry works better with delicate meats. Poultry is at the top of the list, but you can use it to smoke fish as well, including trout. Mulberry carries notes of citrus, which pairs exceptionally well with seafood.
The berry undertones also work nicely with rabbit. If you haven’t yet added rabbit to your smoking repertoire, having a supply of mulberry wood could be just the incentive you need.
The citrus-like qualities of the wood help to balance out the richness of game meats. For example, wild turkeys smoked with mulberry have a wonderfully tangy flavor.
How To Use Mulberry Wood For Smoking
You might have been advised to soak your wood chips before using them in the smoker. We don’t advocate this practice for a couple of reasons.
Number one, wood always burns better when it’s dry. Anyone who’s ever tried to keep a campfire going can tell you that. If you soak the wood chips, they might smolder and create steam, but they won’t burn well.
What’s more, it takes a long time for the wood to absorb enough liquid to make a difference. So you’d be delaying the start of your barbecue by about 24 hours. Since the step doesn’t add anything useful to the process, we don’t usually bother with it.
Male vs. Female Trees
If you’re like us, the gender of the tree doesn’t come up very often when you’re discussing which wood to buy. But when you’re using mulberry wood, it helps if you know the difference.
Trees actually have three possible sexes: dioecious female, dioecious male, and monecious. The monecious trees produce both male and female flowers, whereas dioecious males produce only male flowers and pollen, and their female counterparts produce only female flowers.
To confuse the issue, these three sexes aren’t present in all tree species. Oak, for example, is a monecious tree, producing male and female flowers. Cedar, meanwhile, is a dioecious species.
Mulberry trees can grow to be any of the three sexes. What you need to remember for the purposes of smoking is that only the monecious and dioecious female trees are capable of producing edible fruit.
If the tree is a dioecious male, it won’t bear fruit, because there are no female flowers on it that can be fertilized by the pollen. That means it won’t deliver that same sweet, tangy flavor to your smoked meats.
Since roughly 1/3 of all mulberry trees are dioecious males, you should make sure that your wood came from a fruit-bearing specimen. Fortunately, the folks who manufacture hardwood chips, wood chunks, and pellets want their products to be as flavorful as possible.
Alternatives and Additions to Mulberry Wood
Let’s say you gave mulberry wood a try and found that the flavor wasn’t what you were looking for. What can you use as a substitute next time?
That depends on why you weren’t a fan of the wood’s properties. Was it a little bit too mild for you? In that case, consider substituting oak or hickory next time. For rich game meats, consider mixing in some mesquite as well.
If you still prefer a milder wood but didn’t like the tangy citrus flavor, try using apple or cherry, especially for poultry. Maple is another sweet-tasting wood with its own distinctive properties, and it pairs well with pork and seafood.
You can also liven up the flavor by combining mulberry with one of these alternatives, particularly the ones that offer a bolder smoke taste. We like to mix a mellow-flavored wood in with oak to give it a little bit more oomph.
Where Can I Buy Mulberry Wood For Smoking?
Once we started searching for mulberry wood, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that it’s pretty easy to find. You can find mulberry wood chunks on Amazon for a reasonable price, and the wood chips and pellets are widely available too.
Pellet grills and smokers won’t work with any other form of wood. If that’s the type of smoker you have, you’ll have to buy pellets. You can use them on a charcoal grill too, but they won’t work as well as they would in a pellet smoker.
Wood chips are a more popular choice when used on charcoal, electric, and gas-powered smokers. They’re easy to come by, inexpensive, and fit in most smoker boxes. Just bear in mind that you’ll probably have to replenish the supply every few hours.
Hardwood chunks burn longer and produce more consistent smoke. However, they aren’t always practical, especially if they don’t fit inside the smoker box. We prefer to save the wood chunks for the occasions when we fire up the charcoal grill or smoker.
Mulberry isn’t just suitable for smoking—it offers tangy notes of berry and citrus that can’t be replicated with any other type of wood. We would recommend giving it a try the next time you want to add complexity to your smoked poultry, rabbit, or fish.