Maple is a beautiful smoking wood with a delicately sweet aroma that’s perfectly paired with smoked ham, ribs, or chicken. Find out how to use maple smoking wood for your backyard barbecue today.
Maple trees give us delicious maple syrup that we put on our pancakes and so much more. Maple wood is one of the most common woods used for grilling and smoking. Thanks to its mild, slightly sweet flavor and good burn profile, pitmasters all over the country love incorporating this wood into their plans.
If you’re new to smoking or just want to add a new type of wood to your rotation, here is your guide to everything you need to know about maple wood.
What is Maple Wood?
Maple wood comes from Acer, a genus of deciduous trees more commonly known as maples. Maple trees are particularly widespread in the northern regions of North America, including in Canada, where the tree is a national symbol.
One subspecies of the maple tree common in the northern United States is the sugar maple. Sugar maples are the trees that produce a sweet sap that gets turned into maple syrup. While not all maple wood comes from sugar maples, the wood that does has a subtly sweet flavor.
Maple Wood Characteristics
Maple wood is most distinctive thanks to its flavor. It infuses food with a subtly sweet flavor that is delicious but not overwhelming. That is because most of the maple wood that you buy in stores for your smoker is actually sugar maple.
Maple’s aroma is similar to its flavor. It produces a slightly sweet, smokey smell as it burns that will not only infuse your food as it smokes but it will also tempt everyone to come to the table!
Maple’s smoke color is deceptively powerful compared to its mild flavor. As it burns, it creates a deep, rich smoke that turns food a dark mahogany color.
Finally, maple produces long and steady burns, although it doesn’t retain heat as well as harder woods such as hickory.
How To Use Maple Wood
You can get maple wood as chips, logs, pellets, and chunks. The type that you should buy depends on your smoker. Offset smokers, which have large fuel pits, work best with split logs. Most propane or electric smokers just need chips or small chunks to light the fire. Finally, pellet smokers are obviously fueled with pellets.
You can use maple on its own or mix it in with other woods. Maple has a relatively mild flavor, so it works well in combination with wood such as hickory when you want to create a flavorful but not overwhelming smoke.
Best Meats to Smoke Using Maple Wood
Maple’s subtle sweet flavor pairs well with most meats. However, it works best with milder cuts.
For example, maple is a great choice when smoking poultry. The delicate flavors of chicken are often overwhelmed by hickory smoke, but the natural sweetness of maple just brings out the best in chicken. Maple wood also helps balance out the gaminess of small game birds such as quail without overwhelming their natural flavors. Turkey in particular works well with maple because the wood balances out the sometimes-bland flavor of the bird.
Pork products are often paired with sweet treats to enhance their natural richness, so it makes sense to pair well with maple wood’s natural sweetness. For example, maple-smoked country ham and bacon are delicious dishes.
Maple is also a good choice for smoking food other than meat because its mildness will not overwhelm the delicate taste and structure of fish and vegetables.
Add maple wood to your smoker for some sweet, tasty food at your next barbecue.