How to Smoke with Pecan Wood Chips

Pecan smoking wood is one of the barbecue world’s most popular wood chip choices thanks to its mildly sweet aroma. Find out how to use it and our recommendations for the best pecan wood for smoking.

pecan wood for smoking

If you’re a BBQ food enthusiast, one of the most important decisions you’ll make when smoking your next dish is what type of wood to use. We’re often asked what the best smoking woods are, and one of our favorite go-to woods is undoubtedly pecan.

Pecan is a mild fruitwood that emits a delightfully sweet aroma that doesn’t overshadow the main star of the show: Your meat. It complements a wide variety of meats, including chicken and pork ribs.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about this wonderful smoking wood, as well as our recommendations for how to use it and where to get it.

pecan wood for smoking

What is pecan wood?

Pecan is a versatile species of hickory and is native to the Southern regions of North America, as well as Mexico. It has similar qualities to other types of hardwoods sued for barbecue smoking. The difference is that it’s not as dense as oak or maple. This means that the pecan flavor will come through in your dishes without overpowering them.

It’s not as easy to find pecan wood chips as it is other fruitwoods, like apple or cherry, but it’s well worth the effort in tracking it down.

Pecan has the advantage of being able to smoke hot and long, but without overwhelming your meat. Its delicate fruity and nutty aromas make it a great choice when smoking chicken or turkey, as well as most types of fish.

Best meats to smoke with pecan

Pecan’s rich and nutty flavor means it’s better suited to some meats over others. Here are some of our favorite foods to pair it with.

Pork butt

If you’re new to barbecue smoking, this is where to start. Smoked pork butt (also known as Boston Butt) is a favorite cut of meat for low and slow cooking because it has so much fat and connective tissue to break down. This makes it a forgiving cut for beginners, while its rich fat content makes it perfect for smoked pulled pork. Whichever way you want to serve it, pecan will add sweetness to the flavor profile, but you might need help from another strong hardwood like oak or hickory.

Chicken

Pecan is a delicious complement to chicken, especially when blended with applewood or a touch of hickory. Barbecue smoked chicken is incredibly tender, providing the perfect canvas on which pecan to do its work. Even in lean cuts like chicken breast, a handful of pecan chips in the mix can do wonders by adding a touch of flavor without too much smoke or bitterness.

Beef brisket

This cut of beef is the king of barbecue joints. Cook it slowly and low for a long time to create a succulent masterpiece that can be sliced thin or left in large pieces depending on your preference. Pecan provides great depth in smoked brisket, especially when mixed with oak.

Turkey

This classic holiday meat can easily dry out when smoked, but with a little bit of help from a good brine and wood it can come out delicious and tender.

Pork spare ribs

Pork ribs naturally pair with sweet fruitwoods. Pecan is the perfect companion to meaty and fatty short rib cuts. Try out smoked St Louis-style ribs to see just why.

Salmon

Unlike the other meats on this list, salmon is cold smoked. This means that the flavor of wood will be much more pronounced on the final meat, which rules out strong hardwoods like hickory or mesquite. Salmon with pecan strikes a good balance, although you will have to only be able to use a few chips at a time.

How to store pecan wood chips

Pecan wood chips should be stored in a tightly sealed container. This will protect them from the air which can spoil their flavor and aroma. The best containers are resealable bags or vacuum sealer bags because they have less exposure to the outside environment than regular plastic storage bags.

How long do pecan wood chips last?

Depending on how often you’re smoking with pecan woods, your bag of chips may last anywhere between two weeks and two months before expiring or spoiling completely. If you only use it for special occasions, then expect about one month per pound of chip material for this type of product. As long as kept cool (below 60 degrees Fahrenheit) and dry, these products can last for a long time.

Should I soak my wood chips?

In short, no. There’s some firey debate around this, but I’m a big believer in the fact that it doesn’t do much, and can in fact impede the progress of your smoke.

Advocates for soaking claim that soaking chips for an hour before smoking can help ensure more even smoke distribution.

My argument is that wood chips don’t absorb much water, even if soaked for hours. What it does absorb then steams, not smokes, so it doesn’t generate the effect that you might be looking for. In fact, added water vapor or steam can cool your smoker’s coals (if you’re using a charcoal smoker), which can meddle with temperatures.


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