Walnut Wood for Smoking [How to Do It & Best Meat Pairings]


Walnut smoking wood is one of the barbecue world’s most robust wood chip types thanks to its strong aroma and long burn time. Discover how to use walnut wood for your next barbecue cook-off.

walnut wood for smoking

Walnut wood is one of the most common woods you’ll find in the store when you stock up for your smoker. This hardwood is an excellent choice to get a strong flavor out of your smoker. However, the key to smoking with walnut wood is understanding its characteristics and in which situations it’s appropriate to use it.

If you’re not sure how to use walnut wood in your smoker or just want a refresher on the best types of wood out there, here is your definitive guide to walnut wood.

What is Walnut Wood?

Walnut wood comes from the walnut tree, which is a type of nut tree native to temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere, including the United States.

Walnut wood can come from two species of walnut tree: the black walnut and the English walnut. For smoking, most manufacturers use English walnut because black walnut is used in furniture but be sure to double-check. Although the black walnut is slightly more bitter, the two kinds of wood have a similar flavor and smoke profile.

Walnut Wood Characteristics

The most distinctive characteristic of walnut smoking wood is probably its flavor. Walnut has a strong, bitter taste that no other wood replicates. Black walnut in particular has a strong, distinctive, bitter flavor.

The smoke has a very strong, slightly acrid odor. In terms of both flavor and smell, walnut wood is a type of wood that makes its presence known. The bitterness and acidity in walnut both come from the tannic acid present in the tree.

The color of walnut wood smoke is nothing too special. It just darkens meat the same as any other wood would. Its flavor and aroma are much more distinctive. Some smokers say that the smoke has a unique heavy, oily texture.

Finally, walnut wood is ideal for long smokes because it can burn hard for a long period. It is one of the hardest woods used in smokers, making it resistant to burning.

How To Use Walnut Wood

The most common format that you can buy walnut wood is chunks, making it ideal for propane or electric smokers. You can also find split logs for your offset smoker. 

If you’re trying to chop up walnut wood yourself for your smoker, try to age it first. Many pitmasters prefer using walnut wood that’s been aged for at least a year, if not two, because that cuts down on some of the bitterness.

Most pitmasters don’t recommend using walnut wood on its own in your smoker. Instead, mix it with a milder wood such as pecan or apple to balance the flavor.

Best Meats to Smoke Using Walnut Wood

Due to walnut wood’s strong bitter flavor, the best meats are those that have strong enough flavors of their own. Mild meats such as poultry will be overwhelmed.

Walnut wood works well with wild game such as venison because the bitterness of the wood cuts through the rich gaminess of the meat.

Walnut wood also works well with cuts of beef. Smoking some steaks over walnut is a great way to elevate your dinner.

Pork is a versatile type of meat that goes well with almost every kind of wood, including walnut. The natural sweetness of the meat balances out the bitterness of the wood.

While many pitmasters avoid walnut wood thanks to its strong bitter flavor, you can incorporate it into your routine if you mix it with other woods and pair it with the right meat.

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.

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