The new year is here and we’re looking for a way to save a few dollars. One way is to make your homemade jerky using the ‘smoke’ method using wood from a tree you’ve cut down or gathered from the woods. Great idea, right? Not necessarily. Did you know that not all woods are safe to use for smoking? Some of them contain poisonous toxins or give off pitch.
We’re all familiar with the basic BBQ and smoking woods:
These woods all impart a great flavor and are – in most cases – readily available to gather yourself or purchase from a retailer. If you are gathering from the woods, watch for rotten, moldy wood or wood that has a fungus on it. You don’t want to use wood with those issues as they could possibly transfer to the meat.
Re taste: I’ve read where some people even remove the bark from the wood they use when BBQ-ing or smoking in order to get a milder flavor.
Any fruit tree – and we’re going to include pecan trees here – can be used for smoking. These trees would include:
- Cherry, etc.
So if you are chopping down a fruit tree, save the wood – it is great for smoking. Don’t forget to store it in a dry place off the ground.
One might ask, ‘Why?” use these when there are so many other woods available that we know are safe. Maybe, like us, you didn’t know they were dangerous.
The trees that you want to stay away from when smoking are:
- Black Walnut
While we’ve read that some of these woods are used in certain European countries for smoking (spruce and fir), it is much better to stay safe and use the preferred woods listed above.
Most know that pine – and pine cones – contain resin resulting in too much pitch/black smoke. Know I wouldn’t want to eat that. But more dangerous than that is using the wood of the black walnut tree. We’ve placed a quote below taken from the ‘Smoking Forum’ – scary stuff.
The black walnut tree contains a poisonous toxin known as juglone. The tree naturally uses this toxin to compete against other nearby trees or plants for needed soil, water and sunlight. However, it can harm horses and dogs and may even kill them. Poisoning can occur when black walnut wood shavings are included in the bedding of these animals. For humans, black walnut wood and sawdust is sometimes known to cause allergies and asthma. Anyone handling and working with this wood should always use gloves and a dust mask. 
We discovered this when we had a black walnut tree die and thought we’d found an endless supply of BBQ wood. Thankfully, we decided to check on it before using. Glad we looked it up. Could have been a real problem. To that end, if in doubt about any wood – don’t use it.
If you are looking for wood chips for smoking (or BBQ) check out the list of wood chips – specialty and traditional here: Amazon: Best wood chips for smoking jerky. Great variety & very affordable!