Finding the Perfect Match of Smoke to the Food

Smoke pellets for smoking food

Get the Most Out of Your Grilled or Smoked Dishes

You’re probably well aware of your favorite food and drink pairings, but what about wood-smoke pairings? Just the way peanut butter is outstanding with chocolate but terrible with sour cream, certain foods are better with some smoke flavors than others. Get the most out of your grilled or smoked dishes by knowing which foods are enhanced by each of the three categories of smoke.

Light Smoke

If you’re wanting to put some fresh-caught walleye on the grill, you want a smoke that doesn’t overpower its already delicious, yet delicate, flavor. Mild smoke from apple, cherry, maple or alder is excellent with meats like poultry and fish, as the light, sweet smoke produced from these chips adds a hint of sweetness that excites the taste buds without masking the meat’s natural taste. Wood from fruit-bearing trees also goes well with cheese, and can be used to turn a block of mozzarella or pepper jack into something worthy of celebration.

Medium Smoke

Smokes that fall somewhere between light and bold go well with a wide variety of foods. Pecan and oak, as well as most blends, infuse a hearty smoke flavor that doesn’t dominate the taste spectrum (unless, of course, you’re cooking fish). Pecan adds a sweet flavor that can overpower some foods, so it’s best mixed with another wood, like hickory. Together they turn roasts from game animals like deer and elk into mouthwatering morsels of perfection.

Bold Smoke

This category isn’t for delicate taste buds. Hickory, mesquite and whiskey-barrel woods infuse the maximum smoke flavor into any food, no matter its density. Any of these bold smokes are excellent choices for waterfowl, fruit, vegetables or nuts. Where they really shine, though, is turning steak from pretty much any animal into a piece of art for the taste buds to savor.