Saturday, April 16, 2011

Smoking Wood Test: Lilac

Today I'm going to do one of my first smoking wood tests. The general idea is to try out a bunch of different meats using no seasoning and a single type of smoking wood. We'll try some of the meat when it is done and freeze some for later side by side comparison taste tests. I hope to learn what flavors different woods impart to the various foods to help me select what I use for future smokes. I have a collection of meats frozen that I'll use for future tests.

Meat - Pork (country ribs), beef (patties), chicken (legs), fish (tilapia, salmon.) Seasoning is limited to some oil rubbed on the meat. I also sliced a couple small spuds in half to smoke as well.

Fire: Briquettes with some chunks of lilac. Modified Minion lay. 2 Cups of water in the water bowl. Starting out with top and bottom vents wide open. I also have a new can/ash guard in the bottom under the fire grate. I got a smaller can that just covers the holes and reaches to just below the grill. It should provide maximum volume to catch ash w/out blocking air to the fire.

Weather: 37° and windy, but the rain has quit. Wind is howling at near 20 mph. Good thing the mini-WSM is tight!

4:20 PM Lit coals on the fire.

4:33 158° Meat on! Pork, chicken and spuds on the bottom. Fish and beef on top.
4:57 161° Ordinarily the mini-WSM reads lower than I would expect based on the progress of the food. I've never understood why.

5:10 170° Peeked in and tilapia looks done. I'll leave it on a bit longer to absorb a bit more smoke. It didn't look dry at all.

5:20 177° Tilapia and salmon off. Both tasty, of course.

5:40 207° Beef off - patties are slightly shrunken so they must be done enough. I can hear drippings sizzling in the water pan so I close the bottom vent about 1/2.

5:51 215° Despite the air reduction and howling wind temp is recovering quickly!

6:00 229°

6:15 239° Meat probe inserted in pork. Pork still looks light but the chicken legs are taking on a lovely golden color. But the skins are not yet pulling back on the end.

6:17 241°/162° Closed bottom vent a bit more. It's between 1/3 and 1/4 open.

6:37 236°/164°

6:53 235°/174°

7:15 231°/184° Time to take the chicken and pork off. It must be done by now.

Initial response - lilac smoke is subtle with a slightly sour flavor. The fish and pork were all good. Beef too. Chicken seemed to pick up the least flavor.

Half the results were bagged and frozen for later comparison taste tests.


  1. I have used Hickory, Oak, Cherry, Pecan, Mesquite and Pear.

    I liked the Mesquite the family didn't. I have to buy it so its out.

    The Pear was to mild for my taste and hard to find.

    Pecan is good but not as strong as Oak or Hickory.

    Hickory I really like but I can't get it free very often.

    The wild Cherry is great for birds and I save it for that. It's harder for me to get free but it grows wild and if I run out I'll just cut one of my neighbors trees. It smells great.

    Oak is my staple. We like it and I can get more than I can use for free.

    Free is important.

  2. Hi Robert,
    Thanks for the info. I have black walnut, mulberry, box elder and lilac from my premises. From nearby I've scrounged oak, maple, pear and cherry. I have to buy hickory and mesquite but I'm on the lookout for someone cutting a hickory down as they grow around here. Both hickory and mesquite impart strong flavors so I usually mix them with something else.

    The oak I got is a piece of trunk nearly 3' in diameter and about 18" long, so I have a near lifetime supply. I'm using a charcoal smoker so I don't need as much smoking wood as one of those that smokes using wood alone.

    (Box elder is really a maple - AKA cut leaf maple.)