Cherry wood is an American wood that is classified as a hardwood. Hardwoods are dense and dry when compared to softwoods like fir. As a dry wood, cherry wood lacks the resin that can be a problem when softwoods are used to smoke foods. Resin can cause creosote to build up and can release carcinogens when burned. Creosote gives food an unpleasant taste. Cherry wood is dense and dry, but still burns quickly relative to other hardwoods. When it burns, it gives off the clean blue smoke that is characteristic of hardwoods.
Cherry wood chips provide a mild, fruity, and sweet flavor to your grilled foods. It also works very well as a background taste to stronger flavored wood chips, so mixing cherry wood in with other wood chip flavors can provide some depth to your grilling.
Table of Contents
- Which tree do cherry wood chips come from?
- Cherry wood smoking chips flavor—how does it affect the taste of foods? How is it unique?
- Which foods does the cherry wood smoke flavor complement best?
- How do you use cherry wood smoking chips?
- Must-read related posts
Which tree do cherry wood chips come from?
There are numerous cherry tree varieties in the US and all of the fruit-bearing ones can be used as smoking woods as long as they are not from an orchard. Orchard trees are routinely sprayed with pesticides that can linger in the wood. You do not want these chemicals in your food. The cherry trees from which cherry wood chips can be made include wild red cherry, chokecherry, and black cherry.
Many avoid cherry wood for smoking because it is thought to contain hydrogen cyanide, also known as prussic acid. While cherry wood does contain this compound, it is present in very small quantities that are not significant enough to affect health. Most of the hydrogen cyanide produced by cherry trees is limited to the leaves on new growth and to the seeds.
Note that apple seeds also contain hydrogen cyanide, but the concentration is so low that they pose no harm to anyone who eats them.
Cherry wood smoking chips flavor—how does it affect the taste of foods? How is it unique?
The flavor of fruit woods like cherry wood is mild; the wood from other fruit trees like apple and peach is also mild. If you want a strong smoke flavor, it is better to go with a nut wood rather than a fruit wood.
In addition to being mild, cherry wood smoke is fruity and sweet; its flavor is comparable to apple wood. Cherry wood’s mildness makes it a good background note for other stronger flavors, including more assertive smoking woods. It mixes well with oak chips and hickory. Its mild flavors can tone down some of their intense flavors.
It is worth noting that cherry tends to give foods a dark brown tint. This is not noticeable on darker meats like beef or venison, but poultry will be considerably darker when it comes off the grill. The dark brown color has no effect on the food’s taste. While many find darker brown foods attractive, some people may not.
Which foods does the cherry wood smoke flavor complement best?
Like apple wood, cherry wood chips are versatile and their flavor will complement everything from fish and poultry (including Thanksgiving turkey) to beef and pork. Cherry wood chips are especially popular for pork and can be used to smoke ribs, though you will need a large quantity because of how fast cherry wood burns and the long cooking time of ribs.
How do you use cherry wood smoking chips?
Use cherry wood chips by putting a handful into a smoker box and placing it on smoldering coals. Alternatively, you could simply place the chips directly on the coals just before the food goes on the grill grates.
Soaking the chips does not cause them to burn more slowly as some people believe. The moisture in wet wood chips will evaporate and they will then burn at the same rate as dry ones.
Must-read related posts
- Smoking Wood Chips Primer: Learn all about wood chips and many of the unique flavors possible.
- Smoker Pellets Vs. Wood Chips: How do these two methods for smoking compare?
- How To Add Smoky Flavor Without Smoking: There are certain spices you can use to get a bit of smokiness even after cooking.