Maple is most commonly associated with the production of syrup, not primarily with smoking food. Sugar maple trees are tapped for their sap, which is reduced to make maple syrup and reduced even further to make maple sugar. The sugar contained in the wood is thought to enhance its value as a smoking wood.
Table of Contents
- Which tree do maple wood chips come from?
- How does smoking with maple wood chips impact taste? How is it unique?
- Which foods work best with the maple wood chip flavor?
- How do you use maple wood chips?
- Must-read related posts
Maple wood is mildly sweet and smoky, a perfect choice for smoking chicken or ham. It's also a great wood chip to mix with bigger-flavored wood chips to temper down their taste.
Which tree do maple wood chips come from?
Maple trees are native to Asia but can also be found in Europe, Africa, and North America. There are about 128 species of maple tree. The wood from maple trees is classified as a hardwood, which means that it is dense and relatively dry when compared to the wood from softwoods. Wood from softwood trees like redwood and cedar can be highly resinous. Resinous woods cause creosote build-up and can give foods an unpleasant taste.
How does smoking with maple wood chips impact taste? How is it unique?
Maple wood is said to give food a sweeter and flavorful smoke flavor when compared to other smoking woods. While all varieties of maple are thought to be good smoke woods, sugar maple is considered the best of them. It also happens to be one of the main varieties of maple used for syrup production due to the high concentration of sugar in the sap.
Keep in mind that maple wood smoke is on the mild side. It has more in common with fruit woods like cherry and apple than with stronger flavored woods like hickory or mesquite. It is perfect when used in combination with the more flavorful woods as you can use it to tone down their harshness and give them a little sweetness.
Note that while maple wood does give out a lot of white smoke when you first put it on the coals, it will quickly be replaced by the light blue smoke you want from your wood chips.
Which foods work best with the maple wood chip flavor?
Maple wood’s sweetness is thought to be best for pork and poultry and will pair well with their flavors. This is because those meats are milder and maple wood enhances their flavors without canceling them out the way a stronger-tasting wood might.
Maple wood does an especially good job when used to smoke hams. If you pair it with another mild smoke wood like alder, you can use maple wood chips to smoke fish like salmon and trout. Maple is also used by some to smoke cheeses, often in combination with other milder woods.
How do you use maple wood chips?
Start your charcoal and let it burn until the coals are covered with ash. Place your maple wood chips in a smoker box and put the box on coals. When it starts to smoke, place the food on the grill grates and close the grill lid. Keep it closed to ensure that the food gets maximum exposure to the smoke. If you are using a gas grill, place the smoker box over a burner and wait until it starts to smoke before placing the food on the grates.
If you don’t have a smoker box, make a packet with the chips using aluminum foil and place that on the coals or over the burner. Poke some holes in the foil to allow the smoke to escape.
There is no need to soak your chips as this is unlikely to do much more than delay the burning for a short time. The moisture will evaporate and then the chips will burn at the same rate as dry chips.
Must-read related posts
- Smoker Wood Chips Guide: Learn many of the different flavors of smoking wood, plus tips on how to get the most from the flavor.
- Smoker Pellets Vs. Wood Chips: How do these two smoking methods compare?
- How To Get Smoky Flavor Off The Grill: Meet five ingredients that you’ll want to know.