Best wood for smoking bison | Top tips for the tastiest result

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  April 22, 2022

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Bison is a type of red meat that shares many qualities with beef.

However, while both are excellent sources of iron, zinc, and other nutrients, beef has higher calories and fat content than bison.

So, if you are conscious about your calorie and fat intake, bison is a better red meat option for you.

Best wood for smoking bison

Smoking is one of the most popular ways to cook and serve bison.

And why not? With the right wood, you can easily give your meat a medium to strong flavor or sweet and light smoky taste.

In this post, I will share with you the best wood for smoking bison plus an easy smoker recipe.

Best wood for smoking bison

The following wood choices are all great when smoking up some bison meat.

Cherry Wood

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Cherry is the go-to wood for smoking meats.

It can be used for everything and that includes bison. Cherry can give your meat that mild, sweet, and fruity flavor.

When using cherry wood, make sure to use a meat probe to check on the internal temperature of your bison.

This kind of wood can give a reddish-pink hue to the meat, leaving an impression that it is undercooked.

Hickory

If you want your bison to have that sweet, strong, bacon-like flavor, hickory wood is the perfect wood for you.

Hickory has a stronger flavor than oak, alder, and fruit woods like apple and cherry. However, its smoke can be pungent like mesquite.

Be careful with using hickory wood. Its smoke can give your meat a bitter flavor.

To prevent this, pitmasters recommend combining it with milder woods like oak or maple to balance the flavor.

Mesquite

Mesquite wood can give your meat a bold, earthy flavor.

It burns slowly and generates intense heat, making it one of the best woods for smoking bison and other red meats.

However, mesquite produces a lot of smoke and can easily overpower the natural flavor of the meat.

You can use it in combination with other wood like oak, pecan, or hickory to balance the taste.

Oak

Oakwood is the classic wood option for any type of meat.

If you are new to smoking meat or not too adventurous when it comes to flavor, oak is the right smoking wood for you.

Oakwood can give your bison meat that medium smoky flavor.

It is slightly lighter than hickory or mesquite, so you will not have to worry about the smoke flavor overpowering the natural flavor of the meat.

Pecan

Pecan is a fruit nut variety of wood. It can give your meat that sweet, mild, nutty flavor.

Because of this, some pitmasters mix pecan with other hardwood to balance the flavor of the meat.

Walnut

Walnut produces really strong smoke, making it the perfect smoking wood for red meats.

However, it can give your bison that strong and slightly bitter flavor.

Pitmasters often mix walnut wood with lighter woods like almond or pear to even out the flavor.

Woods that you should NOT use for smoking meat

If there are wood varieties that are perfect for smoking bison and other meats, there are also woods that you should avoid or never use for smoking.

Softwoods

Pine, redwood, fir, cypress, spruce, and cedar are not good for smoking.

These conifers contain sap and terpenes that can give your meat an unpleasant flavor and make you or other people sick.

You should also avoid using elm, sycamore, and liquid amber because they can ruin the flavor of the meat.

Wood scraps

Scraps of wood, particularly lumber, should not be used for smoking.

First, you do not know what kind of wood it is or where it was stored.

Second, if it has been chemically treated, it can emit toxic smoke that is dangerous to humans.

Wood with toxins

Some trees and shrubs naturally contain toxins that are harmful to humans.

These include mangrove, poisonous walnut, oleander, yew, and sassafras, to name a few.

In some cases, the toxins produced by these woods can survive the heating process and be transferred to the meat being smoked.

If that happens, eating the meat will definitely make you sick.

Smoked bison steak recipe

Tasty smoked bison steak is the dish you never knew you needed in your life!

Bison meat is naturally sweeter and leaner than beef and the smoky wood aromas will make it extra flavorful.

When smoking bison steak, you want to make a simple dry rub and add a savory and sour condiment like mustard to balance out the sweetness of the meat.

But the trick is to keep the rub simple so you can taste the delicious flavors of the bison.

You can keep it very basic with salt and pepper but I like to add some tanginess with mustard.

I like to use bison tenderloin but you can use sirloin and short loin.

Just be aware that bison meat is not as marbled as beef and is leaner so you don’t need to smoke as long.

Smoked bison steak

Joost Nusselder
This smoked bison tenderloin steak recipe is simple but full of flavor. It combines a garlic and onion flavored dry rub with mustard to give a rich savory flavor to the sweet bison meat.
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Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 10 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people
Calories 16 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 4 slices bison steak
  • 1 tbsp salt kosher
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tbsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 8 tsp mustard

Instructions
 

  • Heat the smoker to 275 F.
  • Mix salt, pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder to make the dry rub.
  • Take each piece of meat and spread 1 tsp of mustard on each side of every piece of meat.
  • Sprinkle the dry rub on all sides of the meat. The dry rub will stick to the mustard coating and add tons of flavor.
  • Once the smoker is hot, add the meat onto the cooking grates.
  • Use a meat thermometer and smoke the steak for approximately 2-3 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 145-150 F.

Nutrition

Calories: 16kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 1856mgPotassium: 55mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 255IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 14mgIron: 1mg
Keyword steak
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Additional tips for smoking bison: how long do you need to smoke your meat?

Smoking is not a quick and easy process. It can take you hours or even a whole day to ensure that your meat is done right.

If you are smoking bison, it can take you about an hour to get a pound done.

Before putting your bison in your smoker, ensure that its temperature is around 275°F. Also, you might want to use a meat probe to monitor the internal temperature of your meat.

This is the best way to make sure that your bison is not overcooked or undercooked.

For a perfectly smoked bison, ensure that the internal temperature reaches around 145°F (rare) to 160°F (medium-rare).

Do not overcook your bison meat. Otherwise, it will become dry and tough.

If you want to get even more adventurous with your smoking meat, why not try wild boar?

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.