Best wood for smoking kielbasa | Authentic Polish sausage

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  January 23, 2022

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Polish sausage, known as kielbasa, is a flavorful alternative to your regular summer sausage or Italian sausages.

Actually, kielbasa is the Polish word for sausage and refers to all types.

These types of sausages are made of all kinds of pork meat, including ground meat but they can also contain veal. They are served fresh, grilled, cured, or smoked.

The smoked and dried kielbasa is known as hunter’s sausage.

Luckily, you can smoke all types at home and give them the type of smoke flavor profile you like most. It’s all about using the right wood chips.

Best wood for smoking kielbasa | Authentic Polish sausage

Smoked sausage is one of the best additions to any BBQ party menu as it can be enjoyed in so many ways.

The best wood for smoking kielbasa is oak. This medium-strong wood gives the sausage a delicious earthy smoky aroma but allows the natural flavors of the meat and spices to come through. For authentic Polish flavors, add a few twigs of juniper to the wood chips.

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There are other options too, including hickory, the king of smoke woods, and sweet fruit woods like cherry. Keep reading to find out more about how to smoke polish sausage with the best wood chips.

Smoking Polish sausages

Polish sausage, also known as kielbasa, is known for its strongly greasy and meaty taste. It’s also rather spicy as it’s usually seasoned with garlic salt, pepper, juniper, and marjoram.

Most polish sausage is made of minced pork meat but can also contain veal.

Polish sausage is quite effortless to make and a very good choice for people who want to smoke or cure their favorite meats.

You can use a wide variety of woods for smoking sausage but there are a few really amazing kinds of wood you should use.

It’s best to use cured meat when you smoke sausage like kielbasa because pork might not reach the desired internal temperature in the short smoking time frame.

Best woods for smoking kielbasa

The top choice for smoking kielbasa is oak which gives it lots of smokiness.

Hickory is also good and makes the sausage taste bacony which is the distinct flavor people associate with Southern BBQ.

For a milder smoke profile, you can always choose a slightly sweet wood like apple, cherry.

Oak

  • intensity: medium to strong
  • flavors: smoky, earthy

Nothing beats the taste of oak wood-smoked kielbasa. It gives a strong-flavored smoke but it’s not too strong so it doesn’t overpower the natural taste of the sausages.

If you want the best fail-proof smoking wood, oak – especially red oak is the best. Oak is considered to have

Oak is the best smoke wood type for meats like pork and beef – the main ingredients in Polish sausages.

This wood is not as strong as mesquite or hickory so you can smoke sausages that will have a more neutral smoke flavor.

Your sausages will have a medium earthy smoke flavor, similar to the flavors of Southern-style barbecue.

Oakwood also imparts the meat with a light brown color. It will make the sausages look browner than if you use cherry which makes them reddish.

If you’re wondering about whiskey barrel wood chips made from oak too, I think they’re a bit too flavorful for kielbasa.

If the sausage already contains juniper berries, the gin and whiskey flavor can be too overpowering.

Therefore, I recommend classic Cameron’s oak wood chips which are a great neutral smoke choice for smoking sausages and they’re affordable on Amazon.

Hickory

  • intensity: strong
  • flavors: bacon-like, slightly earthy, slightly pungent, very smoky

Hickory is one of our favorite smoking woods and probably the king of hardwoods because it has a pleasant bacon-like flavor and strong smokiness.

It is advisable to use it sparingly at first and then determine the amount that works best for you. hickory burns heavy smoke and can be slightly pungent.

If you overdo it, your sausages will taste bitter so use the chips sparingly. Learn more about the right way to use wood chips in a smoker here.

But overall hickory is an excellent wood for smoking sausage because it’s versatile and works for other meats too, not just kielbasa.

It gives the sausages a pleasant slightly spicy aftertaste with that classic wood smoke aroma.

Combined with the Polish herb and spice blend in the sausage, hickory wood brings the flavors together.

For a toned-down Southern-BBQ flavor, you can use hickory wood chips blended with some sweet cherry wood.

If you don’t have hickory on hand, you can use wood from the same family, like pecan wood chips but the sausage will have a nutty and sweet flavor.

The Weber hickory wood chunks are ideal for use with your charcoal smoker.

Cherry

  • intensity: mild
  • flavors: sweet, fruity, slightly floral

The top fruit wood for smoking Polish sausage is cherry wood because of its mild smoke profile.

In fact, cherry wood is an ideal smoking wood for sausage if you want a sweet fruity flavor. Its smoke profile is mild and delicate so it doesn’t overpower the pork and beef in the sausage.

Combine cherry wood and hickory for a strong fruity and slightly sweet aroma with a hint of floral scent.

When you smoke sausage with cherry, you’re adding a bit of a different sweetness than apple – cherry is a bit more sour and floral.

Cherry also gives the sausage casings a dark red color, which contributes to their smoked appearance.

You can even add a bit of cherry to oak chips to make the smoke sweeter – this is a good option for people who prefer less spicy and smoky sausages.

When you add wood to the smoker, make sure you use cherry wood chips.

But, if you cut down a cherry tree from the backyard, be sure it is cured properly or else it will impart a bitter taste to your sausage.

Apple

  • intensity: mild
  • flavors: fruity, sweet

Apple wood’s sweetness will do just right when you’re wanting added sweet and fruity flavors to your sausages.

While it adds a slightly sweet taste, it also has a refreshing fruitiness to it which works well for smoking sausages.

The applewood smoke is mild and light so it’s perfect if you really want to taste all the various spices and herbs in Polish sausage.

Since these sausages contain ingredients like juniper and sometimes meats like veal, a strong smoke wood can overpower the natural flavors.

Applewood is the most smoked wood in northern Virginia but it’s commonly used in Europe too so it’s a good wood for smoking sausage like Kielbasa.

Normally, apple pairs well with heavier wood types like hickory so it’s a great blending wood too. I like to blend apple with cherry for a very sweet, fruity, and refreshing smoke wood.

But in this case, you can mix some applewood chips with your oak or hickory to create a sweeter smoke.

The Smokehouse Products wood chips are very finely chopped and perfect for shorter smokes like sausages.

I have a full guide on blending smoking woods for the right flavor here

Juniper

  • intensity: strong
  • flavors: pine, gin, fruity, peppery

Juniper wood is commonly used for smoking polish sausage.

Small juniper twigs and branches are added into the smoker on top of the other wood chips and this gives the sausage that dark color and a slight gin flavor.

Juniper has a strong flavor profile and it’s best described as a combination of gin, pine, pepper, and fruity flavor.

If you can’t find any juniper twigs in your area, you can always use the juniper berries and spices from Amazon and grind them into your sausage mix.

How long do you smoke Polish sausage?

Once the sausage is dry, smoke it for about three hours and flip the sausage every 45 mins to avoid mushiness.

Some people recommend smoking at a lower temperature for about four hours – it depends on your smoker.

If you’re using an electric smoker, you can just set the smoking temperature to 225 F and leave it for 3 -3.5 hours undisturbed.

But, when you use a Traeger or a charcoal smoker, you might have to smoke for a bit longer because it’s hard to keep a steady temperature.

The general rule for smoking sausage is about 3-4 hours, turning them over every 45 minutes or so.

Use an instant-read thermometer to check that the sausage reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.

We’ve got a whole list of the best BBQ thermometers to ensure your meat is cooked to perfection every time.

What woods to avoid when smoking kielbasa

Avoid softwood woods which have an unpleasant smell that ruins your sausage but may also cause you to be sick.

Using conifers is not suitable for smoked meats because they contain lots of sap and resin which not only causes creosote (black soot on your food) but makes the food bitter.

Also, during the smoking process, the resins give off toxins that aren’t good for human health.

When you’re smoking kielbasa, you also want to avoid smoking wood that is just too strong like mesquite and walnut.

These earthy and musky woods can make the sausage taste bitter or overly smoky.

Takeaway

With Polish sausage, the best wood type to use is oak, hickory, or fruit woods because these don’t overpower the spicy flavors of the meat.

You want your taste buds to tell the difference between kielbasa and Italian sausage, for example, so don’t overwhelm the kielbasa with smoke.

So, next time you start filling your smoker with wood chips or wood chunks, feel free to use the woods that best suit your personal preferences just be careful to avoid very strong flavored smoking wood.

Your smoked sausages are sure to be a hit with friends and family.

Also read how to smoke hot dogs for an instant BBQ hit

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.