Can I use green apple wood for smoking? It’s not a good idea

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  January 15, 2022

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Many people cut down an apple tree and then want to use it for smoking immediately.

They often ask, “is it OK to smoke with green applewood?”

While there are all kinds of theories about what wood is best for the barbecue and smoker, there are many factors to consider before you choose wood for smoking.

Can I use green apple wood for smoking? It's not a good idea

Most experts don’t recommend using green apple wood for smoking and you should avoid woods that aren’t seasoned. That’s because they can produce high volumes of sooty smoke in the cooking chamber.

Other experts claim that you can use green applewood for grilling, which means you cook hot and fast at a higher temperature.

But, if you use green apple wood to smoke low and slow, it will create too much creosote build-up and make your food black, and give it a bad bitter taste due to undesirable flavor compounds.

Smoking with green apple wood: use caution

Using green apple wood to smoke is risky so use it with caution.

When using green apple wood chunks or logs to smoke meats, your food will have a stronger smoky aroma and the fruity flavor will be more intense.

Famous chef and pitmaster Myron Mixon (from the great BBQ cookbook Smokin’) is the top proponent of using green fruit wood like apple and peach for smoking.

He claims it gives the meat a sweetness and uses it when cooking meat at his restaurants.

Mixon’s cooking process involves using a hot base of charcoal which gets the fire super hot so the green wood burns fast.

This is not an ideal method for smoking food at all since you want the smoke to slowly penetrate the meat and give it a pleasant smoky aroma, not to sear or grill the food since that’s something else.

Keep in mind that smoking and grilling meat are NOT the same things!

However, unless you’re very experienced and doing a very fast smoke, using seasoned wood is always better because it won’t ruin the meat’s taste.

Avoid using fresh-cut wood in the smoker.

Why can’t you use green apple wood for smoking?

So, in general, you can’t use green wood to smoke food in your smoker.

The problem is that freshly cut wood contains a lot of moisture and sap. Thus, when you burn green wood, it creates a heavy white smoke with a bitter and quite nasty flavor.

It all comes down to moisture content. The wet wood produces too much smoke compared to properly seasoned wood.

This seasoned wood burns a cleaner smoke than fresh wood so it’s more suitable for traditional smoke barbecue flavors.

Unseasoned applewood also burns unevenly and isn’t quite suitable for long smokes.

Another issue is that wood that hasn’t been seasoned (dried) properly creates creosote which is a black sooty substance. It alters the food’s flavor making it bitter.

Creosote forms from evaporating moisture in the green wood and condenses at the top of your smoker. Not only does it penetrate the food but it clogs up the smoker too!

Generally speaking, most people agree that green wood produces completely different smoke and it might give meat an unpleasant flavor.

Why do some pitmasters use green apple wood for smoking?

I mentioned Myron Mixon who recommends using green fruit wood like apple to smoke sweet tasty BBQ meats.

Using green apple wood will actually make the meat taste smokier than using seasoned apple and you’ll have a stronger fruity flavor.

Fresh cut applewood can burn a sweet smoke flavor but it’s important to consider certain things.

Mixon is known for using all kinds of seasoning rubs and spices. This can interfere with and influence the flavors of the meat.

Although Mixon has written books and appeared on countless TV shows and in videos, it’s best to test out smoking with green wood to decide if you like the smoke flavor.

Apparently, when you use very large smokers, the green wood burns hot and there’s less creosote buildup.

However, the average family-sized backyard smoker is too small and poorly equipped for this green wood which can clog it up with black soot. You’re best off using seasoned wood only.

It’s all about skill and knowing the exact smoking time for different meats when using wet wood like apple to smoke.

If you over smoke with this green wood, you can turn the food overly bitter.

Tips for using green apple wood for smoking

If some pitmasters say it’s okay, I’m sure some people will be tempted to try it. So, here’s a tip to help you out:

Get your greenwood logs and cut them into smaller chunks. Place them around the bottom of the smoker at the perimeter of the hot coals and wait for the high heat to dry them out a bit.

It’s kind of a DIY kiln-drying method.

It’s supposed to remove some of the moisture from the wood to make it more suitable for flavorful smoking.

Once the green apple chunks are starting to get brown you can stack them over the charcoal for smoking.

Best food to smoke with green applewood

If you really want to, you can use green wood to smoke the same foods you use seasoned apple chips for.

This means that you can smoke sausages, pork, beef, chicken, and most types of fish.

The thing is to use small quantities of wood to avoid oversmoking white meats like poultry.

Chicken and turkey are sensitive to smoke flavor so you can end up making the meat taste pretty nasty.

Is apple tree wood good for smoking?

BBQ enthusiasts rave about apple-smoked cuisine and it has become a frequent choice. Applewood chips are some of the bestsellers because they burn a clean smoke that’s light and fruity.

The results depend on whether you smoke with seasoned or green apple wood and the whole process.

Apple smoke is great for smoking most meats because it gives smoked meals a distinct sweet and fruity taste.

It’s a mild smoking wood so it doesn’t overpower most meats and thus it’s great for almost any food.

Applewood is known to smoke great flavored meat and seasoned apple is considered at the top of the best wood for smoking lists.

Can I use green wood for smoking?

One of the keys to having outstanding tasting meat is to smoke it with appropriately seasoned wood.

Green wood is a wood that has been newly cut that doesn’t have enough time to be ready for seasons. It contains more moisture than aged lumber that dries over time.

Green wood releases less heat by the water content in it than other wood species.

When using green wood, a large amount of fire is necessary to drive off moisture during the burning process, which is where some of the unpleasant taste components are produced.

You’ll notice more smoke blowing but it’s not necessarily good quality smoke.

There’s no need to use green wood unless you’re out of any type of properly seasoned wood chips or wood chunks.

If you want great flavor without the brown color of creosote, it’s best to avoid green apple wood or any other freshly cut woods for smoking meat.

Read next: an authentic recipe for smoking bacon on a pellet grill (+ the best pellets to use)

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.