Can I use fresh-cut green wood for smoking? Experts say yes!

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  February 17, 2022

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Green wood is a type of wood that has been freshly cut and not yet given time to season. It contains more moisture than seasoned wood that has been dried throughout the passage of time.

Any type of wood can be green wood including:

  • oak,
  • hickory,
  • cedar…
  • and the list goes on.

It is not the type of wood that matters but rather the amount of time it was given to dry and season. Any fresh cut wood is green wood.

Green wood releases less heat than other types of wood due to the amount of moisture it contains.

So what does that mean in terms of using it for smoking?

This article will look at green wood and how well it works to smoke meats and other food products.

Tips on using green wood for smoking

Can I use green wood for smoking?

The short answer to that is, yes green wood can be used for smoking. However, when it comes to the taste green wood gives to food, the jury is still out. Some feel it gives food a great taste while others say, not so much, it actually ruins it. Here are some opinions to explore.

How to buy a bbq smoker video
How to buy a bbq smoker video

There are certain schools of thought that dictate that the amount of fire required to drive off the moisture during the burning process causes compounds (like creosote) to be generated that make the taste of the food undesirable.

Dr. Nick Nickelson talks about the importance of seasoned wood for this purpose here.

You can also find a lot of discussions on BBQ blogs like this one on Chowhound where the debate on seasoned vs green wood can get very heated.

Most say wet wood is not preferable when smoking as it produces more smoke and that this excess smoke can easily ruin a barbecue.

On the other hand, chef Bobby Flay is known to use green wood in his recipes. He advocates its use in his Throwdown events.

Another chef, Myron Mixon, uses green peach tree wood and says it is essential to his flavor profiles.

This is in line with those who say the maple content in green wood can be beneficial if the wood comes from a fruit tree. They say it helps bring out the fruity flavor.

Some also say that green wood works well for smoking when mixed with other types of wood. They say this adds a great smokey flavor.

How to use green wood for smoking

If these conflicting opinions are making you wonder which way to turn, here is some advice that works as a sort of compromise.

For one, it is not advisable for beginners to use green wood. You should only experiment with this type of wood if you have prior smoking experience.

What types of food go well with fresh-cut green wood?

Those that do use green wood recommend it in the following applications:

  • Green alder for seafood
  • Green applewood for turkey
  • Green hickory for barbecue
  • Green mulberry for ribs

Use green wood only in certain types of smokers

There is also the issue of how well the fresh cut wood will work in smokers.

Fires burn hotter in large smokers, like pellet smokers or offset smokers, so they tend to do well with green wood.

You can choose to preheat the wood to make sure it smokes properly, avoiding the billowing white smoke. The closer the wood is to the point of combustion, the cleaner the smoke.

Smaller smokers, on the other hand, may not be as effective in producing a strong burn that works with green wood.

Never use fresh wood in stovetop smokers.

How long does fresh-cut wood have to sit before it becomes seasoned?

If you are looking to play it on the safe side and want to make sure your wood is properly seasoned before using it for smoking, here are a few tips.

In general, green wood will need about 6 months to become seasoned. To tell whether or not it is seasoned, you can use a moisture meter.

If you are not that invested, you can also check the color of the wood but this is not necessarily a trustworthy indication. Wood that is seasoned will go from a brown color to more of a silver-gray.

However, even this change of color is not completely reliable. Once you split open the wood, you may find that the inside moisture content is still considerable.

To keep this from happening, you can split the logs into smaller pieces or even chunks. This will make the wood dry more evenly.

Stack the pieces evenly and make sure air is allowed to circulate. If you store the wood outside, cover it so the rain does not affect it.

Wood can also be dried out in an oven and some will even do it in a microwave. However, it is a good idea to research carefully before attempting to do this. It can be dangerous.

Check out all of the tips for seasoning wood in my article on it here

If you are looking to season your freshly cut wood, it’s also important not to let the wood dry out completely. Even seasoned wood should have some moisture content.

How to keep green woods green

If you do prefer green wood, there is the problem of how to keep it green. After all, it will dry out over time and it may even rot.

  1. One obvious solution would be to cut fresh wood every time you were going to be smoking. However, this can be high maintenance and quite a costly solution.
  2. If you have freezer space, you could try placing wood chips into plastic bags and storing them that way. Freezing wood has been shown to preserve green wood.

Conclusion

Different people have different opinions when it comes to using green wood for smoking. Some feel it gives food a great flavor while others are adamant about sticking with seasoned wood.

Either way, one thing is clear; having some smoking experience under your belt will help you use green wood effectively.

So what do you think? Will you be adding fresh cut wood to your smoker?

Also read: Can You Smoke Meat with Mahogany? It Depends, and here’s why!

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.