Can You Smoke Meat with Mahogany? It Depends!

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  September 17, 2020

Always the latest smoking tips & tricks?

Subscribe to THE ESSENTIAL newsletter for aspiring pitmasters

We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy

I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

When browsing food forums that recommend the best woods for smoking, woods like oak, hickory, apple, and mesquite are all recommended. Mahogany wood does not come up as often.

Mahogany is a kind of wood of three tropical hardwood species of the genus Swietenia: Honduran or big-leaf mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), West Indian or Cuban mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni), and Swietenia humilis, a small and often twisted mahogany tree limited to seasonally dry forests in Pacific Central America.

It’s often used for furniture (or my favorite use, guitars!)

So does that mean Mahogany is not a good wood for smoking?

Well, that’s a good question. Unfortunately, the answer is not as straightforward.

Can you smoke meat with mahogany

Read on to find out more about mahogany wood and if it’s good for smoking.

What is Mahogany Wood?

Mahogany is a straight grained reddish-brown wood that is derived from three tropical hardwood trees of the genus Swietinia. It is indigenous to the Americas and part of the pantropical chinaberry family Meliceae.

The three species are:

  • Honduran: This big leaf mahogany is typically found in the range spanning Mexico to southern Amazonia in Brazil. It is the most common type of mahogany and the only one of its species commercially grown today.
  • West Indian or Cuban: This tree is native to southern Florida and the Caribbean. Though once dominant in mahogany trade, it has not been widely used commercially since World War II.
  • Switenia Humlilis: This small and twisted mahogany tree is found in dry forests in Pacific Central America. It is of limited commercial use.

While these woods are great for making furniture, they are not made for smoking. In fact, with rumors that mahogany sawdust may be dangerous to your respiration, it’s best to avoid using in for culinary purposes in all circumstances.

Mahogany wood is also very expensive, so using it for smoking would be a waste of money.

The wood most commonly used for smoking is called mountain mahogany or cercocarpus. It is a small genus of the last nine species of nitrogen-fixing flowering plants in the rose family. It is native to the western United States and Northern Mexico.

Mahogany and Meat

Although the mahogany-meat relation still makes certain people skeptical, it provides a unique taste that some just can’t get enough of.

In fact, there is a shop located in Bishop, CA that devotes its entire business to mahogany smoked meats. The shop is called, what else?, Mahogany Smoked Meats.

When used for smoking, mahogany wood is no joke. It is about seven times heavier than hickory, which is pretty heavy as smoked woods go, and it sinks in water.

The heaviness soaks into the food as it is smoked, to give it a distinct taste and aroma that sets it apart. It is described as falling somewhere between pecan and cherry when it comes to smoke intensity.

Also read: the best bbq smokers for smoking meat reviewed

What Type of Meat Tastes Best Smoked with Mahogany?

Mahogany gives food a rich taste that can be overpowering. Therefore, you only want to use it on meats that have enough flavor to stand up to its richness.

These include:

  • Bacon
  • Ham
  • Pork
  • Sausages
  • Turkey

It can also be used to smoke jerky products. Mahogany Smoked Meats offers a variety of smoked jerky products, including:

Note: The store also sells its own mahogany wood, so you can go home and smoke your own. Those that have used wood sourced from the store say it provides a superior flavor that makes it worth its weight in gold.

What Types of Wood Can You Mix with Mahogany for smoking?

When people smoke meats, they often like to mix different woods to give the food a unique taste.

As a general rule, heavy woods like mahogany should be used alone, or combined with lighter woods, including the following:

  • Apple
  • Alder
  • Cherry
  • Almond
  • Mulberry
  • Peach
  • Grape wood

It can also be combined with medium wood such as:

  • Olive
  • Beach
  • Oak
  • Manuka
  • Pecan

It should not be combined with heavier woods such as mesquite and hickory.

If you are set on mixing woods, go for around a 40/60 mix with the stronger woods used less than the lighter or medium wood.

Tips for Smoking with Mahogany

Because mahogany is not the most popular type of wood for smoking, it’s not as easy to find. Therefore, you may end up having to forage for it yourself. If that’s the case, here are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Don’t cut the wood with a chainsaw. You will end up with chainsaw oil in your food.
  • Use organic wood that has not been heavily sprayed with pesticides.
  • While some say you should take the bark off before smoking, others say this will not affect the taste.
  • Woods must be dried before they are used for smoking. The seasoning process can take six months for small pieces. but chunky wood will need to dry for 9 – 12 months.

How Much Wood Should I Use?

Mahogany is similar to other woods when it comes to how much you should use, smoke times, etc.

When thinking of the amount of wood to use, you want to avoid over smoking at all costs. Over smoking will completely spoil a smoked meal.

If you are going for a low and slow cook, adding a handful of wood an hour for 3 to 5 hours will get your meat smoked perfectly.

If you are going for fast, hot smoking in a portable cooker, use a handful every ten to fifteen minutes in the first few hours.  Total cook time will vary depending on the size and type of meat you are smoking.

Should I Soak Wood Before Smoking?

Some people choose to soak wood before smoking it.

However, this has little effect on the wood or the flavor. It does produce some extra smoke in delaying the combustion, but the moisture also lets less smoke adhere to the meat. Therefore, you are better off foregoing this step.

Smoking meat is a great way to add a rich flavor to your food. While mahogany is not as commonly used as other types of wood, those who have tried it said it adds a taste that takes it recipes to another level.

How will you be using it to make a great barbecue?

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.