Can you smoke meat with Osage Orange? Yes, and here’s how

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 27, 2021

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

If you are a fan of smoking meat and other foods, you know the wood you use will greatly affect the flavor of the food.

While some smokers prefer to stick with woods they know will get them the taste they want, others like to get adventurous.

Some woods commonly used for smoking include

  • oak,
  • hickory
  • and cedar

Osage orange on the other hand…well, most of us might not even know what osage orange is.

Well, never fear, this article will tell you all about osage orange and how you can use it to make a delicious meal.

Meat on the smoker and an osage orange tree

What is Osage Orange?

Also known as Maclura pomifera, osage orange is a small deciduous tree or large shrub that typically grows between 30 – 50 ft. tall.

It bears a distinctive fruit that is bumpy and spherical and turns a bright yellow-green in the fall.

Despite its name, the fruit is only distantly related to the orange. Rather it is a member of the mulberry family.

The fruitwood has latex secretions and a woody pulp. As such, it is not typically eaten by humans but it’s sometimes eaten by foraging animals.

Osage orange has also been called Bois D’Arc. This is because it makes excellent wood for a bow that shoots an arrow.

Can you use Osage Orange to smoke meat?

When it comes to smoking with osage orange, you will find a variety of opinions going either way on the issue.

Some love the taste, some hate it and some claim it’s downright poisonous.

And while some do believe the sap the tree produces is poisonous, this was found to be a myth. So love the taste or hate it, it probably won’t kill you!

One thing that is agreed upon is that it is an extremely hardwood that burns hot and long and produces a lot of smoke.

This will give the meat a smokier taste and it makes the wood good for grilling. It makes a great substitute for charcoal.

As an added bonus, the hardness of the wood protects it from rotting so you can store it for a long time.

Is osage orange wood toxic?

A commonly asked question is whether osage orange wood is toxic to humans. Although its leaves and fruits are poisonous, the wood itself isn’t toxic if used in moderation, especially for smoking.

It’s not toxic and it isn’t poisonous; it’s actually quite safe. but it’s full of tannin!

Osage Orange for Pork

Those that do use osage orange recommend it for pork. However, it needs to be used correctly. Here is one recommendation for smoking pork with osage orange:

Cook low at 180 -200 degrees Fahrenheit for at least four hours basting it every hour.

While the sauce you use to baste it with will be a matter of personal preference, it is best to go with a high sugar content such as maple syrup or bourbon.

Mix it with a bit of olive oil and that should do the trick.

Next wrap the meat in foil and raise the temperature to 260-300 until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees.

Cooking pork this way produces a tasty meat that is sure to get tons of compliments.

Osage orange can also be great for cooking

  • chicken
  • turkey
  • steak
  • venison
  • fish
  • and brisket.

Although not quite the same as smoking, some use it as wood when they make apple butter on the stove top.

Professional recommendations for Osage Orange

If you are still confused on whether or not to use osage orange while you are smoking, perhaps a professional opinion will make you feel confident.

It is commonly used at the SmokeShack BBQ in Warsaw, MO. The chefs there use custom made smokers to smoke woods that are a combination of oak and hickory with a bit of osage orange thrown into the mix.

The restaurant is known for its outstanding barbecue and recommends this mixture for steaks.

Another local chef from the same area, BuzzardsRoost Oscar, also recommends the wood for making the best steaks.

Mixing Osage Orange with Other Woods

If you want to experiment with osage orange, but are not sure if you will like the flavor, you may want to start out by mixing with other woods. This is a popular way for chefs to enjoy it.

Because the wood already has a smokey flavor, avoid combining it with mesquite which is smokey as well.

Since osage orange is fruit based, you can bring out that flavor by mixing it with other fruity woods such as apple, cherry or peach.

On the other hand, if you want something to tone down the fruity flavor, oak or hickory make better choices.

Osage orange might seem like an odd choice when it comes to smoking meat and other food, but it has clearly become a favorite in many kitchens and barbecue pits.

How do you recommend using this unique wood to smoke your meals?

Also read: How to use flavor Infusing Grilling Wraps & top choices to buy

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.