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

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  August 18, 2022

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While some smokers prefer to stick with woods they know will get them the taste they want, others like to get adventurous. Common woods 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’s bumpy and spherical. It turns a bright yellow-green in the fall.

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

The fruitwood has latex secretions and a woody pulp. As such, it isn’t typically eaten by humans. It’s sometimes eaten by foraging animals.

Osage orange has also been called Bois d’Arc. This is because it makes excellent wood for arrow-shooting bows.

Can you use Osage orange to smoke meat?

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

Some love the taste, some hate it, and others 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’s agreed upon is that it’s an extremely hard wood 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’s 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’s one recommendation for smoking pork with Osage orange:

Cook low at 180-200 F for at least 4 hours, basting it every hour.

While the sauce you use to baste it with will be a matter of personal preference, it’s best to go with one that has 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 F until the internal temperature reaches 190 F.

Cooking pork this way produces tasty meat that’s sure to get tons of compliments!

Osage orange can also be great for cooking:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Steak
  • Venison
  • Fish
  • Brisket

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

Professional recommendations for Osage orange

If you’re still confused on whether or not to use Osage orange while you’re smoking, perhaps a professional opinion will make you feel more confident.

It’s 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 aren’t sure if you’ll like the flavor, you may want to start out by mixing it 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 smoky 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.

Kick your smoking up a notch with Osage orange

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

So give Osage orange a try and elevate your smoking. Your guests will definitely be impressed!

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.