Can you smoke meat with water oak? Yes & look out for these tips

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  March 25, 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

The water oak (or Quercus nigra), a tree in the red oak group (Quercus sect. Lobatae), is a type of oak tree that is adapted to wet, swampy areas. It’s great for the environment and it’s a good source of timber and fuel, but what about it’s smoking abilities?

Can it give food the same great taste that other types of oak wood provide? Can you smoke meat with water oak?

Some say it gives a similar taste to pecan, and others that all oaks taste about the same. As water oak can burn for a long time and gives a mild taste to your food, it is perfect for red meats like lamb, beef and briskets. 

Read on to find out more about smoking meat and other foods with water oak.

Can you smoke meat with water oak

Is water oak good for smoking meat?

The simple answer to this question is yes, water oak is good for smoking meat. It burns for a long time so it can be useful for smokes that last as long as 24 hours. It also leaves behind a delicious aroma.

Flavorwise, the jury is out when it comes to the taste water oak gives food. Some say water oak gives food a taste that is similar to pecan.

Others say the flavor is not quite like pecan or mesquite and that it is best when seasonings are added. Some say that when it comes to culinary uses, all oaks are the same.

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

While it’s true that people can argue back and forth about the type of flavor water oak will give to food, if we review the opinions provided here, it’s clear that water oak will not provide an overpowering flavor.

Most oaks provide a medium to a strong flavor that is seldom overpowering. The wood is recommended for red meats like:

  • lamb
  • beef
  • brisket
  • and sausages.

Those that feel that water oak is similar to other types of oak when it comes to flavor it lends food will want to use it to smoke these red meats.

Those that find water oak provides more of a pecan taste will describe the flavor as sweet and nutty.

Either way, we see an overlap in the meats that will be best when smoked over water oak as pecan is recommended to taste best when making:

  • brisket
  • roasts
  • and ribs.

So, overall water oak will be great for smoking the red meats listed above.

What else can you smoke with water oak?

Because water oak is not overpowering, it will work well with a variety of foods beyond meat. Here are a few you can try.

  • Tomatoes: Smoking tomatoes can give a unique taste to your salsas, sauces, and sandwiches. Just slice them, place them on a rack and put them in your smoker to enjoy veggies with a smoked twist.
  • Peaches: The nutty, sweet taste water oak provides will be great with fruits like peaches. Slice them in half, then place them on your smoker. They make a great addition to salads, desserts and more.
  • Cheese: Cheeses like Gruyere, Monterey jack and cheddar will taste great when a smokey flavor is added. It will elevate the flavor of your sandwiches and you can even use smoked cheese to give your mac and cheese a unique spin.
  • Potatoes: For best results, rub potatoes with butter and salt before smoking them. Then you can serve them hot or mash them into a great potato salad.
  • Sea Scallops: These will taste delicious after being smoked just five minutes aside. Then add them to plates of pasta and salads to give these dishes a flavorful spin.
  • Olives: Spread olives in a single layer on a foil pan. Then smoke for about 20 minutes to give martinis more flavor and take appetizers like these to the next level.
  • Nuts: Almonds, pecans, and walnuts can all benefit from the nutty flavor of water oak (I ‘ve got this whole article on smoking almonds if you’re interested in smoking up some nuts yourself). After smoking them you can use them in salads, desserts, or just snack on them any time.
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs: After hard-boiling eggs, you can put them in your smoker for 15 minutes to give them a great flavor. These will taste great when chopped into salads or made into deviled eggs.
  • Oysters: Smoking oysters will give them a flavor that turns them into tasty appetizers. Smoke them for just 18 minutes to elevate their taste and serve with butter and lemon or cream cheese dip.

Here’s Rico showing how to smoke with oak wood:

Water oak may not be as well known as some of its cousins, especially when it comes to the world of smoking meat; but its ability to provide a long burn time and a great flavor and aroma sets it apart as a chef’s favorite.

What types of foods do you like to smoke with water oak wood?

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.