Can you use crabapple wood for smoking? It’s a great fruitwood

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  February 6, 2022

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You probably know crabapple as the smaller tree with sour and tart mini apples, also called wild apple.

Most people don’t care much for the actual fruit but the wood is good for smoking meat and other food.

Although it’s not the most commonly used wood for smoking, this wood shouldn’t be overlooked.

Can you use crabapple wood for smoking? It's a great fruitwood

You can smoke your favorite foods with crab apple wood because its smoke profile is very similar to apple wood. Chances are you won’t be able to tell the flavor difference between apple and crab apple wood chips.

The overall crab apple flavor is very reminiscent of apple. Almost any fruit or nut-bearing wood is suitable for smoking.

Crabapple is a fruit tree, and I prefer fruit wood for smoker fuel in general.

Even pitmasters can’t always tell the smoke flavor difference between the crab apple and regular apple tree wood in the smoker.

Thus, you can use crab apple wood to smoke any food that pairs well with mild fruitwoods.

What is crab apple like for smoking?

Crab apple wood for smoking is very similar to apple wood. Since it’s a fruity hardwood, it gives a smoky flavor that tastes just like apple.

So is it the best wood for smoking most meats like apple?

The answer is definitely yes – you’d think crab apples are sour and make the meat taste tart and odd but that’s not the case.

They have a sweet fragrance and impart food with a delicately sweet and fruity flavor similar to all the other fruitwoods.

Since crab apples are part of the same family as apple, it’s one of the lighter woods with a slightly sweet distinctive flavor just like apple.

Therefore, it’s mild, with a subtle fruity flavor and a slight sweetness.

If you’d like to try, grab a bag of Maine Grilling wild apple chips.

Crab apple wood is quite a fast burner so it’s best to soak the wood chips for a few hours to get a longer burning time out of them.

The good thing about crab apple is that it doesn’t give the meat a bitter flavor because it doesn’t have that strong earthy flavor like mesquite or hickory.

Fruit trees are similar so can usually use them interchangeably. Crab apple is one of the good smoking woods.

Can I also use green apple wood for smoking? Here’s why that’s NOT a good idea

Best food to smoke with crab apple

You can use crab apple wood for smoking the same foods you smoke with apple.

Since it has a fruity and sweet smoke flavor, you can use it to smoke pork, beef, chicken, and sausage.

It adds a pleasant but subtle fruity flavor to pork loin and pork butt. You can also smoke ribs with crabapple.

If you like smoked sausages like bratwurst, you can also use crab apple wood to make them sweeter. It’s a good alternative for hickory or as a blending wood with strong woods because it balances out the intense earthy taste.

Some people use crab apple for smoking beef cuts but I would skip it because it just doesn’t give enough smoky flavor. The sweet and fruity smoke is too light for dark meat like beef.

If you like the strong gamey taste of lamb, you might enjoy the nice subtle smoke flavor of crab apple because it doesn’t really alter the lamb’s flavors. However, if you want a stronger smoke taste don’t use a fruitwood.

Because crab apple is mild, it doesn’t overpower poultry so you can use it in the smoker to make delicious whole smoked chicken, chicken wings or goose.

This wood is also subtle enough for fish and seafood, so you can smoke most white fish like halibut.

You can even use this smoking wood for cheese and vegetables because it doesn’t overwhelm with heavy smoke flavor.


Is crabapple wood good for anything?

Crab apple is a fruit just like apples but it has a sour taste. The fruit is edible and you can use it to make jam, jelly, and preserves.

Some people even make freshly pressed juice but just a warning – it’s a lot sourer than regular apple juice.

If you’re feeling adventurous you can even make liquor out of these small fruits by fermenting them.

When it comes to the wood, you can use the logs and cut them into chunks for smoking.

Crab apple is a good smoking wood and excellent firewood too because it burns a pretty clean, nice smoke with a sweet fragrance.

In fact, if you burn crab apple in the fireplace or outdoors for a bonfire or campfire cooking you’ll notice this wood has some of the nicest flames.

Ornamental varieties of crabapple can grow pretty tall (about 40 ft) and they are flowering trees so they look pretty in the spring.

Many people grow these trees because they look nice in the garden compared to other woods.

Crab apple vs apple: what’s the difference?

So, you’re likely asking what the difference between an apple tree and a crab apple tree is.

Well, there’s definitely a big difference and gardeners can tell you that for sure.

People want to have an apple tree in their garden or yard but many people chop down crab apple trees because they’re not that useful.

The most obvious difference between apples and crabapples is that the crab apple tree bears very small fruit.

These look like tiny apples and are have a diameter of only 2 inches or less whereas the apple tree produces larger fruit, usually more than 3 inches in diameter.

So, it’s all about the size of the fruit.

When it comes to taste, crab apples are sour whereas other apple varieties are sweeter.

Is crabapple wood toxic?

The bark and wood of the crab apple tree are not toxic for humans. Although there’s a myth that crab apple is toxic to young children, it’s not really true.

Even if a human gnaws on the crabapple wood and swallows it, it doesn’t pose a health risk.

The only toxic part of the crab apple tree is the seed inside the fruit. Each tiny apple contains seeds, known as pips.

These pips are not edible because they contain small amounts of amygdalin. This is a glycoside substance and may contain and release trace amounts of cyanide.

As long as you don’t eat crab apple seeds, this wood and fruit don’t pose any health risks.


If you like the taste of sweet fruit woods, crab apple is a great choice for smoking most meats, except for large beef cuts and game.

It has a nice mild smoky flavor which can be compared to apple and cherry wood. But unlike cherry, it doesn’t turn skin dark brown.

Next time you’re faced with a bunch of wood from your crabapple trees don’t use it all as firewood because it can make your food taste delicious!

In case you were also wondering: Is Hackberry Good for Smoking Meat?

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.