If you’re driving around looking for very good woods for smoking, you might come across thorny trees with small green leaves which turn a beautiful golden color in the fall.
You might be looking at the honey locust tree.
The honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) also known as the thorny locust, is native to central North America where it is mostly found in the moist soil of river valleys.
If you’re wondering if you can smoke meat with honey locust wood, the overall opinion of pitmasters is that no, you can’t smoke with honey locust wood.
Honey locust wood is not the best wood for smoking because it has thorns and burns very hot so it can burn the food and produce creosote. Also, the honey locust has a high sap content which is used to make syrup but doesn’t provide a good smoke flavor for the food.
Honey locust wood should be used as firewood, not for smoking. Since it’s one of the hottest burning woods, it will heat up your fireplace and home very fast.
Before I continue, I want to mention that there is a difference between honey locust and black locust. The black locust is actually very toxic and can cause severe illness or death to humans and animals when ingested.
In this post, I’m talking about the honey locust which is a different tree species.
While it’s not among the good woods for smoking, it’s not toxic and you won’t get sick if you accidentally use it for the grill or smoker.
In this post we'll cover:
Can you smoke with honey locust wood?
While you might technically be able to place honey locust wood chunks into the smoker and add smoke to your food, you should not smoke meat with honey locust wood.
There are so many other woods for smoking that are much more suitable for the task.
Since the honey locust tree is one of the most rot-resistant wood species and it produces a sweet sap, people assume the smoke is sweet and similar to fruit woods but this is NOT the case.
The heavy smoke flavor is too bold and overwhelming so you won’t taste the natural flavors of the meat.
Honey locust is a hardwood but you can’t really compare it with good smoking woods like hickory or red oak.
It is actually more similar to black walnut which is used as firewood but it’s too strong for smoking food.
Honey locust is not a good smoking wood because it burns very fast and hot so it creates a lot of smoke at once. You might start smoking only to realize the wood chips or chunks have already turned into ash.
Also, smoking with honey locust wood can cause a creosote buildup which turns food black and makes it taste awful and bitter.
The locust tree has long thorns and a higher sap content than other trees.
As a result, when it burns, the smoke isn’t flavorful in a good way. It has a much stronger flavor than sweet and earthy smoke woods.
When smoking with honey locust wood, your food can turn out bitter and nasty so it can actually ruin the taste of the food.
People who’ve tried smoking with honey locust say the smoke tastes nothing like the mild flavor they expected so it’s not one of the very good woods.
The bottom line is that no, you shouldn’t smoke with honey locust wood.
Is honey locust wood toxic?
Honey locust wood is not officially listed as a toxic plant by the USDA but it can cause injuries if you get cut by thorns.
The wounds can heal slowly and possibly cause a lot of skin irritation.
But honey locust trees are not toxic. In fact, Indigenous communities have been using this wood to make traditional medicines.
Therefore, we can assume you can use parts of the tree safely for many purposes.
Is honey locust smoke toxic?
The honey locust smoke isn’t toxic if you burn it because it’s excellent firewood.
This wood burns very hot – at 26.7 million BTUs, coming in a close second to black locust at 27.9 BTUs but the black locust is very toxic for smoking and should NEVER be used.
So, even though the honey locust is not toxic when burning, it shouldn’t be used on top of the charcoal in the smoker or it can create a strong bitter smoke.
Therefore, stick to honey locust for heating up the fireplace or stove and skip it when you want to smoke meat.
What is honey locust?
Honey locust trees grow in the Central North American region where river valleys are prevalent and the soil is moist.
This deciduous tree is also called the thorny locust tree because it has thorns. Honey locust trees have really long thorns whereas black locust trees have shorter thorns.
The honey locust tree is mostly ornamental because in the autumn the leaves turn a beautiful golden yellow color.
The tree has bean-like seeds and small flowers. Seeds can be used as a coffee substitute and parts of the tree are used to make traditional Indigenous medicines.
Is locust wood good for anything?
Even though honey locust is not good for smoking meat, it’s not useless wood.
The honey locust wood can be used to start a fire in your wood stove. It burns hot so you can cook with this wood.
Many people in rural areas still use honey locust for heating stoves because it’s a good wood for cooking.
So you can use the wood to heat your home. In fact, honey locust is great firewood because it splits easily and creates tons of heat.
Place honey locust logs in the fireplace and enjoy all the heat it creates, or take it on your next camping trip for the campfire (and don’t forget your portable grill!)
Honey locust is also good timber because it’s very dense. It’s an extremely rot-resistant wood so it lasts for many years in harsh outdoor conditions.
Since honey locust is a durable wood, people use it to build all kinds of structures, fence posts, pallets, railroad ties, and even as handles for tools.
The main takeaway is that you should NOT smoke with the honey locust wood you find because it just doesn’t taste good at all.
It’s not a great wood for smoking at all and will make your food taste pretty bad and nothing like fruitwoods.
This wood is nothing like apple (including crab apple), cherry, maple, or the classic hickory tree. Its smoke is bitter and your meat can become sooty.
Also, you can even risk melting and clogging up your smoker.
So, if you want the best tasting smoked food, always avoid honey and black locust woods.