If you are even a little familiar with smoking and BBQ, you cannot ignore the importance of wood.
While using the proper seasonings is essential, the wood’s flavor decides how the final results will turn out.
That being said, it’s important to know about the different types of woods for smoking: what flavors they impart and what foods those unique flavors go great with.
Today, the wood we will be discussing is plum. Also known as Prunus cerasifera, plum is a fruit tree having a generally mild flavor, used for smoking seafood, chicken, and pork, and occasionally for beef.
But is that all you need to know? Probably not!
In this article, we will be discussing everything you need to know about plum wood, its importance in smoking and BBQ, and the foods you can cook with it.
What is plum?
In simple words, it’s a fruit. But we all know that, right? The point here is to give you a description that’s as detailed as possible.
So before we get to know Plum, let’s start with the family it belongs to, Prunus!
Prunus is a diverse genus of trees and shrubs. It includes deciduous (trees that shed their leaves annually) and evergreen trees.
It can have a range of growth habits and forms depending on the type of species.
Most prunus trees, per the available data, are native to the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, including Asia, North America, and Europe.
Prunus trees are known for their fragrant flowers with showy colors, with leaves that can be of any color, including white, pink, and red.
Some of the most common Prunus species include cherries, peaches, apricots, almonds, and today’s topic of discussion, plum!
Also known as Prunus domestica, the plum is a small to medium-sized tree that grows up to 20-30 feet depending on the conditions and particular cultivar.
Like many other Prunus trees, the plum is known for its attractive and showy blooms in the spring, with white, pink, and purple colors, and its sweet-sour and juicy fruit in the summer, which can be green, red, and dark red in color.
Plum trees are prized for their immaculate beauty and delicious fruits. However, plum has several other applications.
For example, the wood obtained from it is commonly used in furniture making, as well as musical instruments due to its premium quality, general hardness, and excellent tonal qualities.
However, the question that concerns us most is whether this wood is as good for smoking food as it is for other purposes.
Turns out, it’s not just good; it’s ideal for smoking a huge variety of foods, especially meats, which leads us to our next question.
What flavor does plum give?
Plum has a generally mild, sweet, and fruity flavor, just like cherrywood; however, just a bit more delicate and sweet.
Unlike stronger woods like mesquite and hickory, it doesn’t have a lot of smokiness and is generally ideally used for smoking light-flavored meats.
One thing I love about the plum flavor is that it defines its flavor in your food very nuancedly.
You get all the sweet-fruity notes, but not in a way that overpowers the food’s flavors- unlike hardwoods that are often strong and bold.
However, it is essential to mention that the flavor you obtain using plum wood can be significantly different, depending on many factors.
The most common ones include the amount of wood you use, the cooking time, and what food you are smoking.
Generally, the longer you smoke the food, the more flavor will penetrate the meat, and hence, the more it will absorb the flavors.
However, there’s a limit to this also.
Expose your food to any smoke long enough, and the result will be bitter, or at least not as good as you would expect.
Another thing that will affect the smoke’s overall flavor is whether the wood you are using is properly dried or not.
If the wood is not dried properly, the food flavor will not be as good or may even be bad. Here are some reasons why:
- First, wet (green) wood produces a lot of steam. When mixed with the smoke and the natural flavors and oils of the food (specifically meat), this steam can result in a blend of undesirable, bitter flavors.
- Second, fresh wood is notorious for making creosote. It’s a sticky, tar-like substance that builds up on the meat and the smoker. Not only it ruins the whole texture of meat, but it can also have cancerous side effects.
- The moisture also affects the temperature of the smoke; it keeps fluctuating from time to time. The result is unevenly cooked food, burned in one place and undercooked in another.
All in all, plum wood has a very decent flavor overall that goes with every mild-flavored food. What are those mild-flavored foods? Let’s find out!
Which foods are best to smoke with plum?
Plum is a versatile wood that can be used to smoke various foods- especially those with a generally delicate and mild flavor.
Following are some food options that generally go great with plum:
Plum is an excellent choice for cooking poultry, especially chicken and turkey.
Chicken has a naturally mild and sweet flavor with just the right amount of earthiness. In contrast, turkey has slight nuances of gaminess along with the signature richness.
Both combine well with the mild, sweet, fruity, and smoky flavor of plum, developing a taste that more or less takes the direction of umami infused with smoke.
Two of my absolute favorites to cook with plum wood.
Plum is considered an ideal wood for smoking fish for two reasons.
First, it burns very clean, with a consistently moderate temperature that ensures the fish does not dry out and remains soft and juicy after being cooked.
Second, the fruitiness of the plum masks any fishy, strong odor without overpowering the protein’s taste, giving it a generally beautiful aroma and an overall balanced taste.
Nothing combines better with fish than plum.
Pick up any cut of pork, smoke it with plum, and it will taste delicious.
Pork has a generally rich flavor with subtle hints of sweetness and slight saltiness, taking the direction of natural umami.
It takes a relatively complex turn when combined with the subtle sweetness and fruitiness of plum, developing a well-rounded flavor with several different sweet, smoky, savory, and rich nuances.
Plus, since plum burns at a comparatively lower temperature, it makes sure the pork cooked is tender and juicy.
Overall, a delicious combination that is sure to please everyone.
Find more great woods for smoking pork here (top 8 options for beginners & pro’s)
One thing I love about vegetables? They all come with different flavors, textures, and a new experience.
What’s even better? They all taste great smoked with plum wood!
Some favorite vegetables often cooked with plum include eggplant, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, and carrots.
However, your choice shouldn’t be limited to that alone.
If you have any other vegetables you want to cook with plum wood, try them. All vegetables have unique flavors that combine well with plum’s light, fruity flavor.
What woods can I mix with plum?
Plum has a unique subtleness that goes great with almost every other goo. However, if we talk about the absolute bangers, nothing beats the following:
Ok, so plum is already a sweet, fruity wood. You may ask, what is the point in combining it with something like apple wood, which essentially has the same notes?
Well, here’s the thing! Applewood is slightly less sweet than plum wood, but the sweetness is quite unique. More like an apple, to be precise.
It adds several unique nuances to the plum’s sweet, fruity flavor, and makes the overall flavor a little more complex than usual.
If we know one thing about hickory, it’s one of the strongest woods.
While it is sure to overpower the overall flavors of plum, this overpowering might sometimes be good when used in moderation.
Hickory gives plum that much-needed kick of smokiness, which combines well with the mild, sweet, and fruity nuances of the wood.
It helps develop it into something stronger, more complex, and generally better than plum alone.
Oak is considered one of the most versatile and boldest woods to cook anything, from beef and lamb to poultry, pork, and anything in between.
However, it lacks that sweet, fruity touch found only in prunus trees. By mixing it with plum, you get fruity sweetness mixed with a bold smokiness.
The combination is as versatile as oak alone. However, the flavor becomes drastically different, but in a pleasant way.
You will love every bite of your food- guaranteed!
Nutty and smoky flavor combinations have always been on top of the game regarding BBQ. But if you ask us, nuttiness and fruity-sweetness go together as well.
Don’t believe us? Try mixing up pecan and plum together.
Both types of wood are generally mild. However, things go to a whole new level when they are used in combination.
Remember that the combination only works better for poultry and pork, though.
Also, there are exceptions in poultry. For example, you cannot use the combination to cook those gamey meats.
The smoke from pecan and plum isn’t strong enough to cover up the gaminess, which could be a real problem for some people.
Moreover, exposing the meat to smoke for too long could develop even some harshly bitter flavors. In either case, it’s not appetizing and should better be avoided.
The ones we described above for you are the most common and well-liked combinations as far as plum is concerned.
However, it is essential to mention that those are also the safest, especially for someone just starting.
If you are a more experienced pitmaster out on the run trying something new every now and then, there are dozens of other woods you could combine with plum and see for yourself if those turn out well.
There are no hard and fast rules about what works and what doesn’t. After all, It’s all a matter of personal likes and dislikes.
The Sage Wanderer mixed plum with alder for some smoked steaks:
Plum vs. other fruity woods: differences
So, we have covered almost all the basics you need to know about plum wood. We know that plum is a prunus. However, so are many other fruit-bearing trees as well.
Does that mean they all give off the same flavors when burned for smoking, given that they have essentially more or less the same DNA?
Well, that would be a valid question.
Considering that, we have drawn some comparisons between a plum and a bunch of other fruity woods to figure out the answers.
Here are some key differences you should know:
Plum vs. apple wood
First off, let’s talk about the color. Plum wood is a darker shade of brown, almost like a rich mahogany.
On the other hand, applewood is more of a light brown with a hint of red.
Plum wood has a sweet aroma, almost reminiscent of a fruity perfume. It’s like walking through a garden of plums on a warm summer day.
On the other hand, applewood has a more subtle scent that’s a bit earthy with a hint of sweetness. It’s like taking a deep breath on a freshly mowed lawn with a basket of apples nearby.
But the real difference between these two woods is in the taste. Yes, you heard me right, taste.
Plum wood is often used for smoking meats and adds a sweet and fruity flavor to the meat.
It’s like adding a touch of sweetness to your savory dish, like a cherry on top of a sundae.
On the other hand, applewood has a more subtle flavor that’s perfect for smoking delicate meats like fish or poultry.
It’s like adding a pinch of salt to bring out the natural flavors of the food.
Other than that, there really isn’t much that holds any significance in the context of smoking… unless you are interested in the chemical and molecular study of plants?
Plum vs. peach
Plum wood, as we already know, has a very subtle, sweet, and fruity flavor, just like other woods of the prunus genus.
However, as far as peach wood is concerned, things get slightly intense!
While peach wood holds the same sweet and fruity nuances as its other cousins, it would be false to classify it as subtle.
It definitely has a much stronger flavor than plum, moreover, it is also quite smoky.
Peach is known for producing medium to heavy smoke, which, while not as strong as iconically smoky and bold woods like mesquite and hickory, is still good enough to cook beef and game meats.
Which of the two would you like the most?
Well, that really is a little hard to tell. But if we compare both, peach would definitely be the choice of the majority due to its versatility.
But then again, it really comes down to personal preference.
Plum vs. cherry wood
Cherry wood, in comparison to plum, has an even milder flavor and can only be used for extremely delicately-flavored meats, like pork.
It goes more toward applewood in terms of flavors, having those sweet, fruity nuances. However, unlike applewood, or other fruity woods, it is seldom used on its own.
Unlike plum, pitmasters use cherry wood as a complementary tastemaker with other stronger woods, such as mesquite and hickory, to get that subtle fruity-sweet note for a well-rounded overall flavor.
Is plum wood great for smoking?
Plum wood is considered excellent for smoking meat and vegetables due to its mild and sweet flavor.
However, it is important to mention that the flavor it imparts depends highly on the wood quality you get, its age, and how it’s stored.
You can also mix it with other woods to develop more complex flavors.
What flavor does plum wood give to the food?
Plum wood has a mild, sweet, and fruity flavor, just like any other fruitwood, especially applewood and cherrywood.
However, it also greatly depends on the type of wood used, the way it is stored, and its overall general quality. Generally, it’s delicious!
How much plum wood do you use when smoking?
The amount of plum wood you use typically depends on a few general factors, including the amount of food you are smoking, the grill or smoker you use, and your preference in terms of flavors.
As a rule of thumb, if you use wood chips, you are generally required to use around 1 to 2 cups every hour. This should be enough to cook the meat evenly.
If we talk about the amount of wood in terms of flavor and overall intensity, then this really depends on your individual tastes.
Generally, the best practice for this is to start with a small amount of wood. You can then increase it gradually until the flavor reaches your preferred level of intensity.
Sure, experimenting will take some time, but it is well worth it.
Is plum a hardwood?
No, plum is not a hardwood. It is a fruitwood and is obtained from fruit-bearing trees.
While fruitwoods are still technically considered hardwoods, they are generally less dense and harder than woods like oak, hickory, and mesquite.
These woods also burn quicker and at comparatively lower temperatures compared to hardwoods, which is why they are considered an ideal choice for shorter smoking sessions.
Plum wood is a delicious and unique option for smoking meats and other foods. It imparts a mild, sweet, and fruity flavor that is highly sought after by many barbecue enthusiasts.
However, keep in mind that when using plum wood for smoking, it’s essential to use the right amount to achieve the desired level of flavor.
Plus, you don’t want to over-smoke the food as well.
Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or a beginner griller, adding plum wood to your smoking arsenal can help you take your dishes to the next level with its distinctive flavor profile.
All being said, we hope this article has been helpful throughout.
We discussed what plum wood is, its use in smoking, the flavor it imparts, and what makes it so unique.
Read next: Is Peachwood Good for Smoking?