The tradition of cooking over wood has warmly found its renaissance, inviting us to experience the ancient allure of gathering and cooking over the fire. 

Applewood-smoked foods are capturing palates and imaginations due to their complex flavors. Envision the subtle aroma of apple wood filling the air, a gentle whisper of nature's essence enhancing every morsel. Picture the calming and romantic glow of soft flames, reigniting primal connections and shared moments cooking over the open flames.

As you venture deeper into the world of applewood-smoked flavors, you uncover the secrets behind its growing allure. It transcends mere cooking, reaching back to ancient traditions and evoking a unique bond with nature and each other. But what does it mean when food is “applewood smoked?”

Immerse yourself in this journey to unravel the facets of applewood smoking and its ability to elevate your barbecuing skills, suffusing each dish with a flavor as timeless as fire itself.

Applewood Smoked: The Basics

The term “applewood smoked” is used to describe any food — meat or vegetable — that’s been cooked over an applewood-burning fire. Food is placed on a grill or smoker in which applewood chunks, splits, or logs are being used. 

Once alight, the applewood gracefully unfurls its smoke, seamlessly infusing the food with a smokey, semi-sweet, apple-like essence.Applewood remains beloved for its ability to impart a sweet, fruity flavor to each dish, evoking a profound sensory experience that lingers, creating unforgettable, savory memories. 

What Is Applewood?

Applewood is a type of fruit wood, harvested from the apple-bearing tree Malus pumila. The apple tree is believed to have originated from Central Asia, but today they are grown and cultivated in regions throughout the world. Most regions cultivate the apple tree for its fruit. 

In the lifecycle of apple trees, there comes a poignant juncture where their grandeur surpasses their fruit-bearing capacity.

Traditionally, orchard caretakers would fell these majestic trees, letting their essence be consumed by flames in open fields. Recognizing the innate value and potential of this resource, we've opted for a more sustainable approach. 

By sourcing this wood, we not only honor its legacy but also provide you with an opportunity to relish its unique character. As a result, our Orchard Apple Firewood stands as a testament to carbon neutrality and the ethos of renewable luxury.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the global production of apples in 2014 was more than 84 million tons, with China producing almost half of this amount. And while most regions continue to cultivate apple trees for its fruit, some harvest them for wood.

Apple wood shares several properties with other fruit-bearing trees, embodying the robust character of hardwood. As with all fruit-bearing variations, applewood trees are a type of hardwood tree, shedding their leaves once yearly in anticipation of the wintry embrace. As a hardwood, it’s also stronger and denser than softwoods like cedar, pine and fir. Its minimal resin content ensures a pristine, clear burn, sparing the air from excessive smoke or emissions and heralding it as a favored choice for culinary adventures.

These features make applewood an excellent source of fuel for wood-burning fires, as the wood burns hot and stays lit for a long period of time. The same sweet flavor that you get when you bite into an apple can be absorbed into your food when you cook over an applewood fire.

What Is Smoking?

Smoking, when used in the context of cooking, refers to the process of slow-cooking food over wood so that it’s exposed to flavorful smoke. Smoking has origins dating all the way back to the primitive cavemen, during which they would smoke large amounts of meat to preserve it from bacteria and pests. Today, it’s still used by millions throughout the world — including chefs, pitmasters, and anyone looking for an elevated backyard bbq — to cook meats and vegetables.

When it comes to flavor, the quality of wood is also extremely important. If you cook with wood that is wet and moldy, it will create lots of black smoke that leaves your food smelling and tasting musty. Nobody wants that! 

Just like when building a regular fire, the driest wood is the best wood for cooking. You should always cook over wood that has gone through a rigorous ultra kiln drying process. That will ensure the wood is dry, dense, and clean, so you’ll get nothing but the apple flavor when you cook with our premium applewood. In the realm of wood-fired cooking, we insist on nothing short of the pinnacle of quality to guarantee a dining experience of unmatched excellence.

What Is the Science Behind Smoking and Flavors?

Embarking upon the journey of understanding the science behind smoking and flavors reveals a fascinating interplay of heat, wood, and chemical transformations. 

At its core, the process involves food exposure to smoke, releasing a bouquet of compounds like phenols, carbonyls, and acids. This captivating interaction not only graces the food with an unmistakable smoky essence but also thoughtfully preserves it by forming a protective antimicrobial layer.

As the wood gently smolders, the heat tenderly coaxes it to release these compounds, each adding a layer of complexity and depth to the flavors. The type of wood chosen for this artful process holds significant sway over the resulting flavor profile. 

Applewood stands out in this regard, tenderly infusing food with a delicate, sweet, and fruity essence. This is attributable to the unique combination of compounds it liberates as it gracefully succumbs to the embrace of heat.

Comparison of Different Wood Types for Smoking

When choosing your wood for smoking, remember that each piece serves as an elemental ingredient, imparting its own unique flavor to your food.

Oakwood, for instance, is renowned for its long-lasting heat and subtlety, perfect for red meats like beef and brisket. It acts as a gentle introduction to the art of smoking, especially for novices.

For those seeking a pronounced smokey flavor with a hint of sweetness, hickory has a more bold and intense wood flavor that is well-matched for pork shoulders, hams, and pork ribs. Its robust character infuses meats with an intricate flavor profile, making every bite a memorable experience.

For a delicate balance, pecan wood graces poultry and fish with a spicy nuttiness. It's a natural wood selection for foods requiring shorter cook times, as it burns faster, subtly imbuing foods with its unique character without overshadowing their natural flavors.

Cherry wood proves versatile for a wide array of foods, including beef, fish, chicken, turkey, pork, and vegetables. It imparts a mildly sweet smokiness, enhancing the flavors while bestowing a rich, pinkish hue upon paler meats, especially when combined with oak or hickory.

Then, there's applewood, which is ideal for whole chickens, wildfowl, fish, pork shoulders, loins, and ham. Much like the fruit it bears, applewood gifts a mild and sweet essence to the food, imbuing a delectably fruity smoke perfect for larger cuts cooked low and slow. 

Understanding these diverse wood types is key to achieving the coveted smoky flavor. This helps align the choice of wood with the food’s character and ensures a harmonious blend of flavors and aromas.

How Does Wood Smoking Compare to Other Cooking Options? 

The alluring world of smoking wood stands distinct in the realm of culinary arts, unmatched in its ability to infuse a rich, unique flavor into every morsel. 

Where electric and gas options may promise convenience, they invariably compromise the deep, nuanced flavors that are the hallmarks of wood smoking. The subtle aroma of apple firewood filling the air signals the beginning of a culinary adventure, a journey into the ancient tradition of gathering and cooking over a fire.

Electric smokers, while user-friendly and consistent in temperature, are devoid of the ability to envelope your dishes in the unique smoke flavors that wood smoking effortlessly delivers. They stand as mere instruments of convenience, relinquishing the deep infusion of distinct flavors for a more automated cooking experience. 

Gas options, too, mar the rich flavors of your culinary endeavors with an unpleasant taste that is far from the natural, enticing smokiness that wood has to offer.

In stark contrast, the act of smoking meat on a wood grill is a celebrated tradition we wholeheartedly recommend. The act of wood smoking with high-quality smoking wood chunks, such as applewood, transcends mere cooking, morphing it into an elemental experience. 

It’s not just about infusing food with unparalleled flavor but also about feeling rooted, interwoven with nature, the food, and each other in a shared epicurean voyage.

Benefits of Applewood-Smoked Foods

Why should you smoke food with applewood instead of other types of wood? For starters, applewood contains very little resin. This is important because many softwoods, including pine and fir, are filled with resin. When burned, this resin produces harsh soot that leaches onto the food. Applewood doesn’t suffer from this problem thanks to its low concentration of resin.

Unless you’ve tried applewood-smoked food before, you might be surprised to learn just how delicious it is. Applewood contains a high concentration of sugar molecules that essentially caramelize the outside of meats and vegetables. Furthermore, the smoke produced by burning applewood injects a sweet, savory flavor into food.

If apple flavor isn’t your thing, then it’s worth giving other woods a try like cherry, maple, pecan, or hickory. All of these hardwoods are great cooking woods because they are resin-free and provide great flavors. Each flavor is unique and can complement different foods nicely. The best way to find out what you like is to get started trying!

Applewood Smoking Tips

Whether this is your first time attempting to smoke food with applewood, or if you’ve been doing it for years, there are a few things you should know. When smoking food with applewood (or any wood), you’ll want to keep the heat low. The best results come when you cook your food “low and slow.” This provides the smoke with plenty of time to be absorbed by your food and helps keep food juicy the whole time. 

Depending on your smoker or grill set-up, there are different methods for keeping your food cooking at a consistently low and slow temperature. One tool we highly recommend is the Flame Boss 500, which monitors your smoker’s temperature and can keep it consistent for hours at a time.

In the video below, you can watch how Evan smoked his first pork butt. He used cherry smoking chunks, but if you’re cooking in a kamado/ceramic style grill you would use the applewood chunks the exact same way. It’s a great introduction to the process of cooking low and slow for great results.

If you’re cooking with applewood chunks, then you do not need to soak them. A popular misconception is that you should soak your wood before cooking with it, but this only slows your fire and adds steam. It doesn’t add flavor and is an unnecessary waste of time.

What size Applewood do I need?

There is a wide variety of sizes when it comes to smoking with applewood. If you’re trying to decide which size wood to cook with, then you basically need to consider the size of your smoker.

If you’re cooking inside a kamado/ceramic style grill like a Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, or Primo then apple chunks are the perfect size. You can use charcoal as your primary heat source, and then add 2-3 large applewood chunks to your cook. You’ll want to add the applewood just before you add the food your smoking for maximum flavor. Many people talk about cooking with wood chips, but we have found that wood chunks are superior to chips in every possible way. 

Pro Tip: Try learning to cook with all wood!

If you’re using an offset, vertical smoker, or large kamada grill then apple cooking wood splits are a great option. Our cooking splits are 8″ long (half the length of our logs) and 1-2″ in thickness. These can be used exclusively or you can mix them with charcoal in a smoker box.

And lastly, if you’re cooking over an open fire or inside a large commercial size smoker, then nothing beats apple cooking wood logs. These large pieces of wood are 16″ in length and 3-5″ in thickness. They can provide lots of flavor and an incredible experience when you’re looking to give lots of food that applewood smoked flavor.

Where Can I Get the Best Apple Cooking Wood?

There are countless places you can look for to source applewood. You could try your neighbor’s tree that fell over or you could pick something up at the local hardware store. If you want the best, however, then you should look no further than Cutting Edge Firewood.

Our ultra kiln dried and handpicked wood stands free of the rot, pests, mold, and fungus more commonly found in wood containing too much moisture. Our wood is fresh when it enters the kiln, so it has not started to decay. It remains dense and hard, but also comes out extremely dry and clean. This gives you an incredible smoking experience that you need to try yourself to believe. 

The sensory journey that unfolds as the fruity aroma and comforting warmth of our quality applewood fills the air holds the promise of unmatched connection to our roots, our environment, and each other.


FAOSTAT Food and Agriculture Data | FAO

Smoking as a food cooking method | MSU Extension

Smoked Food - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

Curing and Smoking Meats for Home Food Preservation | The National Center for Home Food Preservation

About The Author

Leroy Hite

Leroy Hite is the founder and CEO of Cutting Edge Firewood, an ultra-premium firewood and cooking wood company located in Atlanta, Georgia. Leroy's mission is to give people the experience of the perfect fire because some of life’s best memories are made in the warmth of a fire’s glow. He founded Cutting Edge Firewood in 2013 with a goal to provide unmatched quality wood and unparalleled customer service nationwide. The company offers premium kiln-dried firewood, cooking wood, and pizza wood in a wide variety of species and cuts to customers around the country.