Smoking wood is vital in achieving those epic aromas when barbecuing or smoking meats. However, you often find pitmasters arguing whether or not you should remove the bark from smoking wood.
In this blog post, you will explore the reasons behind the dilemma of smoking wood’s bark on or off. Thus, I’ll provide you with an informed perspective on whether you should remove bark from smoking wood.
Should you Keep Bark on Smoking Wood or Not–Factors to Consider
You can choose between bark-on and bark-off by keeping the factors discussed below.
1. Flavor Considerations
The primary concern when deciding to remove bark from smoking wood is its impact on flavor. The bark contains higher concentrations of resins, tannins, and other compounds. These things contribute to a bitter taste when burned.
Some of you may be okay with or even enjoy this additional flavor. At the same time, many prefer cleaner and more natural meat flavors. Therefore, removing the bark is wise for a milder and purer smoke flavor.
2. Potential Contaminants
Another reason to consider removing bark from smoking wood is the possibility of unwanted contaminants. Bark may contain dirt, insects, mold, or other impurities that you wouldn’t want to introduce to your smoking process.
By removing the bark, you can minimize the risk of these contaminants affecting your food. I think it’s the most crucial factor!
3. Heat and Smoke Control
Removing the bark from smoking wood can also provide better control over heat and smoke. The bark tends to burn differently than the wood beneath it. It’s why the wood with “bark on” often produces uneven temperatures and erratic smoke output.
In contrast, using bark-free wood can help you achieve more consistent heat distribution. Thus, you can maintain a steady smoke flow, resulting in a more reliable smoking experience.
4. Wood Selection
When purchasing or selecting wood for smoking, you have the option to choose between bark-on and bark-off varieties. Some suppliers offer wood chunks or splits specifically processed to be bark-free, making your decision easier.
If you opt for wood with bark, ensure it comes from a trusted source, is properly seasoned, and has been stored in a clean and dry environment.
5. Personal Preference and Experimentation
Ultimately, whether or not you remove bark from smoking wood comes down to what you like and trying different things. Some pitmasters love the extra flavors and special qualities that bark adds. Certain woods, like fruitwood, have thinner and less harmful barks, so they’re less likely to make the flavor worse. You can always try smoking with and without bark if you want to see which you prefer.
Smoking Woods for Which You Should Remove the Bark
For some smoking wood, it’s generally recommended to remove the bark before you use them for smoking.
Here is a list of such commonly used smoking woods with “bark off.”
Oak is a popular smoking wood known for its strong flavor and ability to complement a variety of meats. To achieve a milder smoke flavor, removing the bark from oak wood is advisable.
Hickory wood imparts a robust and slightly sweet flavor to smoked meats. However, the bark can contain higher levels of tannins, leading to a bitter taste. Removing the bark from hickory wood is typically recommended for a more balanced flavor profile.
Mesquite wood is prized for its distinct smoky flavor, particularly popular in Texas-style barbecue. However, the bark can be pretty thick and contain a high amount of resins. Removing the bark helps prevent excessive bitterness and allows for a cleaner smoke flavor.
Pecan wood offers a delicate and slightly sweet smoke flavor, often used for smoking poultry and pork. The bark of pecan wood is safe, yet it gives a more refined smoking experience when used without bark.
The bark of walnut wood can contain more bitterness than wood. So, removing it to minimize the risk of overpowering the food with bitterness is better.
It’s important to note that these recommendations are not set in stone. So, you can smoke with bark-on woods for their unique flavors.YET, if you want to experiment with not removing these wood bakers, do it gradually. In this way, you don’t end up ruining your meat/food.
Smoking Woods for Which it’s Ok Not to Remove the Bark.
Here is a list of smoking woods for which it is generally acceptable to leave the bark on:
Fruitwoods (Apple, Cherry, Peach, etc.)
Fruitwoods are known for their mild and fruity flavors. Therefore, they pair well with a variety of meats. The bark on fruitwood is generally thin and less likely to contribute negatively to the smoke flavor. This is the reason that many pitmasters choose to smoke with the bark intact when using fruitwood.
Alder wood provides a subtle and slightly sweet smoke flavor. Therefore, it’s commonly used for smoking fish, particularly in Northwest Pacific cuisine. The bark of alder wood is thin and doesn’t typically impact the flavor significantly. So, it’s often left on during smoking.
Maple wood offers a delicate and slightly sweet smoke flavor. Because of this particular delicate flavor, it’s often used for smoking poultry, pork, and vegetables. You can leave the maple wood bark on, but please ensure it is clean and free from any debris before using it for smoking.
Beechwood provides a mellow and nutty smoke flavor that works well with a range of meats. The thin bark of beech wood is generally benign and doesn’t require removal, allowing for a hassle-free smoking experience.
Ashwood is known for its light and subtle smoke flavor, making it a versatile choice for smoking different types of meats. The bark of ash wood is usually thin and does not significantly affect the smoke flavor, so it can be left on without major concerns.
Removing the bark from smoking wood is the safest approach. Yet, you can keep the smoking wood bark on if the wood is properly seasoned and the bark is free from any toxic chemicals. And, you can keep bark if it doesn’t affect the smoked food negatively.
Keeping all guidelines shared in this article in view, you can experiment with your smoking wood. Don’t forget to share your experience with us in the comment section.
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