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Q-talk *ON TOPIC ONLY* QUALITY ON TOPIC discussion of Backyard BBQ, grilling, Equipment and just outdoor cookin' in general, hints, tips, tricks & techniques, success, failures... but stay on topic. And watch for that hijacking.


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Unread 03-17-2013, 01:13 PM   #1
Schmoke
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Default >Sniffing< your cooking wood?

I was watching 'Man, Fire, Food' on The Cooking Channel, hosted by multitalented (rapper, to spicy hot food, to exotic food, now cooking with smoke) chef Roger Mooking. While interviewing the owner of some smokehouse, Roger, on two occasions, picked up the guy's unburned cooking wood, and started sniffing it.

Why?

Is there any way to determine how good a hunk of cooking wood is by smelling it?

Is it like sniffing the wine cork, means not a darn thing but everyone does it?

I'm not going to deny occasionally smelling wood in the past. Green wood smells ... not too darn good. Seasoned wood usually smells like ... almost nothing, and any odor I do detect isn't a whole lot better than green wood.

My take: Sniffing cooking wood gives the sniffer an illusion of expertise to others who don't know better. Am I wrong?
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Unread 03-17-2013, 01:16 PM   #2
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You don't notice a difference in different wood fragrances?

Perhaps it's because of my carpentry background, but I know of the distinct smell of oak vs cherry vs poplar vs walnut vs pine, etc. It's a subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless.


Now, I don't know that sniffing a piece of wood will tell you if it would be a good smoke wood or not, but I think Roger probably was just admiring the aroma of whatever wood they were using. I've done that.
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Unread 03-17-2013, 01:21 PM   #3
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>> I know of the distinct smell of oak vs cherry vs poplar vs walnut vs pine, etc.

I see. (Sniff) "Mmm, I see you're cooking with hickory, today!"

If that is possible, okay, I can see sniffing can be useful in that case.

"Uncle Bob, is this alder or pecan?" (Sniffff!) "That, buckeroo, is Bradford Pear!" "WOW! Thanks Uncle Bob!"

Actually, that would be impressive, being able to tell the difference between hickory and mesquite by just sniffing.
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Unread 03-17-2013, 01:25 PM   #4
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Yeah, I know what you mean. I can usually tell the difference by the appearance of the grain, bark, color, etc. easier than by smell, but there's a difference for sure.


Now, I'm not sure that if I was blindfolded and you handed me a piece of oak and a piece of hickory that I could tell the difference, but perhaps.

Mesquite definitely has a pretty distinct aroma. The milder woods, though, like cherry, apple, pecan, maple....not so much, but there IS still a difference.
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Unread 03-17-2013, 07:47 PM   #5
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I do know that fresh cut black cherry has a cherry scent, fresh cut apple also has a distinctive smell as does northern red oak.
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Unread 03-17-2013, 07:53 PM   #6
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My wife told me if my wood didn't pass the sniff test there's no way in hell she was going to smoke it.

(off to the Penalty Box)
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Unread 03-17-2013, 08:13 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigabyte View Post
My wife told me if my wood didn't pass the sniff test there's no way in hell she was going to smoke it.

(off to the Penalty Box)

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Unread 03-17-2013, 10:46 PM   #8
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Unread 03-17-2013, 10:47 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Schmoke View Post
>> I know of the distinct smell of oak vs cherry vs poplar vs walnut vs pine, etc.

I see. (Sniff) "Mmm, I see you're cooking with hickory, today!"

If that is possible, okay, I can see sniffing can be useful in that case.

"Uncle Bob, is this alder or pecan?" (Sniffff!) "That, buckeroo, is Bradford Pear!" "WOW! Thanks Uncle Bob!"

Actually, that would be impressive, being able to tell the difference between hickory and mesquite by just sniffing.
I could tell you mesquite from a mile away. Oak has a smell I can tell when cut, hickory depending on the species.

Now when you burn them...I could tell cherry, apple and pecan out of the bunch also.
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Unread 03-17-2013, 11:19 PM   #10
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When I sniff wood I'm looking for wood that isn't too strong. (Green)
The smell wanes as the wood dries.
I prefer Oak, Hickory, and Pecan, for most of my smoking.

I have some Apple, Pear, and even a stack of Persimmon.
Not sure what I'll try with the Persimmon.
(Don't suggest Opossum... )
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Unread 03-17-2013, 11:33 PM   #11
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I must admit I am a wood-smellin' fool.

This afternoon I was stacking a half-cord of wood that was delivered the other day. There's some cherry in there and that gets put into a separate pile for smoking. This particular cherry has a real nice aroma. Sometimes when I'm feeling friendly I'll burn some in the wood stove just to give the neighbors a good whiff.

I split wood a lot and I often smell it. Lots of different odors. Oak is the least appealing to me. Smells like cow manure much of the time. The other day I split some red oak that came down in Hurricane Irene and man, the stove room smelled like a dairy farm for a day!
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Unread 03-17-2013, 11:56 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charrederhead View Post
I split wood a lot and I often smell it. Lots of different odors. Oak is the least appealing to me. Smells like cow manure much of the time. The other day I split some red oak that came down in Hurricane Irene and man, the stove room smelled like a dairy farm for a day!
I think freshly split or sawn wood has a much more distinctive fragrance. And I agree that some oak smells pretty funky! I wouldn't judge a smoking wood by the smell of the unburnt wood.
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Unread 03-18-2013, 08:17 AM   #13
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I'm also a woodworker, so I just like to smell chunks of wood. But I'm not sure I've ever smelled a piece and decided not to use it.

So it's probably a little bit of the wine cork thing. Maybe a little bit science
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Unread 03-18-2013, 08:35 AM   #14
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Smelling a freshly sawn chunk from a split is easy to tell the difference by smell from cherry, apple, mesquite, oak, pecan or hickory. To me they have their own distinct smell just like I'm smoking with em. It's funny Because we got a book of what wins what at particular cookoffs and it has really helped. I'm not on a lie, I was a shiggin fool and pissed alot of people off probably by walking by and observing, but he'll ya gotta learn some way. Wow this post should go in the BBQ addict thread!
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Unread 03-18-2013, 12:13 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cliffcarter View Post
I do know that fresh cut black cherry has a cherry scent, fresh cut apple also has a distinctive smell as does northern red oak.
And where would a brethren get some chunks of black cherry to test out in California?
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