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Old 09-13-2012, 08:50 PM   #1
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Default Hickory flavor vs. Oak flavor vs. Pecan flavor (Can you REALLY tell a difference?)

I can't tell the difference between meat cooked with hickory, oak, pecan, etc. When I cook, I use ONE type of wood for the entire cook, and try to determine if the results taste better with "this kind of wood vs. that kind of wood". I TASTE NO DIFFERENCE. I cook on a Lang, by the way.
You guys taste a difference??????? If so, WHAT is it you taste???
Also, all the smoke smells the same too. I can't walk by my Lang and say "that smells like oak smoke" or "that smells like hickory smoke". Talk to me.
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Old 09-13-2012, 08:55 PM   #2
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Not that I'm any expert, but I can tell the difference between hickory and pecan. Recently I have been on a pecan kick, I usually smoke with peach or apple, but I have run low on both. I don't think I know the difference between hickory and mesquite. I'm sure others who have a more nuanced sense of taste and smell can tell the difference. i don't think it is a big deal if one can't tell the difference (it has never bothered me), as long as you are enjoying the process... and the results!!!
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Old 09-13-2012, 08:55 PM   #3
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Sorry, but hickory smoke and oak smoke smell completely different! And they impart a much different flavor. If you really want to taste it, smoke some poultry in pure hickory and another batch in pure oak. If you can't tell the difference, you might want invite over a few friends and do a blind taste test...
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Old 09-13-2012, 09:03 PM   #4
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Absolutely. If you want to learn the differences buy an amazn smoker and cold smoke cheese.

Hickory is wonderfully strong and has that classic smoke flavor; it's robust.

Oak is similar to hickory in it's profile, but is more mild. I'll even say it has little less depth of flavor but I could be imagining that.

Pecan, first off, smells like heaven on pork. It's more mild than oak and has a nuttiness to it which at times can seem like it is slightly sweet. (The same way apple is sweeter smelling/tasting than hickory.)

Your lang would smell differently with hickory and mesquite right? The differences in the other woods are not as dramatic.

One wood that has it's own pleasant smell and taste that is hard to miss is cherry. Cherry is quite distinctive.
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Old 09-13-2012, 09:09 PM   #5
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I'm right there with you snyper. I haven't done any out-right tests, but I can't notice a significant difference between the woods. I tend to use apple wood with my royal oak lump - which is supposedly mostly oak - but I have a hard time with the differences too.

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Old 09-13-2012, 09:10 PM   #6
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Well, Snyper, you and I are in the same camp as far as taste. I cannot tell much difference in the taste of my BBQ regardless of the wood I use.

HOWEVER, I can tell a difference in the smoke smell. I love the smell of hickory burning. In fact, I go out of my way to find hickory. (Oak is pretty easy to come by where I live.)

BTW - an interesting fact: pecan is a variety of hickory. I'd really like to find a truckload of pecan just so I can compare it to the other hickory I normally get here.
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Old 09-13-2012, 09:36 PM   #7
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Over the years I've made a point to use many forms of smoking woods. Mainly to find what is best for what and so on. As a comp. judge it comes with the territory and same as a cook. Some have different abilities when observing the difference. One thing that will help is smelling your cooker when cold, easier to concentrate and if you're trying to determine the difference when cooking or after being around all day, take a shower first. You'll be amazed to how being able to smell something other than your smoke filled clothes or body will allow you to focus on what's in front of you. Steve.
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Old 09-13-2012, 10:02 PM   #8
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I personally have not been able to taste a difference in smoke flavor between wood types , yet. I do however , notice that Hickory or Mesquite will make the food "Smokier" with the same amount of wood chunks , than if I use Apple or Cherry. I only used pecan once so far and it was on poultry and I used way too much and over smoked it. It seems lately that's where I am at in my learning process , figuring out how to get just the right amount of smoke.
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Old 09-13-2012, 10:53 PM   #9
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There is a pretty big difference, but if you go light hickory and pecan can be confused.
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Old 09-13-2012, 11:02 PM   #10
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I feel there is a difference between some woods like say oak and mesquite. but I cant tell for certain most times. I read somewhere a taste test was done and generally people couldn't tell what wood was used or if it was all the same wood.
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Old 09-14-2012, 12:12 AM   #11
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As mentioned already, chicken will pick up the wood flavor profile very distinctly. What isn't usually mentioned is that ribs will pick up wood flavor almost as well - particularly for stronger woods - like that Cherry. Big cuts of meat don't get any penetration (at least with the current KCBS rules), so you won't notice it as much. If you can't tell the difference in the smell of the smoke, that's not a big deal - but you might make sure you find a friend who can confirm the taste in the meat as the sense of smell is very closely associated with the sense of taste.
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Old 09-14-2012, 12:57 AM   #12
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I think that much of it is imagined in terms of flavor differences, but not all of it. I definitely smell the differences, but many times can't taste a difference.

A perfect example is the Jack Daniels Wood Chips. I have used them a few times. I can always smell the booze in the smoke, but never taste it on the meat.
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Old 09-14-2012, 01:22 AM   #13
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I really like the smell of fruit wood in my Lang but find the Hickory has a tang to the smell I don't like.
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Old 09-14-2012, 08:13 AM   #14
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So I assume using a pecan rub, would tend to blend with the pecan wood smoke flavor making it difficult to distinguish between the two? Where as using a pecan wood with a cherry wood for example, would give off-setting flavor characteristics?

Also, not that I've been able to distinguish between the wood flavors all of the time either, but is there a point in time where the age of the wood becomes a factor in the smoke flavor? I felt like my last pork butt was missing a flavor characteristic but I chalked it up to simply not enough smoke. I couldn't help but wondering though, if 3 year old wood (stored in a dry environment) had something to do with it.

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Old 09-14-2012, 08:47 AM   #15
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I really think that it may have something to with where you were raised and your experiences while you were young. For me, oak smoke reminds me of camping and the potatoes cooked over those campfires. My wife's grandmother still had a wood burning oven (and a gas one) when we got married. She only used post oak and the bread was amazing.

Hickory was what everyone used for cooking pork, so that one is easy to pick up.

Even if you can't tell the difference... I bet your kids will be able to. It will bring back these kinds of memories for them.
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