When it comes to smoking meat, fish and poultry, there are more kinds of wood than you could try in a five-year span, especially when you consider the various pairings available.
Some of the most popular types include oak, which is a versatile middle ground wood. Cherry is a popular option because of its versatility and sweetness. But with so many options out there, it’s hard for a beginner to understand which ones to choose. To start, let’s take a look at cherrywood.
The Differences between Cherry Fruit and Cherry Blossom Trees
Many may not realize that there are differences between the fruit tree (sweet, tart, black cherries such as the Prunus cerasus, Prunus avium or Prunus serotina) and the blossom tree (Prunus serrulata, the Japanese tree known as the Sakura). All of the trees produce blossoms, but not all of them produce this tasty little stone fruit.
Before you get into smoking with cherrywood, it’s advisable you read a little further to know the differences in the flavors you’ll get.
The History and Traditions of Flowering Cherry Trees
This tradition is believed to have gone on since the 8th Century, and can take place either during the daytime or at nighttime (called yozakura), when paper lanterns are hung from the trees.
In our own country, nearly a million people visit Washington D.C. for the National Cherry Blossom Festival annually. The streets are lined with these magnificent flowering trees, imported from Japan in 1906, by David Fairchild.
More than two decades before that, Eliza Ruhama Scidmore, the first female board member of the National Geographic Society, had begun efforts to get these beautiful trees brought to our country.
What is Cherry Wood used for?
Because cherry wood is both hardwood and beautiful, ranging in a variety of shades from light reddish brown to a rich auburn, it’s used for a variety of things.
- Hardwood flooring
- Fine furniture
- Kitchen cabinets
- Boat interiors
- Musical instruments
- Hand carvings
While color has nothing to do with this use, one of its more flavorful uses is that of smoking of meats.
Types of Cherry Trees
There are over fifty varieties of cherry tree — both blossoming and fruit species. We’ve talked about the most common flowering cherry tree, the Japanese cherry.
This tree is also sometimes called the hill cherry, the Oriental cherry or the East Asian cherry, but there’s also another commonly known Japanese blossoming species known as the Yoshino or Tokyo cherry.
The varieties of fruit tree most commonly recognized by consumers are the Ranier cherry, Bing cherry, Morellos or Black cherry. These cherries and others can be sweet or tart, and have different nutritional properties. Their woods, however, generally add sweetness to smoke and anything you cook with them.
What Kinds of Cherrywood can you Smoke?
Most commonly, fruit tree varieties will be smoked, but flowering cherry wood can be used as well. The different varieties will produce different flavors, so keep this in mind as you use them.
Fruit woods, even if tart fruit, will naturally produce a sweeter smoke. This kind of smoke is best used for curing and cooking ham and poultry, though it pairs well with anything.
In fact, cherry is one of the most versatile woods for smoking, and while it can be used as a solo wood, it combines well with other woods to create a more unique blend of flavors.
Some of the favorite pairings with cherrywood are oak, hickory, apple, maple, or pecan, or some combination of these.
How to Prepare Cherry Wood for Smoking
It’s best to chip wood for smoking with. This can be done with a wood chipper, or by hand with a bandsaw or even a chisel. Although some woods need to have the bark removed, cherry wood does not.
There’s a variety of opinions out there on whether or not you need to soak wood, before burning, so you need to decide for yourself on that one. Of course, the easiest way to prepare your wood for smoking it is through buying chips or chunks from someplace like Home Depot or the local guy at the farmer’s market.
So, whether you’ve got a cherry wood tree out back, want to buy the chunks from the local farmer, or you’ve got a stack already waiting in the woodshed, cherry is one of the best woods for smoking with. You can use it to smoke meats like pork and poultry, for fish, vegetables, or for crafting your own perfect hunk of fruitwood smoked gouda.