Maple brings to mind what? Maybe the flag of Canada or the red leaves of maple trees. Others may think of maple syrup. Yet others may consider maple wood. Maple is one of the gentlest smoking woods, bringing a sweet, light, mild smokiness to your cooking.
Get to know maple wood cooking, such as what foods pair well with it and what features distinguish it from other types of wood.
What is Maple wood?
Traditionally, maple wood is harvested from hard maple trees, like the Acer saccharum, which also produce the delicious syrup we know and love. These trees have stunning foliage during the Fall, such as red, orange, and yellow foliage.
Cooking and smoking with maple wood infuses vegetables, nuts, and meats with a sweet, savory flavor. It helps create a nice sweet and lightly smoked flavor in the ribs, just as maple syrup and maple wood do. Since it is a less rich sweet wood, it is an excellent choice if you like sweetness.
Types of maple wood
Maple trees have a variety of flavors in the meat, and each produces a different flavor when harvested.
Maple wood comes in two major types. First up is hard maple, a dense kind of wood found in the northern parts of the U.S. Common varieties of hard maple include Sugar maple, Black maple.
Soft maple wood is another type of maple wood that isn’t as dense as hard maple yet is durable enough for a wide range of applications. In eastern North America, soft maple is common. Examples of soft maple are Bigleaf maple, red maple, silver maple, and Boxelder.
The most commonly used maple is sugar maple. Maples such as the Silver Maple contribute to a less sweet taste of meat.
Sugar maple tree bark has a brown color with black streaks. The Silver Maple has a lighter brown color with no black streaks.
Identifying Sugar Maples
The sugar maple tree is found in the northern hemisphere and can be found in North America, Europe, and Asia.
As trees mature, the bark of Sugar Maples turns from smooth to plate-like and grows 70 – 100 feet tall.
Dark green leaves with five lobes are 3″ – 5″. The underside of the leaves may have hairy veins.
The sugar maple leaves turn yellow to red in the Fall, and its flowers turn yellow-green in the Spring.
Maple Wood: Uses and Applications
Maple wood is available as chips, logs, pellets, and chunks. Your choice depends on the size of your smoker. Smokers with offset pits work well with split logs. To ignite propane or electric smoker, simply use chips or small chunks. Pellet smokers, on the other hand, rely on pellet fuel.
With maple, you can cook in any style (baking, grilling, roasting, braising, pit roasting, hot smoking, cold smoking). You can add wood chunks to the heat shields or use a smoker box if you’re grilling. People often don’t realize that chunks fit in traditional wood chip smoker boxes and emit a lot more smoke than wood chips. You can use a foil pouch, a smoking tube/pipe, or a small pan to use wood chips only. Baking and roasting work similarly. A rotisserie works well for roasting.
Smoking with maple wood:
‘Maple’ offers a similar flavor to hickory, oak, and pecan, but without overwhelming them. If you want your maple cooking wood to work its best, follow these tips:
Make sure your wood is kiln-dried: Kiln drying is the only way to ensure that your wood is free of fungi, mold, and bugs. You definitely don’t want to use these flavors in your meal since they can cause excess smoke while burning.
If you’re smoking chunks or splits of wood, never soak them in water before using. Rather, choose the wood that burns evenly and is dry. It creates a great deal of steam, which can actually impede your cooking process by lowering the fire’s temperature.
You should avoid excessive smoke: Smoking and grilling require smoke, but too much smoke can irritate your eyes and pose a health risk to inhaling. Smoke may also overpower all the layers of flavor you’ve worked so hard to develop. When burning, use only dry hardwoods and avoid burning trash or yard debris, which will produce a lot of smoke.
The slow and steady method: You can smoke foods to add flavor or add flavor and cook them simultaneously. When it comes to cheese, nuts, and other foods that don’t have to reach a specific temperature, smoking for flavor is common. If you want brisket, pork, or poultry that is juicy, tender, and full of flavor, try cooking “low and slow” while smoking them.
You may like to read: Smoking Woods for Ribs
Take it a step further: Using maple wood already imparts plenty of flavors; why not add even more zest to your cooking next time? Maple wood pairs well with hickory or oak because they are both smoky and strong, with oak’s sweetness balanced out by hickories. Creating unique flavor profiles is easy if you mix and match other flavor splits.
A piece of advice
In our minds, hardwood is like a flavor or an ingredient. Therefore, it is essential to balance wood’s flavor with the other ingredients you are using, especially rubs, sauces, glazes, or brines. Maple already provides a sweet undertone, so consider combining it with other spices, such as chiles, hot sauce, etc. Having the seasoning with other spices can result in various exciting flavors.
Simply balance all ingredients, including your choice of wood, according to the four flavor levels: bitter, sour, sweet, and salty. As a result, you cannot go wrong when choosing maple as your primary cooking wood.
Meats to smoke with maple wood
Almost any meat pairs well with maple’s subtle sweetness. For best results, however, use mild cuts of meat.
Maple, for instance, is wonderful for smoking poultry. When hickory smoke overwhelms chicken, maple sweetness brings out its flavor. A small game bird such as quail is also more flavorful with maple wood compared to other species. Maple, in particular, is an excellent accompaniment to turkey because the wood balances out the bird’s bland flavor.
They are often paired with sweet treats to enhance pork products’ natural richness, so naturally, maple wood pairs well with pork. Smoked country ham and bacon are great examples of maple wood-smoked foods.
In addition to smoking meat, maple can be used to smoke fish and vegetables because its mild taste will not overpower their delicate flavor.
Add maple wood to your smoker for sweet, tasty food at your next barbecue. Maple smoke leaves no unpleasant aftertaste.