Don’t use any wood from conifers (PINE, FIR, SPRUCE, REDWOOD, CEDAR, CYPRESS, etc.). I saw a man cook with the heart of pine one time that promoted some of the nastiest red splotches all over the skin of the unhappy diners, it made them extremely sick.

There are many trees and shrubs in this world that contain toxins to humans, toxins that can survive the burning process. Remember, you are going to eat the meat that you smoke and the smoke particles and chemicals from the wood and what may be on or in the wood are going to get on and in the meat. Use only wood for smoking that you are sure of. If you have some wood from a tree and know its name but don’t know if it’s good for smoking, ask the BBQ List. If no one’s ever used that wood, DON’T use it.

It is beyond the scope of this FAQ to provide a complete listing woods that are unsuitable for smoking. If you have some wood and do not know what it is, DO NOT USE IT FOR SMOKING FOOD. Burn it in your fireplace but not your smoker.

Some people report that ELM and EUCALYPTUS wood is unsuitable for smoking, as is the wood from SASSAFRAS, SYCAMORE and LIQUID AMBER trees.

Here are some more woods that you should not to use for smoking:

  1. Never use lumber scraps, either new or used. First, you cannot know for sure what kind of wood it is; second, the wood may have been chemically treated; third, you have no idea where the wood may have been or how it was used. For all you know, that free oak planking could have been used in a sewage treatment plant.
  2. Never use any wood that has been painted or stained. Paint and stains can impart a bitter taste to the meat and old paint often contains lead.
  3. Do not use wood scraps from a furniture manufacturer as this wood is often chemically treated.
  4. Never use wood from old pallets. Many pallets are treated with chemicals that can be hazardous to your health and the pallet may have been used to carry chemicals or poison.
  5. Avoid old wood that is covered with mold and fungus that can impart a bad taste to your meat. If you have some good cherry wood (or other good smoking wood) that is old and has a fungus growth and you want to use it, pre-burn it down to coals before you put it into your smoker.