Wood selection matters! Avoid these toxic, stinky woods when smoking food. Don't let your BBQ dreams go up in smoke!

What Wood Should Not Be Used For Smoking

Smoking meat and fish is an ancient art that has been around since prehistoric times. But choosing the right wood for smoking can make all the difference between a delicious dish or a dud.

Knowing which woods should not be used for smoking is just as important to getting the best results out of your smoked dishes, so read on to find out what you should avoid in order to get those mouth-watering results every time!

As a BBQ enthusiast, I know how important it is to select the right wood for smoking. While some woods can enhance the flavor of meats, others can ruin the taste and even be toxic. In this section, I’ll share the types of wood you should avoid using for smoking.

When it comes to smoking, woods like cedar, pine, and redwood are not ideal. These softwoods release high levels of oils and resins which can create an unpleasant flavor in your food. Hardwoods such as hickory, oak, cherry, apple and mesquite are better options for smoking due to their lower resin content; they will provide a more balanced smoke flavor with fewer toxins than softwoods.

Types of Wood You Should Avoid Using for Smoking


Softwoods, such as pine and cedar, should never be used for smoking. This is because they contain high levels of resin in their wood fibers which can give off a pungent odor when burned and taint the flavor of your food.

Also, softwood burns faster than hardwoods and can leave behind unwanted ash residue. These woods also tend to spark easily which increases the risk of flare-ups that could cause fires or damage your smoker/grill.

For these reasons, it’s important to avoid using softwood logs or chips for smoking altogether.

Instead, use hardwoods like oak or hickory which have a lower resin content and burn more slowly – making them ideal for producing delicious smoked foods with great flavor!

Green wood

Green wood should never be used for smoking. This is because green wood contains too much moisture and will cause the smoke to be wet and sour.

Also, burning green wood can produce more creosote buildup in your smoker or grill, leading to potential fire hazards that could damage your equipment as well as endanger you and others nearby.

When selecting a suitable type of wood for smoking, it is important to choose one that has been seasoned. The seasoning process reduces the moisture content in the wood so that it burns cleanly and produces a flavorful smoke without creating excess creosote buildup.

Hardwoods such as hickory, oak, cherry, applewood, mesquite or pecan are all excellent choices for smoking meat due to their ability to burn slowly with low levels of creosote production.

For best results when using wood chips or chunks for smoking meat, purchase pre-soaked ones from a store or soak them in water overnight before use.

Soaking helps reduce the amount of smoke produced at first while allowing longer smoldering time during cooking.

Avoid using resinous woods like cedar which will impart an unpleasant flavor on your food if used inappropriately; they are better suited for short-term grilling rather than long-term smoking sessions.

Pressure-Treated Woods

Pressure-treated woods are an especially bad choice for smoking food. Pressure-treated wood has been chemically treated to resist rot and pests, making it a popular decking material in outdoor construction projects.

Unfortunately, this treatment often involves using chemicals that can be toxic when burned. In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified pressure-treated wood as a hazardous waste product due to its potential health risks when used in smokers or fire pits.

The compounds found in pressure-treated woods such as arsenic and chromium have been linked to cancer and other diseases when inhaled or ingested over time. Additionally, burnt pressure-treated wood can also contain dioxins which are known carcinogens that have been linked to reproductive problems and hormone disruption effects.

In short, pressure-treated woods should never be used for smoking food due to the potential health risks associated with these hazardous chemicals released into the environment from burning them. It is best practice to use untreated hardwoods such as oak or hickory instead of any type of treated lumber for barbecue purposes

Mouldy or rotten wood

Mouldy or rotten wood should never be used for smoking. This type of wood is not only hazardous to the smoker’s health, but it can also ruin the flavor of the food being smoked.

Mould spores and other bacteria in rotten wood will transfer over to your food, potentially causing serious health problems if ingested.

Not only that, but mouldy or rotten wood may contain compounds such as creosote which are highly flammable and can cause dangerous flare ups in your smoker.

When selecting a piece of wood for smoking it’s important to inspect it first before use. Look for signs of dry rot, dark discoloration and visible mould growth – all indicators that the wood is no longer safe to smoke with.

If you find any of these signs then discard the piece immediately – do not attempt to salvage it by burning away any visible mould as this won’t make it safe for consumption!

Plywood or Particleboard

Plywood and particleboard are two types of wood that should be avoided when smoking. Plywood is a type of manufactured board comprised of multiple thin layers of timber pressed together with glue, while particleboard is made from waste particles bound together with resin.

Both plywood and particleboard have low heat resistance, so they are not suitable materials for smoking.

In addition to their low heat resistance, both plywood and particleboard can emit toxic gases at high temperatures. The resins used to bind the boards can leach out dangerous chemicals into the air if heated past its melting point, making it an unsafe material for smoking food or beverages.

Finally, both plywood and particleboard will absorb the smoky flavors from cooking over time which could affect the taste of your food or drinks in future uses.

As such, these materials should be avoided when looking for a safe surface on which to smoke something edible.

Wood Containing Toxins

Wood containing toxins should never be used for smoking. These woods contain compounds that are hazardous to human health when inhaled.

Some of these woods include pine, cypress, cedar and redwood.

Toxins found in these woods can cause respiratory issues such as asthma or bronchitis if breathed in over long periods of time.

They also create an unpleasant smoky flavor which may taint the taste of food being smoked.

In addition, using wood with toxins can release carcinogenic compounds into the air which increases one’s risk of developing cancer over a long period of time due to exposure. The smoke released from burning this type of wood is visible and often thick, making it dangerous to breathe in any amount.

For safety reasons and overall enjoyment while smoking food, it’s best to avoid using any kind of wood containing toxins – even small amounts can have serious health consequences down the line when exposed regularly and over long periods of time.

Painted or Stained Wood

Painted or stained wood should not be used for smoking. Paints and stains used to finish wood contain a variety of chemicals, many of which are unstable when heated. These compounds can release hazardous fumes that can taint the food being smoked and even cause serious health effects.

Even if paint or stain is not visible on the surface of the wood, it may still exist as part of its interior structure, making it unsafe for use in smoking.

The best way to ensure your safety when smoking with wood is to only use untreated pieces from sustainable sources like fruit trees and hardwoods such as oak, hickory, applewood and mesquite.

Make sure these woods have never been exposed to any type of chemical finishes since they will emit toxic fumes when heated.

Also inspect each piece closely before using it – look for signs of pest infestation or mold growth which indicate that the wood may be too old/rotten/moisture-filled for safe use in a smoker.

  • Key Takeway: Choosing the right type of wood for smoking is crucial for achieving great taste. Avoid using softwood, treated wood, and poisonous wood for smoking to ensure your safety and the safety of your guests.


After conducting extensive research, it’s clear that not all wood is suitable for smoking. While some types of wood can enhance the flavor and aroma of your barbecue, others can introduce harmful chemicals or impart an unpleasant taste. As a BBQ enthusiast, it’s essential to be mindful of the wood you use to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

In summary, here are the key takeaways from this article:

  • Softwoods, woods with high resin content, and scraps coated in chemicals such as pressure-treated wood or scrap plywood should not be used for smoking.
  • Choose hardwoods such as oak, hickory, apple, or mesquite for smoking to achieve a great flavor.
  • Avoid using woods such as cedar, pine, or fir as they can give a bitter or sour taste to your meat.
  • Be cautious when using fruitwoods as they can be overpowering if used in large quantities.

Remember, a good BBQ is equal parts art and science. By selecting the right wood for smoking, you can elevate your barbecue to the next level and craft unforgettable taste experiences for you and your guests. Happy grilling!