Let’s get this out of the way up front: Yes, cherry cooking wood is great for smoking. In fact, we think it’s one of the best hardwood species available for smoking and cooking. So, the question isn’t if it’s good; it’s why it’s good and how you can use it to take your wood-fired cooking to the next level.
That’s what this blog is for. We’re going to explore the seven biggest benefits of cooking with cherry and provide some tips for getting the most out of this exceptional wood.
We hope this post gets you psyched for cooking with cherry wood! And by the way, if you’re looking to get some, may we humbly suggest our boxes of 6-inch and 8-inch kiln-dried cherry? You can order yours and get it with free two-day shipping throughout the U.S.
But we digress. Let’s get to the benefits of cherry smoking wood, shall we?
1. The Mild, Smoky and Fruity Taste
Let’s start with the most important question: What type of flavor does cherry wood add to the food it cooks? The answer is an exceptional combination of three qualities—mildness, smokiness and fruitiness.
Let’s take a closer look at what each of those qualities will add to your cooking.
Mildness—Won’t Overpower Your Food
Cherry wood is gentle on what it cooks. While other species like Hickory or Mesquite come with the risk of overpowering the food if you use too much of them, you won’t have to worry about running into this problem with cherry.
Instead, cherry’s mild smoke adds just the right amount of flavor to whatever it cooks. And, as we will see, that taste is the perfect mix of smoky and sweet.
Smokiness—Won’t Sour Your Food
If you’ve ever cooked with a hardwood like oak, then you know the difference smoky flavor can make. Cherry is like oak in the amount of smokiness it adds to the meat it cooks. Because it contains very little resin, the smoke it produces is clean and won’t sour the food. This is especially true for kiln-dried cherry firewood. The kiln-drying process removes any excess moisture or mold that could increase the amount of dirty smoke and sour the food.
Instead, cherry’s smokiness is clean and not overpowering. But what truly sets cherry apart is the sweetness it adds to this equation.
Fruitiness—Adds a Unique Sweetness
There’s nothing like biting into a well-smoked piece of meat only to discover a delightful hint of sweetness mixed in with the savory flavor. That’s the effect smoking with cherry wood can have on the guests at your next cookout!
Since cherry wood comes from cherry trees, it naturally contains some of the fruit’s flavor. So, when it’s ignited, a hint of cherry goodness gets added to the smoke. It’s not too much cherry to make your food super sweet but a slight amount, like the cherry on top of the sundae.
This unique combination of mild, smoky and fruity flavor is one of the main reasons cherry is a must-try for any aspiring wood-fired chef.
2. Long Burns with a Moderate Amount of Heat
Cherry wood also provides exceptional performance as a cooking wood. Because it is one of the densest hardwoods, cherry burns for a long time, making it ideal for smoking meat for multiple hours.
Cherry is also above average when it comes to heat output. While it won’t get you the super-hot flames of oak or hickory, cherry still holds its own. It produces a moderate amount of heat at 20.4 British Thermal Units (BTUs) per cord, which is more than enough for thorough cooking. (For comparison, oak averages about 29-30 BTUs per cord.)
3. Plays Well with Other Hardwood Species
Is the moderate heat output of cherry not hot enough for you? The good news is you don’t have to settle for using cherry on its own. Instead, the wood combines well with many other species, including ones that produce a lot more heat!
Here are some combinations you’ll want to try when experimenting with cherry:
Oak and Cherry
Oak is sort of like the utility player in sports. Its high heat and neutral smoky flavor play well no matter how you use them.
Oak combines especially well with cherry because it adds extra heat and smokiness to further balance out cherry’s fruity sweetness. Moreover, oak is one of the longest-burning types of firewood, making it great for prolonged smoking.
Hickory and Cherry
This combination is sort of like the odd couple. While cherry is mild-mannered and sweet, hickory provides an eye-popping flavor that is both vigorous and bold. When brought together, they bring the perfect combination of sweet and savory to whatever they’re cooking.
We recommend mixing hickory and cherry when smoking hearty meats on a barbeque grill. The key is to make sure you don’t overuse hickory because too much can overpower your meat. Instead, balance it out with plenty of cherry wood to keep things from getting too crazy!
Sugar Maple and Cherry
Got a sweet tooth? Then we recommend mixing two of the sweetest woods around: cherry and sugar maple. Just as cherry wood contains fruity flavor, sugar maple comes packed with sweetness because it contains 2% more sugar than regular maple wood. And what do you get when you mix sugar and maple together? The sweet taste of maple syrup!
Combining cherry and sugar maple wood is kind of like putting fruit and maple syrup on your pancakes. The resulting smoky sweet flavor is a great choice for smoking bacon, pork or poultry.
Oak, Sugar Maple and Cherry
One final blend we recommend is to bring these three terrific species of cooking wood together. The smokiness of oak balances out the sweetness of sugar maple and cherry perfectly. We especially love this combo for wood-firing pizzas. We have a special blended box of our 6-inch pizza oven wood if you want to try some for yourself.
4. A Great Choice for Meat, Pizza and More
Okay, now let’s get to another big question: What is cherry wood good for smoking or cooking? A better question to ask (because it will take less work for us to answer) is, what isn’t cherry wood good for smoking and cooking? The answer: not much.
Here’s a rundown of some ideas for what to smoke with cherry wood.
Cherry Wood is a Friend to All Meat
One of our favorite things about this wood is we have yet to find meat that tastes bad after a cherry smoke. Instead, the subtly sweet smoke sends whatever meat it cooks to a whole plane of deliciousness. We especially recommend using cherry with the following types of meat:
- Red meat – especially pork, lamb, beef, ham or bacon
- Poultry – especially duck, chicken or turkey
- Wild game
- Fish and seafood
This list is certainly not an exhaustive rundown of the kinds of meat that pair well with cherry. So, don’t be afraid to experiment with others. But be sure to try adding some cherry smoke to all the meats listed above. Your tastebuds will thank you!
Cherry Pizza Oven Wood
Go to any wood-fired pizza restaurant around the country and ask what type of wood they use. Chances are cherry will be one of the species they mention.
If you were to ask the chefs at these restaurants why they like cherry, they’d point to how it enhances the flavor of the meats and cheeses they use. They’d say a great wood-fired pizza needs some sweetness to go along with the smoky toasted crust. Cherry adds this to the sausage, pepperoni and mozzarella for an unforgettable flavor combination.
So, the next time you want to break out your Ooni or Cru portable pizza oven, be sure to try some extra-split cherry wood to go along with it.
5. Attractive Wood, Attractive Results
As if the great taste, performance and variety of cooking options weren’t enough, cherry also makes food look more appetizing! The wood itself is easy on the eyes with its distinct dark-red color. And it adds this hue to whatever it smokes!
We especially like the effect cherry has on the appearance of darker meats. For example, it turns the brown skin of a turkey into a rich shade of mahogany that looks fantastic when carved on Thanksgiving. It also brings out the pink color of smoked ham to make it look (and taste) extra delicious.
6. Mouthwatering Smell and Relaxing Sounds
Cherry also adds some side benefits to the meat smoking process in the smell and sounds it produces. The wood gives off a slightly fruity aroma that is sure to get your guests’ mouths watering at your next cookout.
You also can’t beat the sound of cooking with cherry. The wood pops and sparks more than your average hardwood, making it echo like a relaxing campfire. You can’t beat that kind of ambiance as you wait for a delicious meal!
7. Beneficial Beyond the Smoker
The final reason cherry wood is good for smoking is that it also makes great fuel for indoor and outdoor fires. So, if you’re done cooking with it and have some extra firewood to spare, you can throw it in your fireplace or fire pit and have a lovely time.
As we mentioned above, the wood produces a good amount of heat and a pleasant aroma for an enjoyable fire experience. And if the wood is kiln-dried, you shouldn’t have too much trouble lighting it or keeping the fire going. Just keep in mind that cherry tends to spark more than other hardwood species, so you may want to use a fireplace cover when burning it indoors.
Cherry Bombs Away!
As you can see, the answer to the question “Is cherry wood good for smoking?” isn’t just yes but an emphatic YES! Cherry is a lot of fun to cook with for many reasons, and we hope you have a great time using it at your next cookout.
As mentioned above, we’d be more than happy to supply the wood you need for that good time. Not only do we have portable boxes of cherry available, but we also sell oak, hickory, sugar maple and more! So, be sure to check out our selection at the link below.
And if you find our cherry wood good for smoking, then be sure to snap a photo of your wood-fired creation and tag us @hotboxcookingwood on Instagram. We always love seeing our customers’ creations!