This article is from the Food Preserving FAQ, by Eric Decker firstname.lastname@example.org with numerous contributions by others.
The traditional wood for smoking salmon in the Pacific
Northwest, alder also works well with other fish. It has a
light delicate flavor.
Apple and Cherry
Both woods produce a slightly sweet, fruity smoke that's mild
enough for chicken or turkey, but capable of flavoring a ham.
Hickory is the king of the woods in the Southern barbeque belt,
as basic to the region's cooking as cornbread. The strong,
hearty taste is perfect for pork shoulder and ribs, but it also
enhances any red meat or poultry.
Mildly smoky and sweet, maple mates well with poultry, ham, and
The mystique wood of the past decade, mesquite is also America's
most misunderstood wood. It's great for grilling because it
burns very hot, but below average for barbecuing for the same
reason. Also, the smoke taste turns from tangy to bitter over
an extended cooking time. Few serious pitmasters use mesquite,
despite a lot of stories about its prevalence in the Southwest.
If hickory is the king of barbecue woods, oak is the queen.
Assertive but always pleasant, it's the most versatile of
hardwoods, blending well with a wide range of flavors. What it
does to beef is probably against the law in some states.
The choice of many professional chefs, pecan burns cool and
offers a subtle richness of character. Some people call it a
mellow version of hickory. [5