Cooking With Pine Wood? - Ultimate Serious Guide

Hardwoods such as oak, hickory, and maple are preferred for their consistent burning qualities, but there is uncertainty about cooking food with pine wood. Many people who have easy access to pine wood might wonder if it is suitable for cooking.

The answer is no. Cooking with pine wood is generally not recommended because it falls into the softwood category. Softwoods are not typically suitable for cooking because they contain terpenes and sap. The high sap content can produce toxic smoke, and the strong, resinous flavor from the wood can overpower the natural flavors of the food being cooked. If you cook food over the open flame of pine wood, there is an increased risk of adding a foul flavor. However, if you only have pine wood available and want to cook over an open flame, the solution is to cook over the coals. This method minimizes the chance of adding off flavors due to the lower amount of smoke. If you are still worried about the smoke affecting your food, then you can wrap the food using any paper, such as butcher, foil, or freezer paper.

But you can cook food in a kitchen appliance such as a pan, cooker, pot, or any type of sealed container where the pine wood does not ruin the flavor of the cooked food. It will affect the food’s scent slightly, which does not make it inedible.

burning scene of pine firewood

Characteristics of Pine Wood

If you live in North America, you likely have one or two types of pine tree species growing where you reside. Just because pine wood is not suitable for cooking or smoking does not mean it lacks other uses. It is a good choice for firewood, but it should be used outdoors, not indoors (which might cause potential risk of creosote build up).

If you are using a charcoal smoker or a offset smoker, its sap can serve as an effective fire starter because it contains a significant amount of resinous sap, which helps to ignite the fire easily and quickly.

Due to its low cost and easy availability, I generally burn seasoned red pine in an outdoor furnace. It is a lightweight wood, so I just mix the wood position inside the furnace. This way, it lights easily and quickly, burning with a great smell.

food under smoker

Pros of Cooking with Pine Wood

Basically, it is not recommended to use pine wood for cooking due to the unpleasant taste of your food. However, there are two pros that I consider that can be helpful for you to use them for cooking.

  • Use a fire starter: A seasoned piece of wood will help you start the fire because of its ability to ignite quickly due to its resin content; it produces heat quickly. If you use its sap, which is a good igniter due to its ability to start a fire quickly and easily, this makes it an excellent choice for kindling to start a hardwood (Such as oak, or mesquite) fire for cooking food.
  • Outdoor Cooking: As you know it’s a natural feature of ignition, use the technique of cooking food where minimum direct contact of pine smoke with food just requires heat produced by the pine wood. It’s generally a safer and more effective way for cooking.

Cons of Cooking with Pine Wood

If you are unaware of the drawbacks of using pine wood for cooking, this could lead to more serious concerns. Therefore, it’s important to be informed about them if you still plan to use pine wood for cooking your food.

  • Taste of Food: The high sap and resin content in pine wood can negatively impact the taste and smoking meat with it may pose health risks. When the wood burns, it releases a strong and foul flavor that can overpower the natural taste of the food.
  • Creosote Buildup: Creosote, a harmful substance that comes from burning wood, can stay in your burning area. For example, if used in a smoker, it stays in the smoker and can lead to fires. Moreover, if you later use any other hardwood, it may impart a bitter taste until you remove the creosote from the stove.
  • Cleaning Challenges: burning pine wood as firewood or for cooking can lead to increased the chance of maintenance and cleaning challenges for your grills and smokers.