Is Walnut Good For Smoking Meat- Favorable OR Unfavorable?

While walnut wood is renowned for its distinctive aroma and intense flavor, the debate over whether is walnut good for smoking meat or not remains. Due to its long burn time and a very strong wood smoke, walnut wood is undoubtedly one of the barbecue world’s most relied upon woods. 

The robust wood chip types have also been questioned for a long time about their safety in smoking or cooking and if they are favorable or unfavorable for use. These are some of the complexities that make the utility and importance of walnut wood stand to be contested and doubted. 

Traditional smokehouses in the southwest play a pivotal role in preserving the legacy of authentic American barbecue. Therefore, in this article, we will be addressing one of the many difficult questions among grillers concerning whether walnuts are good for smoking meat.

Is Walnut Good For Smoking Meat?

Typically, the most common wood type you are likely to encounter in a store when stocking up wood for your smoker is, agreeably, walnut wood. But is walnut good for smoking meat?

Walnut hardwood is an exceptional choice for getting a strong flavor from your smoked meat. 

However, you ought to be cautious when smoking meat with this wood. This is because black walnut imparts a very strong smoke that further adds an intense flavor to the meat, which potentially could be on the bitter side of the taste palette and not suitable for every person’s taste buds. It can also alter meat’s flavor, and if used in excess, it can be harmful. 

Even though many pit masters’ first preference is not to opt for walnut wood, if the bitter flavor is mixed and paired with other kinds of wood or the right type of meat, then the flavor can be balanced out. You must not incorporate walnut wood with poultry as it is a mild meat, and the final smoked flavor will be overwhelming.

The Southwest region, known for its rich culinary history, is a haven for meat eaters seeking the ultimate barbecue experience, often debating the merits of different smoking woods. So, it is crucial that one fully understands the characteristics of walnut wood to make the most appropriate use of it in any situation. Once you have comprehended the nature of walnut wood and are familiar with its taste in the meat, you can use the wood to cook strong-tasting meats such as bird, pork, beef, and wild game meat.

cord of walnut firewood for smoking

On the contrary, you would want to avoid using walnut wood to smoke any food item with a milder original taste, like fish, seafood, and veggies, as they can be rather easily influenced by the compelling flavor and lose the essence of their genuine flavor. 

Instead, use meats that have a strong enough flavor of its own:

  • Wild Game: Venison is meat with a rich gaminess, so the walnut wood’s bitter flavor will cut through it and result in a stabilized flavor.
  • Beef Cuts: to elevate your dinner, smoking steak pieces over walnut wood is an ideal combination for delectable tasting food. 
  • Pork: The versatile meat type is prone to go well with smoking regardless of the wood type. Precisely, with walnut wood, the meat’s natural sweetness complements the wood’s bitterness. 

Features Of Walnut Wood 


Walnut wood is usually classified as a hardwood whose most outstanding feature is its flavor. Walnut’s flavor is bitter, strong, and so distinct that no other wood matches it, nor can it replicate it. Particularly, the flavor has been termed to be unique! During our barbecue sessions, we focus on the nuances of different wood chips to create a unique flavor profile for each dish, including the use of walnut wood.


Even the released smoke has a slightly acrid and powerful odor. Professional smokers hold the opinion that the smoke has an unnatural, oily, heavy texture. Thus, walnut wood’s smell and flavor to smoked meat marks a known and easily distinguishable presence. 

The acidity and bitterness in walnut wood arise from the presence of tannic acid in the walnut tree. If the wood has been seasoned for a year or two, the produced smoke will be clean and entirely visible. Otherwise, thick black smoke will be released from the burning of black walnuts. 

You must adhere to caution with walnut wood and when using it for smoking meat because some wood kinds, such as green walnuts, can emit smoke that is not only thick but also toxic. If burnt in large quantities, green wood walnuts, despite their bold flavor, can harm the surroundings, leading to skin irritation in humans and causing plant deaths. 

Wood Color 

The color of walnut wood compared to regular wood is nothing too special and performs the job of darkening the meat similar to a shade that a regular wood would. Walnut wood color can vary from a rich, dark brown to a shade of a lighter brown.

pieces of walnut wood

Whatever the color of the wood is, all kinds of wood shades will darken the meat to the same extent. Remember to watch for the meat color, as while darkening the meat, you can also end up burning it accidentally. 

Burn Time 

One ideal quality that makes walnut wood highly favorable for smoking meat is its burn time. Walnut burns for extensive spans because of the hardness that walnut wood logs have, making it resistant to quick burning and prolonging the burn time further. 

Hence, due to the long burn times and the high heat value, black walnuts are a popular hardwood for smoking meat with multiple fatty layers, ensuring that each layer is cooked without adding more wood. 

Other woods are quick to burn and are low in their hardness and density. On the other hand, walnut wood’s qualities are opposing and make them a supreme choice. 

Using Walnut Wood

The art of barbecue centers around the mastery of pits, where meat is slowly cooked to perfection, absorbing complex smoky flavors from woods like walnut, almond, and peach. The readily available format of walnut wood in the market is wood chunks, which works well for your electric or propane smokers. However, if you have an offset or a conventional smoker stored in your backyard, then you would have to split huge wood logs for them to fit and burn in the smoker.

When it comes to chopping walnut wood, and if you are embarking on the task by yourself, then your priority must be to let the wood age first. The pit master’s ordinary preference is always to chop wood that has been aged because the aging of the wood makes sure that, at least to some extent, the inherent bitterness is cut down. 

Alternatively, some pit masters do not recommend using walnut wood alone but propose using it with another wood. The additive wood has to be milder to alter the bitterness levels, and a commendable choice would be to choose a wood kind that has a sweet intrinsic flavor. Some befitting wood types could be apple, pecan, or hickory to balance the walnut’s harshness. 

Watch Out With Walnut Wood!

Undeniably, walnut wood has a spectacular utility and serves a fulfilling purpose for all those individuals who use it. Still, there are some aspects of walnut wood that you should also pay attention to and watch out for. 

When considered useful, black walnut is also considered dangerous for some animals like horses and, obviously, for humans. The wood has a poisonous toxin, juglone, which can be lethal for certain animals. 

meat smoking under coal

Walnut trees use Juglone to compete with nearby trees for soil and water resources. Although the toxin harms humans, it benefits the trees and gives them a survival advantage over others. 

Some people are highly allergic to walnut smoke and sawdust (Pellets), which acts as a trigger for asthma attacks. Therefore, if anyone is asthmatic or is allergic to walnut smoke and sawdust, they, at all costs, must be careful and be kept away from the smoking scenario. 

Additionally, another main reason for the aversion towards not enjoying smoking with walnut wood is the taste that the meat gets. Instead of being fruity or sweet, the taste is extremely intense, bitter, and acidic. 

Officially, and backed up by scientific evidence, walnut trees are harmful because of juglone, and some people may simply not enjoy the sharp taste the wood offers to the meat. Still, the wood is not toxic for humans; nevertheless, the wood should be utilized cautiously.


Different species of wood used for smoking play a critical role in defining the flavor profile of barbecue dishes, and walnut, with its unique characteristics, is no exception. Our article on is walnut good for smoking meat has aimed to provide clarity to all readers. Reiterating, walnut wood’s strong flavor and robust smoke does not make it toxic or deadly for consumption, and the wood can be used for smoking meat. But again, not all meat types are ideal for smoking, so be wise when making this decision!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you smoke meats with walnut?

Yes, you can smoke meats with walnuts, but only of certain kinds, those that naturally have a strong flavor. Smoking poultry with walnuts is not preferred because the resulting flavor is too strong.

What wood is not good for smoking meat?

Certain types of wood are not recommended for smoking meat due to their harmful chemicals, unpleasant flavors, or inability to burn properly. Here’s a list of woods to avoid: Spruce, Fir, Redwood, Pine, Cypress, Cedar, Sassafras, Elm, Liquid Amber and Sycamore.

What is best for smoking meat?

The best wood for smoking meat depends on your desired meat flavor. If a milder flavor is wanted, then maple, apple, and cherry, whereas for stronger flavors, black walnut wood.

Are walnut shells good for smoking?

Walnut shells can be used for smoking like wood chips to add complexity, depth, and a whole new flavor profile to the meat being smoked.