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Can You Use Wood In Kamado Joes? (Explained)

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Can You Use Wood in Kamado Joe

The thermal potential of a Kamado Joe invites you to use wood for smoking and high heat searing.

Though the type of wood you use, when you add it, and how much to use can all be important factors.

You should only use dried hardwood like oak, hickory, mesquite, applewood, or other fruit woods in a Kamado Joe.

Ideally, the wood should be placed over an established bed or burning lump charcoal or briquettes a few minutes before placing the meat on the grill rack.

This way the smoke adds aroma and flavor to the meat, with minimal risk for flare ups.

The heat control system of a Kamado Joe means that you can dial down the airflow for slow and low smoking classic barbecue meats.

Though you can just as easily open the valves for a blazing-hot fire, with wood chips that let you sear off steaks or bake wood-fired pizzas.

What Is Wood Used for in Kamado Joe?

Wood is most often used for smoking meat in a Kamado Joe, though with proper heat control and a well-established coal bed, you can also use wood for high heat searing over direct flame.

This means wood can be used in a Kamado Joe for smoking traditional barbecue meats like Boston butt pork shoulder, brisket, and ribs.

Then you can turn the heat up to use wood for searing steaks with extra smoky flavor or even make a wood-fired pizza.

What Type of Wood Can You Use in Kamado Joe?

Hardwoods like hickory, oak, and mesquite are best for smoking or high heat grilling on a Kamado Joe.

They burn cleanly while providing rich, flavorful smoke. Just make sure that you are using dried pieces of hardwood, rather than green-fresh cut, which still has a high-water content.

The size of the wood pieces you use in a Kamado Joe is also a factor. If you want to slow smoke something like a Boston butt pork shoulder, or a small rack of ribs, you want to use wood chunks.

They tend to smolder better at lower temperatures, and the flame they produce is easier to control.

If you want to use wood for a high-heat application, like searing a steak or making a wood-fired pizza, you might want to consider adding some wood chips.

They tend to burn hot and fast while releasing a modest amount of smoke.

Soaking wood chips in water for a few hours before adding them to the Kamado Joe will reduce the risk of sudden flare ups.

You should never use softwoods like pine, cedar, or spruce, as they have resin and other materials which affects the flavor of the food. Softwoods can affect the interior of the Kamado Joe.

Does It Matter What Wood You Use in a Kamado Joe?

You should only use dried hardwood in a Kamado Joe, and certain smoking woods do better with certain types of meat.

Some types of hardwood burn hotter than others, and each type of hardwood produces smoke with different flavor characteristics.

This means some hardwoods pair better with specific foods. Not to mention some barbecue traditions are based on specific types of smoking woods that are only used with certain cuts of meat.

Using Hickory in a Kamado Joe

Hickory is one of the most popular and versatile woods for smoking on a Kamado Joe or in a barbecue pit. It burns hot and provides a mild, yet full-bodied smoke.

If you aren’t sure what type of wood to use with a particular cut of meat, hickory is the safest choice.

Using Oak in a Kamado Joe

Oak is another versatile wood that you can use in a Kamado Joe. It’s plentiful, cheap, and burns hot, it makes a mild, full-bodied smoke that works for most meats.

Using Mesquite in a Kamado Joe

Mesquite creates a powerful hot smoke in a Kamado Joe and is a traditional smoking wood used in classic Texas barbecue.

It pairs nicely with beef, country sausage, and a lot of wild game. Though mesquite tends to be a little too strong for poultry, fish, and most kinds of seafood.

Using Applewood in a Kamado Joe

Applewood is another great option for a Kamado Joe, as it brings a light, flavorful smoke, and easy heat control.

It doesn’t burn as hot as other hardwoods and offers a mild flavor that pairs well with poultry, pork, and ribs.

Should You Use Wood in a Kamado Joe?

You should use wood in a Kamado Joe to add flavor to the smoke already being created by the burning charcoal.

It’s generally not a good idea to use only wood in a Kamado Joe as it can lead to flare ups and other heat control issues.

Kamado Joe When to Add Wood

The best time to add wood to a Kamado Joe is a few minutes before placing the food.

This will give the wood time to ignite and create rich smoke.

If you are adding hardwood chunks for a slow and low barbecue session, you might want to add them a solid 5 to 10 minutes before placing the meat on the grate.

This will allow the low-burning fire time to ignite the dense wood chunks.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that fatty cuts of meat will take in the most smoke early in a cooking session, and then carry that smoky flavor deeper into the meat as the fat renders.

If you are using wood chips for high heat, like putting a smoky sear on a steak or baking a wood-fired pizza the lead time might only be one or two minutes.

It might take a little longer if you soaked the wood chips in water for a few hours before adding them.

Final Thoughts 

Adding wood to a Kamado Joe is a great way to enhance the flavor and smoky aroma of a wide range of foods.

Using dried hardwoods like hickory, oak, applewood, or mesquite over an established burning charcoal bed gives you great heat control, as well as clean, rich-flavored smoke.

It’s best to use hardwood chunks for slow and low applications like barbecue.

Wood chips are better for hot and fast applications, like searing steaks and chops. Ideally, you want to add the wood to the burning charcoal a few minutes before you place the food.

With wood chunks, this might mean a lead time of 5 to 10 minutes. For wood chips, you just need 2 to 3 minutes to let them catch flame.