Want to try smoking with some different types of wood? You’ve probably grown up hearing about sassafras without really knowing much about it.
If you’ve heard both good and bad things about the wood, you probably don’t know what to believe.
Learn what makes sassafras special and whether or not you can use them in your pellet grill.
Table of contents
What Is Sassafras?
Sassafras is a hardwood that has sweet smoke. It also has a sweet yet spicy flavor.
Traditionally, the root bark has been used as medicine. The sweetness of the plant has been used in candy and other sweet treats.
Throughout the years, people have used the sassafras plant for many different things. Even today, people still use sassafras regularly.
Is It Safe To Cook With Sassafras?
There are conflicting beliefs about cooking with sassafras.
The FDA has stated that sassafras isn’t safe for human consumption. However, we do not know if cooking with sassafras is okay as long as don’t ingest it.
Several types of wood blends could be compared to sassafras. There are also seasoning blends that could rival the flavors of this plant.
If you want the taste of sassafras, you can try to achieve it without using sassafras wood.
What Are The Risks Of Cooking With Sassafras?
The bark from sassafras contains Safrole, which has been banned by the FDA. Safrole is a toxic chemical that humans should not consume.
Just 5 milliliters of safrole could be fatal for an adult.
Since we’re not consuming the sassafras, many people think it’s okay to use them for smoking. Others think that it is best to steer clear of the wood when smoking.
What Is The History Of Cooking With Sassafras?
America has a long history of using sassafras for cooking.
Indigenous people groups often used elements of the sassafras tree for cooking. Some of these traditions are still around.
You’ve probably heard about sassafras root beer or sassafras tea. Both have been common uses for the plant throughout American history.
In 1960, the FDA banned using sassafras for human consumption, but some people would still eat it.
Studies have linked eating sassafras bark to cancer. This is because it contains a toxic chemical. However, there have not been studies on using it for smoking food.
Should You Use Sassafras Wood For Smoking?
We wouldn’t recommend using sassafras wood for smoking.
There are plenty of good woods out there, so why risk using wood that may or may not be poisonous?
Avoid potential health risks by using a variety of woods that are safe for smoking meats. And different woods work well with a variety of meats so you can have an amazing flavor combination.
Find a different type of wood to eliminate any risk of ingesting the oil of sassafras.
What Woods Are Safe For Smoking?
Several types of wood are safe for smoking. While this is not an exhaustive list, we’ll share some common wood varieties!
Many fruit woods are safe, such as apple, mulberry, or cherry. These fruity woods have a sweet and mild flavor. These types of wood are perfect for chicken wings.
Other woods with a sweeter flavor include maple and pecan.
Popular flavors of wood are hickory, oak, and mesquite. These have a delicious flavor that works very well with many types of meat.
The smoking wood you use will depend on your personal preferences. It is also useful to use different flavors for different meats, such as game meats, beef, or pork.
What Woods Are Not Good For Smoking?
There are plenty of dangerous woods for smoking. Some woods just aren’t good for smoking.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid softwoods, like pine or cedar wood. Coniferous trees have high levels of sap which can ruin the taste of food. It can also make some people sick.
Eucalyptus and elm woods can give food a funny flavor so many people will also avoid these.
Many kinds of wood have toxins. If you’re ever unsure if wood is safe, research it before you use it.Some common woods with toxins are yew, mangrove, and poisonous walnut trees.
Never smoke meat with chemically treated wood. Since lumber scraps have often been treated, you shouldn’t use those, either.
Any wood that has paint or stains on it is a no-go. If the wood chunks are mouldy, throw them out. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to smoking your cuts of meat.
For stronger flavors you should use mesquite or hickory wood chips or if your cooking pork, chicken or turkey I would suggest going for cherry or apple wood.
Use FDA-approved woods for an amazing finished product. And you won’t have to worry about potential health effects or risk of cancer, either!
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!
You can read more on our About Us page.
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