Everything the BBQ chef needs to know, from the meat to the spiciness.

Everything the BBQ chef needs to know, from the meat to the spiciness.

The wood you choose for your Texas barbecue has always had a lot to do with the region you live in. Mesquite is plentiful in South Texas and has its merits, as does traditional oak, which is a barbecue staple in central Texas.

But there is a wood available in abundance in both regions that can bridge the gap: walnut. It is used in many barbecue establishments in the area and is a favorite on the competition circuits.

The pecan is also the state tree of Texas, and in 2013 the pecan pie was honored as the state’s official dessert. But here at Food Shack, we want to focus on the wood itself.

“The walnut is probably the second most popular smoking wood in wells,” said Arnie Segovia, one of the best cooks in Texas and a Hall of Fame member of the International Barbecue Cooks Association. “It’s just a nice, sweet, versatile wood that really does a good job of bringing the flavor of nuts to meats.”

I’ve smoked pecan for years for a couple of reasons: I love the taste of it, and it helps that I have two pecan trees in my backyard that are constantly in need of pruning. But the default heat source for the walnut is a bag of treated split logs, available at sports and outdoor stores for around $ 10.

When you smoke walnut, the wood is very good at putting a reddish tint on your meats, whether you cook beef, pork, or poultry. It will also incorporate the meat with many of those nutty flavors.

But it requires a bit more maintenance than oak and mesquite woods, which are more plentiful.

The pecan proved to be a solid wood choice for any meat.

The pecan proved to be a solid wood choice for any meat.

Kin Man Hui / Staff Photographer

“As it burns, it becomes more ash than the more vigorous woods and generally needs help with lump charcoal to maintain the temperature of the pit,” Segovia said. “A ton of walnut wood is burned and you always have to have the next log ready to use.”

And so I did, testing in my home smoker using nothing but walnuts on a bed of chunky charcoal to cook the traditional grilled meats of breast, roast pork, and a whole chicken. The internal temperature of my bar burner was set at about 300 degrees and I used appropriate anointings for meats. Here are the results:


For the sake of time, I cooked a small center cut brisket that only needed about five hours to reach the proper internal temperature of about 200 degrees. The pecan wood created a wonderful smoke ring in the meat, although that’s more of an aesthetic detail than something you can taste. The flavor had a lot more character than oak.

Roasted pork

I’ve said it many times, but pork is truly a tremendous value. A I paid $ 5.13 for the roast I smoked; similarly sized brisket is about $ 12. The pork absorbed the nutty flavor like a sponge. This wood should be the ideal choice for any type of pig. You will never go wrong with a grill or ribs or a smoked Boston butt over walnuts.

Whole chicken

Chicken is Segovia’s preferred meat to cook with walnuts. He likes the subtle nature of the smoke, which does not overpower the flavor of the bird. I agree. Pecan produced a poultry with a firm skin that was loaded with flavor, and didn’t produce much of the pinkish color that many diners mistake for undercooked chicken. The taste was subtle but refined. If I only smoked chickens for a living, I’d do it with walnuts.

My final opinion? You really can’t go wrong with the walnut. It produces a fantastic flavor, is easily accessible in the San Antonio area, and offers a flavor that works well with almost everything. (No, I didn’t test it with fish, but I don’t see any reason why that doesn’t work as well.)

cblount@express-news.net | Twitter: @chuck_blount | Instagram: @bbqdiver

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