Species Of Wood That You Shouldn’t Grill On

While grilling on a warm summer evening has become a classic American pastime, the type of wood you use on your barbecue is often overlooked. There are a variety of species that are perfect for cooking food to perfection while others should be avoided in order to keep your family safe from potentially hazardous chemicals released from burning them.

We’ll explore why some pieces of wood make unsuitable materials for cooking and list some alternatives that won’t put anyone’s health at risk. So read on and find out which species you can safely use next time you fire up the grill!

Woods to avoid!

8 Kinds of Wood That You Should Absolutely Never Burn

The first rule is never to use freshly cut wood (green wood) no matter what species of wood it is. Always stick to properly seasoned wood for cooking. If you don’t know the type of wood you are dealing with then you should avoid it. Don’t go buying lumber scraps for example and then try using that on your barbecue. You should stick to hardwoods rather than softwoods but here are some woods to avoid.


As beautiful as cedar is, it should never be used for cooking or any other kind of burning. Its oils and resins contain compounds that are harmful to human health if inhaled and can cause irritation of the respiratory system.


Much like cedar, redwood is a softwood that releases harmful toxins and oils when burned, so it’s best to avoid using it altogether.


This hardwood may be popular for furniture and cabinetry, but it produces an excessive amount of smoke when burned which is hazardous to breathe in.


This evergreen tree should never be used for grilling as it releases a high amount of smoke and toxic, carcinogenic compounds.


Another softwood that is best to stay away from when cooking. It contains oils that are dangerous if ingested in large enough quantities.


While the wood is soft and spongy, it’s not ideal for preparing food as it releases a high amount of smoke and ash when burned.


The oils present in walnut can be hazardous to inhale, so keep this hardwood far away from your grill.


A softwood, aspen is often used for paper and cotton products but should be avoided when grilling due to its high smoke and ash content.

Construction and Furniture Wood

Construction and furniture woods such as mahogany and beech should also be avoided when grilling. These wood types may look beautiful but they can produce an excessive amount of smoke that is hazardous to breathe in.

What Kinds Of Wood Should You Use To Grill And Smoke Meat?

The best types of wood for smoking are fruit woods such as apple, cherry and peach. These types of wood tend to produce a milder smoke that won’t overpower your food or produce a high amount of ash

Other suitable options include varieties such as mesquite, hickory, oak and pecan which have low smoke content but still provide excellent flavor.

What woods should you not cook over?

You should avoid using softwoods such as cedar, redwood, maple, yew, pine and cottonwood as they produce a high amount of smoke that can be hazardous to inhale. Additionally, construction and furniture woods like mahogany and beech should also be avoided. Here is a another view.

Can you use any wood to grill?

No, not all types of wood are suitable for grilling. Softwoods such as conifers should be avoided as they produce a high amount of smoke that can be hazardous to inhale. The resins in these types of wood will leave a bitter taste to your food and can be hazardous to your health.

Fruit woods such as apple wood, cherry and peach are a good choice as they tend to produce a milder smoke that won’t overpower your food. Other suitable options include hardwoods such as hickory, oak and pecan.

For the best results when grilling, choose a wood species that is low in sap and resin such as oak, hickory, or cherry. These woods will burn slowly and evenly, adding a delicious smoky flavor to your food without creating dangerous conditions. With the right wood selection and attention to safety, grilling with wood can be a great way to enhance the taste of your food.

Meat On The Grill
Meat On The Grill

Should I Use Chemically Treated Wood As Firewood For Cooking?

No, do not use chemically treated wood in the cooking process. Wood that has been treated with preservatives like creosote should never be used as fuel for cooking. You have no idea what nasties are going to end up in your food. Similarly don’t try using painted or stained wood for the same reasons.


What types of wood should not be used for grilling?

It is not recommended to use any softwood species for cooking, such as pine, fir, spruce, cedar and redwood. These wood types contain resins and sap that can impart a bitter flavor to your food, as well as excessive smoke and flare-ups. 

Are there any hardwoods that should not be used for grilling?

Yes, it is not recommended to use hardwoods such as poisonous walnut or elm which have a high tannin content. High tannins give food a bitter taste and can make it difficult to digest.

Is home-grown wood safe for grilling?

No, you should never use wood from your own backyard for grilling. Home-grown moldy wood can contain insects or other contaminants that could be unsafe to consume. You need to make sure that any wood you use is properly seasoned. If you have wood available then make sure to dry it out for several months before using it for cooking.

What types of woods are safe to use for grilling?

It is best to stick with woods from deciduous trees such as apple, cherry or maple. These woods have low amounts of tannins and resins which make them safe and flavorful for grilling.

Are there any woods that can be used for both grilling and smoking?

Yes, fruitwoods such as apple, cherry wood or maple can be used for both grilling and smoking wood.

Is it safe to use wood chips for grilling?

Wood chips can be used for grilling, but they will burn quickly and have a strong flavor. It is best to use larger chunks of wood that are slow-burning and will impart a subtle flavor.

Is it safe to use charcoal in combination with wood for grilling?

Yes, you can use charcoal in combination with wood chunks for grilling. 

Is it safe to use a gas grill with wood chips?

Yes, many gas grills come with a smoker box where you can add dry wood chips for added flavor. Just be sure to keep the lid closed to prevent flare-ups. Don’t try just throwing the chips onto the grill!

Can I use wet wood for grilling?

No, it is not advisable to use wet or damp wood for grilling. The water in the wood will evaporate as steam which might affect the flavor of your meat. It will also affect your ability to control the temperature and that may lead to undercooked or burnt food..

How do I store wood for grilling?

Wood should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. It is also important to make sure the freshly cut wood is completely dry before using it for cooking. Using properly seasoned wood is the perfect first step to an enjoyable meal.

Species Of Wood That You Shouldn’t Grill On: Conclusion

So in summary you want to avoid timber that may contain toxins such as fir or cedar and stick with hardwoods like oak, hickory or cherry.

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