Save Those Apple Wood Scraps!

Back in the summer I came across some live edge apple wood slabs that I thought might be perfect for making small appetizer serving boards for gifts.  Now I know what you’re going to say – apple is notorious for warping and cracking.  True enough, but given the size and casual nature of this particular project I wasn’t overly concerned.  The working properties of apple, however, is not the subject of this post.

Since these were rough sawn pieces with bark still attached in places, I used what I could, but ended up with a lot of unserviceable scraps left over.  Rather than toss them out, I kept them for use in my smoker.

I’ve long been a fan of using hickory or pecan for smoking pork.  On the few occasions when I’ve smoked beef, I’ve used a little oak or mesquite, although the latter is not my favorite.  Apple chunks are not always the easiest thing to find, and while I’ve heard others extol its virtues for creating irresistible pig pickin’s,  I could not personally attest to the fact.  So when I recently decided to smoke pork ribs for a group of my co-workers, I used apple wood for the first time.

Smoking Ribs

I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to both ribs and pulled pork barbecue.  I use a dry rub (of my own making, of course) and if I’m feeling very generous, might allow a sauce on the side when the meat is served.  I apply the rub at least a few hours before cooking, and then smoke the ribs for 2 hours at 200-225 degrees.  After 2 hours, I baste the racks generously with a mop sauce (sorry, the recipe is my secret), seal them up tight in aluminum foil, and let them bake right on the smoker (so smoke, just heat) for another 2 to 3 hours.

So instead of my standby hickory, this time I used the apple wood scraps left over from the serving boards.  All I can say is “Oh my goodness, I had no idea what I’ve been missing!”  The flavor was much more subtle than that imparted by hickory, and considerably more appealing.  Rather than flavoring the meat so intensely, the apple smoke delicately complimented the dry rub seasoning, resulting in ribs that were perfectly smoky, tangy, and just plain bone sucking, slap your leg and pass the sweet tea good.

My co-workers went nuts over them, claiming them the best ribs they’d ever eaten.  I have to admit, they were easily the best ribs I’ve ever produced on my smoker and among the tastiest I’ve ever sampled anywhere.  Apple wood for smoking pig parts is now my permanent go to.  So save those apple wood scraps, or better yet, ship them to me.  Otherwise, I may need to find my own apple orchard.


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