Smoking Meat with Sassafras: A Unique Flavor Profile for Your BBQ

Smoking meat is a time-honored tradition that has been around for centuries. It’s a great way to add flavor to your meat and create a delicious, smoky taste that can’t be achieved with other cooking methods. While there are many different types of wood that can be used for smoking, sassafras is one that is gaining in popularity.

Sassafras wood is known for its unique aroma and flavor, which makes it a great choice for smoking meats like beef, pork, chicken, and fish. It burns more quickly than some other woods, producing less smoke and higher heat. Some cooks prefer to smoke meat with sassafras logs or chips that have been soaked in water, which slows the burning process, producing more smoke and less heat. However, it’s important to note that sassafras oil is illegal in the US due to concerns about safrole, a carcinogen that can be present in the oil. Despite this, sassafras wood is still a popular choice for smoking meat, as long as it is used safely and responsibly.

Smoking Meat with Sassafras

What is Sassafras Wood?

Sassafras wood is a type of hardwood that is commonly found in North America. It is known for its distinct aroma and flavor, which is often described as sweet and mildly spicy, with notes of cinnamon. Sassafras wood is a popular choice for smoking meat, as it imparts a unique flavor to the food.

The Aroma and Flavor of Sassafras

Sassafras wood is prized for its aromatic qualities. When used for smoking meat, it gives off a sweet, spicy aroma that is sure to whet your appetite. The flavor of sassafras is mild and slightly sweet, with hints of cinnamon. It is a great choice for smoking a variety of meats, including beef, pork, chicken, and game meats like venison and elk. Sassafras wood can also be used to smoke fish, such as salmon.

Is Sassafras Safe for Smoking Meat?

Sassafras contains a compound called safrole, which is toxic and has been linked to liver cancer. The US Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of sassafras as a flavoring in food, but manufacturers have begun to remove safrole during processing. While some cooks warn against using sassafras for smoking meat, others argue that it is safe when used in moderation.

Smoking Techniques with Sassafras

When smoking meat with sassafras wood, it is important to maintain a consistent temperature in your smoker. You can use sassafras wood chips or chunks, depending on your preference. Soak the wood in water for at least 30 minutes before using it to smoke meat. This will help prevent the wood from burning too quickly and producing bitter smoke.

Sassafras Wood and Meat Pairings

Sassafras wood pairs well with a variety of meats, including beef, pork, chicken, and game meats. It is also a great choice for smoking fish, such as salmon. For a milder flavor, use sassafras in combination with other hardwoods like hickory, cherry, or apple.

Alternatives to Sassafras Wood for Smoking Meat

If you are unable to find sassafras wood or prefer not to use it, there are plenty of other options for smoking meat. Hickory, cherry, and apple are popular choices, as are other hardwoods like oak and maple. Softwoods like pine and spruce are not recommended for smoking meat.

Where to Find Sassafras Wood Suppliers

Sassafras wood can be difficult to find, but there are suppliers that specialize in hardwoods for smoking meat. Look for local wood suppliers or check online for options.

Sassafras in Cajun and Root Beer Recipes

Sassafras root bark is a key ingredient in traditional Cajun cuisine, where it is used to flavor gumbo and other dishes. Sassafras is also used to flavor root beer, a popular soft drink in the United States.


Sassafras wood is a flavorful and aromatic option for smoking meat, but it is important to use it safely and in moderation. If you are unable to find sassafras wood, there are plenty of other options for smoking meat that will give you a delicious and unique flavor.

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