As we highlight another hardwood from our offerings, we need to start by pointing out that we are referring to Eastern Alder not the better known Western Alder or Red Alder of the west coast. Eastern Alder is part of the Birch family, with the scientific name of Alnus but the common names for the varieties found in the Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania regions of Eastern Alder (Smooth Alder), White Alder, Red Alder.
Alder is a relatively soft hardwood of medium density. It is most commonly used with fish but I think I need to stress here that really any cooking hardwood can be used with any food item at the discretion of the cook. Many factors play in to how a hardwood reveals itself during the cooking event: rub ingredients, brine ingredients, quality of the meat/poultry/fish, freshness of the food item, style of cooking (over the coals, in the coals, indirect heat, etc.) and most importantly, oxygen flow which feeds the combustion of the wood. Alder provides a neutral coloring to the outer skin of foods which is why it is a favorite for fish. Would this be a first choice for say a steak or other beef item? No, but I certainly like to use it for lots of other things like fruit, vegetables, cheese dishes, and of course, fish.
For cooking, you can expect Alder to perform as follows:
Heat Level: Medium — 17.6MBTU
Fuel Efficiency: Fair
Ease of Lighting: Good
Ideal Uses: Cold Smoking/Poaching/Grilling/Stove Top Smoking
When you’re looking for something on the lighter menu of woods, keep Alder in mind, and explore its lighter heat level and versatility for the more delicate items of cooking.