Smoking Meats with Sassafras Wood

July 10, 2011
by Curt

Sassafras trees grow from 30 to 59  feet tall and spreading 25 to 39 feet. The trunk grows 28 to 59 inches in diameter, with many slender branches, and smooth, orange-brown bark. The bark of the mature trunk is thick, red-brown, and deeply furrowed. The wood is light, hard, and sometimes brittle. All parts of the plants are very fragrant.

Did you know? Root beer was originally made using the root of a sassafras plant (or the bark of a sassafras tree) as the primary flavor. Sassafras is the “root” in root beer.

Did you know? Sassafras tea is made from the leaves or roots of the sassafras tree.

Did you know? The oil extracted from the sassafras tree is used in aromatherapy, lending a spicy scent to candles, soap and perfumes.

Filé powder, also called gumbo filé, is a spice made from dried and ground sassafras leaves (or derived from sassafras bark). It is used in the making of some types of gumbo, a Creole and Cajun soup/stew. It is sprinkled sparingly over gumbo as a seasoning and a thickening agent, giving it a distinctive, earthy flavor and texture. Filé can provide thickening when okra is not in season.

When it comes to smoking meat, regional customs and preferences play a large role in determining what is acceptable or unacceptable. While some say that sassafras wood is not suitable for smoking meat, others claim it as their favorite.

The wood of the sassafras tree produces musky, mild, sweet smoke that is especially well-suited for smoking beef, pork and poultry. Some say they can taste a hint of root beer in sassafras-smoked meat.

So, grab a chunk, light it up, and see what you think!


  • Gary Sawyer says:

    How and where may I obtain chunks of sassafras wood for my smoker? I note that it is a great flavoring for venison & Elk and other gane meat. But I bet too it may go well with lamb…

    • Curt says:

      Hi Gary. I bought the wood from a store here in Appleton Wisconsin that gets wood shipped in from other locations. It’s called Pits and Spits.

  • Donn says:

    Pits and Pits was sold to the Meat Market in Greenville I was there today 2/16/16. They do not carry it nor did he seem interested in trying to find some. If you have another source I would love to hear about it.

    • Curt says:

      I’ve been there since The Meat Block bought Pits and Spits and bought more peach and pecan wood, but I never asked for any particular wood. That’s unfortunate they won’t try to get specialty wood for someone. I noticed they didn’t have fresh mesquite last time I went either, and I’ve been planning to call them and ask for it. I’ll have to ask to see what they tell me.

      I’ve never seen sassafras wood anywhere else…sorry!

  • Huskee says:

    I bought some from and my first and only experience with it so far was on a brisket. I thought it turned out great, although I didn’t find it to be mild & sweet like I read about online. I thought it smelled on the spicy side and was stronger than expected in the meat. Worked great for beef! No complaints. Don’t buy in to the root beer nonsense, it’s smoke! It’s not a sugary drink brewed with the root & wintergreen!