Crepe myrtle is a somewhat rare wood that burns like a hardwood when used in campfires. It’s more commonly used in furniture than in cooking, and its properties as firewood are highly debated.
Crepe myrtle is a fast-burning wood that burns with a spicy scent as the sap evaporates. The fragrance of the wood tends to fade fairly quickly and this, combined with its burn rate and other factors, make it an unpopular choice for use in cooking and smoking.
This article explores the considerations involved in using crepe myrtle as a wood for cooking and smoking foods.
Is Crepe Myrtle Wood Good for Cooking?
The use of crepe myrtle in cooking is debatable. It’s a somewhat rare hardwood more commonly used for making furniture than as a firewood.
Despite the fact that it’s hardwood, once seasoned it is more likely to burn like softwood – fast and hot. Using it in cooking requires more wood than using more traditional woods like oak, cedar or maple.
It also produces a great deal of smoke, which can make it impractical for any sort of cooking indoors, and difficult to use outdoors without being exposed to smoke inhalation irritants.
We recommend a vertical bbq smoker like this one to get the most out of your cooking space. If your patio space is limited, using a vertical smoker as it will greatly reduce the amount of space that will be taken up during smoking. This smoker is multi-functional and has two separate access doors to make adding charcoal or checking your meat easier.
Is There a Risk to Using Crepe Myrtle in Cooking?
A common note is that you should be careful not to burn the leaves.
The leaves of the crepe myrtle, when burned, are known to produce somewhat toxic fumes that can cause headaches and irritation. If you intend to use crepe myrtle for cooking or burning in any sort of a fire, make sure that all the leaves have been removed from the branches and logs you intend to use.
It’s also risky to burn crepe myrtle wood indoors, because it produces a large amount of smoke.
What Kind of Flavor Does Crepe Myrtle Add?
Crepe myrtles aren’t often used for cooking, as a spice or as a cooking aid. There are several different varieties of crepe myrtle, some more usable than others.
The few food applications crepe myrtles are used in mostly involve either the berries or use of the wood in smoking.
Using Crepe Myrtle Berries:
Some varieties of crepe myrtles have edible berries that can be added to food.
When dried and ground, these berries can impart a complex flavor of juniper, rosemary, pine and eucalyptus. They may also impart a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Using in Smoking:
If used in smoking meat, the smoke is reported to have medium-strength flavor. As the sap within the wood burns, it imparts a sharp, fragrant, clove-like flavor.
Can I Smoke Meat With the Crepe Myrtle?
Meat can be smoked with crepe myrtle, however, it’s not one of the best choices. It burns extremely quickly, meaning that to use it for smoking you’d have to use a large amount of the wood.
The fast burning of the wood also makes it difficult to capture the spicy clove-like flavor imparted by the sap. Once the sap is smoked away, the flavor gives way to a heavy smokey texture with more of a charring flavor.
According to reports, the smoke has a medium strength flavor, easily masked by the spices in seasoned meats such as sausages.
Smoking with crepe myrtle is more likely to work better with meats such as chicken, or subtly flavored foods.
How Does Smoking Meat With Crepe Myrtle Compare to Smoking Meat with Other Woods?
Crepe myrtle is low on the list of woods used for smoking. Cedar, hickory, and maple are all considered much better options because of their slow-burning properties and stronger flavor.
Apple, cherry and pear wood have subtler flavors and similar burn rates, without the risk of getting toxic smoke from the leaves.
The flavor for crepe myrtle is also less consistent, as it fades once the sap has been entirely burned away. Unless the wood is regularly replenished, the spicy, clove-like flavor imparted by the sap-smoke will be covered by the heavier charing smoke flavor.
How Can I Use Crepe Myrtle for Cooking?
Crepe myrtle isn’t used much in cooking. It isn’t an optimum wood for burning or use in smoking meat, and has limited uses otherwise.
Using Crepe Myrtle Wood for Cooking:
Smoking with crepe myrtle is still possible if done with small amounts of food. While not recommended, it can make a unique flavor for subtle foods.
If you want to experiment with smoking with crepe myrtle, you might try using it on chicken or turkey, or single servings of meat like unseasoned pork.
Placing it in a smoker may help contain and concentrate the original flavor released by the burning crepe myrtle sap.
The leaves can’t be used in smoking, or in food preparation due to the irritants and potential toxins in some varieties.
Using Crepe Myrtle Berries in Cooking:
There is some debate on the edibility of the crepe myrtle berries, based on the multiple varieties of the plant in existence. There is also some confusion between the crepe myrtle and the crape myrtle.
Different varieties of myrtle can be non-toxic, non-toxic only to humans, non-toxic only to animals, or dangerous if consumed.
Edible versions of the crepe myrtle generally have dark purple-black berries and seeds, these can be dried up and ground or used whole for flavoring.
Whole berries can be used in soups and stews and provide a sweet flavor that blends well with rosemary and juniper.
Ground berries can be used as a seasoning to enhance chicken and fish dishes. They can also produce a slightly astringent flavor that is used for enhancing the taste of lamb and mutton.
Cooking with crepe myrtle has the potential to give your food a unique and delicious flavor, however, the challenge lies in making sure you have the correct type of crepe myrtle, especially if you intend to use the berries in any part of your meal preparation.
Likewise, use of the wood for smoking is possible, but you’ll need to adjust your tactics for a fast-burning wood with a somewhat changeable flavor.