Last Updated on February 18, 2023
Is it safe to BBQ with plywood or leftover lumber? Read this article before you put your family at risk.
As a homeowner I often have leftover scraps of wood laying around after finishing a DIY project.
If a piece of leftover plywood or lumber is still useable I’ll put it aside. Otherwise I toss it into a bin in the backyard and put it on the curb on trash day.
Recently we had some friends over and we smoked sausage and chicken wings for dinner. While enjoying some drinks by the firepit I mentioned I used up the last of my wood smoking dinner and needed to pick up some more before I could smoke again.
Our friend pointed to a small stack of plywood and lumber scraps in the corner of the yard and asked “What’s wrong with that wood over there?”
At first I thought she was joking, but then I realized she was completely serious.
So let’s make this perfectly clear…
Can you BBQ with plywood or lumber? Absolutely not. Plywood and treated lumber contains chemicals that will produce toxic and harmful fumes when burned. That is the last thing you want to get into your food when you smoke it.
Why Is It Unsafe To Smoke Food With Plywood Or Lumber?
Plywood and lumber are perfectly safe when used for their intended purpose which is construction.
But you should never use either when smoking food because you could be imparting harmful chemicals into the food you’re about to eat.
Plywood is made up of multiple sheets of wood glued together with a waterproof phenol formaldehyde resin adhesive. Lumber is often treated with any number of chemicals and pesticides to prevent decay due to fungi or insects.
When you burn plywood or lumber, those adhesives and chemicals will be released with the smoke and ash.
Do you really want to cook your food in that smoke? Not only will the chemicals make your food taste nasty, it could make you sick. And even if it didn’t make you sick immediately it could cause long term health consequences like cancer.
So if you have leftover plywood or lumber scraps laying around, don’t cook with them. Don’t burn them in your fireplace either. It’s not even a good idea to burn them in an outdoor fire pit because you could still inhale the toxic fumes released.
Instead, just dispose of it at the dump or leave it on the curb on trash day.
What Kind Of Wood Is Safe To Smoke With?
The only type of wood you should use in your smoker is a dried hardwood such as oak, hickory, or apple wood.
Even softwoods such as pine, spruce, elm, or cedar contain resins and oils which can be harmful when inhaled or ingested.
Your best bet is to stick with wood that is prepared and sold specifically for use in a smoker. That includes different types and size of wood including chips, chunks, sticks, or pellets.
The type of smoker you use will determine the kind of wood you should use. A pellet grill smoker obviously requires pellets. If you have an offset smoker you’ll want to use sticks or chunks. The old reliable Weber Smokey Mountain can take either chips or chunks.
The Bottom Line
We’re going to say this one last time in case you haven’t gotten the point.
You should never, ever, ever cook with plywood or any kind of treated lumber. The chemicals and adhesives in the wood will not only give your food an off-putting taste, it can make you sick and lead to long term health consequences.