If someone used common wood (oak, hickory, etc) from the woodpile, which had been sitting in the rain and weather for some moderate time and, consequently, may be harboring some common fungi, could the smoke from such wood, deposited on food, cause illness?

  • I'm no expert, but spores can survive very high heat ... some of them even spread by forest fires ... if the more common ones (eg, the annoying artillery fungus) are harmful to humans, I have no idea.
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 21, 2013 at 14:12
  • 4
    I'm hesitant to comment on the safety of this, but it seems like wood that has fungus would (probably) not impart a very good flavor when used to smoke.
    – SourDoh
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


The first thing I would suggest is finding a copy of "Food and Beverage Mycology, 2nd. Edition" by Larry R. Beuchat. There are two chapters that are directly pertinent to your question: "field and storage fungi" (p211-232) and "mycotoxins" (p517-570). However, in order to specifically answer the question, one would need to be familiar with three additional chapters: 50 pages of classification of yeast and molds at the beginning of the book, and two equally substantial chapters on detection of mycotoxins and fungi.

Without identifying the exact species of fungus on the wood, and therefore what particular toxins it may produce (many produce toxins that are harmful to us, some produce ones that are only harmful to other fungi), it is impossible to say that it is safe to smoke with this wood. Some of the toxins may be degraded by heat, some may become even more hazardous. Even with all of my equipment in my "kitchen lab" (including an incubator that I use for growing edible fungi), I would just use the mold-covered wood for a nice fire around which my neighbors could gather and share some barbecue smoked on clean, dry wood (scientific studies show that soaking wood does not actually do anything but get the very outside layer wet).

  • I think mainly I'm wanting to know if its possible or how likely is it to become ill using wood that was freshly stacked outside, but sat in the weather for a time before being used for smoking food. Is this something I would need to worry about?
    – Randy
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 14:14
  • 2
    If there is visible mold on it, I would not use it for cooking (at the very least I would split the mold-infected area from the rest if healthy underneath). If the wood looks otherwise normal except for some weathering, I do not see a problem using it.
    – RudyB
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 17:13
  • That seems wise. So it is possible to become ill smoking food with wood which contains common fungi? The common ones (white rot, brown rot, etc), not some flesh-eating plague variety which rode in on the belly of a comet :)
    – Randy
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 18:37
  • There are a large variety of molds and of mycotoxins out there. I would have to say that it is within the realm of possibility to get enough of a dose of one of the particularly nasty ones from moldy wood smoke. I cannot give specific percentages for risk, but some of the toxins are considered dangerous at the parts per billion level.
    – RudyB
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 18:56

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