Best Woods to Use in a Smoker

May 28, 2021 12:00 PM CDT
Written by Emily C / May 20, 2021

Smoking is one of the oldest and best ways to cook meat. Today, we’re going to tell you about which woods are the best to use while you’re smoking your cuts and why they work so well. 

Oak: This is the quintessential go to for most people smoking their meats. This wood is the best for new smokers and will lead to a medium to strong flavor which is rarely overpowering. This wood is best to smoke lamb, beef, brisket and sausage.

Hickory: This is the most versatile of the woods because it can be used in many different ways. However, you need to be careful because too much hickory flavoring can cause your meat to have a more bitter flavoring. This wood has a savory, and hearty taste. This wood is best to smoke larger cuts of ribs and pork shoulders, as well as all red meat and poultry.

Maple: This wood is one of the more subtle flavored woods which will provide a sweet, light, mild smokiness. This wood is best used to smoke poultry, pork, and game foul.

Mesquite: This wood packs a hardy wood flavor which is intense. We recommend it for grilling or to be used in smaller quantities as it is famous for its strong, intense, and unique flavor. Use this for red meat and for adding additional flavor while grilling. 

Pecan: With a rich, sweet, nutty flavor, this wood is best when it is paired with another harder wood to balance it out. It is best used while smoking briskets, roasts, and ribs. 

Apple: Mild and sweet, Apple wood flavors the meat after several hours of smoking so if you were to use these chips, prepare to be cooking for several hours. Best paired with chicken, wild foul, and pork. 

Alder: A very light wood with light and sweet flavor. Tends to be a very delicate and sweet taste. Best meats to smoke with it would be fish such as salmon. 

Cherry: Cherry is a mild and fruity wood which is best when it is mixed with hardwood like hickory which compliment each other well. Best to smoke chicken, turkey, and ham. 

Acacia: Coming from the same family as mesquite, this wood is packed with flavor and we recommend only using a small amount while smoking. It also burns very hot, so use it sparingly. Best used with beef, lamb, pork, goat, veal, and other red meat.

Ash: This wood burns quickly to produce a light to medium smoke with a delicate wood aroma. Best paired with poultry, fish, and beef. 

Blackberry: To give your meat a mild and smoky taste, use blackberry wood. This wood burns quickly, so you’ll want to add it at the end of the cooking session to give your meat a hint of smoke. Best used to smoke beef, poultry, and pork.

Sugar Apple: With a distinct sweet and fruity flavor this softwood breaks easily and burns really slow which is why it is best used to smoke beef, poultry, pork (especially ham), lamb, and certain types of seafood. 
Peach and Pear: These woods are a little tougher to find, but their subtle fruity flavors are worth searching for. Pair them with pork and poultry. 

Walnut: With a heavy smoke flavor, you should mix walnut wood with a lighter wood like apple and pecan to neutralize the flavor. Make sure you use it sparingly to prevent the wood from becoming bitter. This is best to cook beef, lamb, veak, pork, goat, and other red game meat. 

Pimento: This is another wood that is hard to source, but when it’s burned it produces a delicious mild scent of clove, cinnamon, juniper, and black pepper. This wood is best with poultry, lamb, and other soft meats. 

Apricot: A heavier and harder wood produces a flavor that is similar to hickory wood but sweeter and milder. This wood is best to smoke poultry and pork. 

Citrus Wood: Woods from citrus trees like orange, lime, and lemon give out a moderate smoke with a light fruity flavor which is milder than cherry and apple. Best paired with pork, poultry, and beef. 

Make sure when you are smoking to not just use any kind of wood in your outdoor smoker. Keep in mind some wood might replace the smoky meaty flavor with a bitter charcoal taste. Because of this, try your best to avoid cypress, cedar, eucalyptus, elm, fir, pine, spruce, redwood, and sycamore. Most importantly, avoid using painted or treated wood as this can release toxins in whatever you are smoking.