Best Types of Barbecue Wood for Smoking Meat

Martin SmazenkoSmoking Meats1 Comment


When it comes to imbuing meat with that rich smoky flavor, it is not all about technique – it is all about the wood. No matter whether you are using your backyard charcoal grill, pit smoker, or a Japanese-style Kamado, smokers can’t use just any old wood. Different types of wood provide different flavors to smoked meat. With no set wood for smoking, it all comes down to the pit master’s preference. Those looking to perfect their meat smoking should consider experimenting with the following wonderful types of barbecue wood.

Hickory: Easily the most famous smoking wood, hickory imparts a strong flavor to the meat. Some smokers tend to use only a small bit of hickory mixed with another type of wood due to its particularly powerful flavor. While excellent on ribs and other red meats, it is best to use sparingly with poultry and fish.

Mesquite: Rivaling hickory in popularity, mesquite is another powerful flavoring wood. While mesquite is a poor choice for large cuts of meat that require long smoke time, due to its strong flavor, it is best mixed with another type of wood in the smoking process.


Cherry: Mild in flavor, cherry wood provides a sweet and fruity flavor to meat depending on the age of the wood. It’s mild and sweet flavor makes cherry a great choice for smoking lighter meat like poultry, fish, and ham.

Oak: Oak is the preferred choice when it comes to smoking thick chunks of meat that will require long periods in the smoker. Unlike mesquite or hickory, oak provides a strong flavor without being overpowering to the meat. As a good wood for smoking brisket, oak also thrives when mixed with sweet and fruity woods like apple and cherry.

Apple: Sweet, fruity, and mild like cherry wood. Apple is often the go-to choice of barbecue wood for smoking light meats like poultry and ham.

Maple: Imparting a light and sweet taste of light meat like poultry and fish, maple wood lacks the fruity flavor of cherry and apple woods. However, its subtle flavor can get overpowered when mixed with other woods.

Pecan: Giving off a subtle fruity flavor, the real benefit of pecan wood is that it burns cooler than most other barbecue wood. Best used for large cuts of meat like brisket and pork roast, pecan wood is an excellent mixer with other barbecue woods to create a long-lasting, flavorful smoke.

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