Best Wood For Smoking And BBQ

Our Top 3 Suggestions

So where do I start?! There are so many different types of wood out there available for barbecuing it’s enough to drive the average person mad! I’ve tried all different kinds over the years which ones are my favorite? Keep reading to find out!

1: Mesquite

Although this particular type of wood may not be available to you in your area, it can be found at most local grocery stores and is used by a lot of restaurants all over the world. Mesquite wood has a very strong flavor that can easily overpower foods if too much is used which isn’t always the best thing when barbecuing.  It’s especially good for beef brisket because it gives off its strong taste without having to soak up any of the meat’s natural juices as oak or hickory might do.

2: Pecan

As I mentioned before, pecan is ranked #2 on my list because it’s the mildest type of hardwood that you’ll be able to find. Although this particular type of wood may not be available to you in your area, it can be found at most local grocery stores and is used by a lot of restaurants all over the world. It’s especially good for beef brisket because it gives off its light smoke without having to soak up too many of the meat’s natural juices like hickory might do if not monitored closely.

3: Hickory

The strong flavor that this type of wood brings to the table goes great with beef and pork which both tend to not need something as heavy as oak or mesquite when barbecuing them. Make sure you’re using just enough though, because hickory can easily overpower if too much is used! It pairs well with lighter flavored meats such as poultry and venison but stay away if you like to use fish because hickory is typically too overpowering for it.

Finding The Best Wood Chips For Smoking & BBQ

If you can’t find one of these three types of wood at your local grocer, try looking around online; there are many stores that offer a complete line up of various different hardwoods which will be perfect depending on the meat that you’re cooking! Most stores should even ship them right to your door which can save you hours of time and frustration!

Now let’s talk about using different flavors together; this one is easy; all you have to do is make sure that whatever meats are being combined are complimenting each other by feeling or tasting similar. For example, beef brisket goes great with hickory, so does pork loin so by using the two together you get a really nice fusion of tastes that both types of meat have to offer.

Best Types Of Wood To Smoke With

I would recommend oak, hickory and mesquite individually because of their strong flavors which can stand out more on their own than if combined with another type of wood. I wouldn’t recommend combining two different types either unless you want your dish to have a very distinct flavor which isn’t always bad! Just make sure you’re not putting any seafood into something like that though because it will be way too overpowering for most fish!

Using the right kind of wood when smoking beef brisket is extremely important depending on what you’re going for in terms of taste. Stay away from anything too light or sweet such as pecan unless you want a very subtle taste and go with something like hickory, oak or mesquite for a much more bold flavor instead.

If you’re not sure which type of smokin’ wood will work best for the kind of beef brisket that you’re cooking up at home then I would recommend picking one from each category: hardwood, light flavored and medium flavored. That way all three flavors will be able to compliment the meat in different ways instead of just two. Use them in equal parts when barbecuing too so that your dish is neither too sweet nor too smoky so you can get the perfect balance every time!

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If you have been browsing through any of the smoking forums or websites, then more than likely you have seen a lot of different opinions about what wood is the best wood to smoke with. I’m going to try and give you a very non biased opinion of each type of wood so that you can make up your own mind about which one or ones you want to use on your next smoking adventure.

What is Smoking?

The definition of smoking is “the act or process of exposing food to smoke from burning or smoldering material, most often wood” (from page 1). You don’t even need to burn the wood in order to achieve that wonderful smokey flavor. It is possible to get the same effect by using wood chips, chunks, pellets (a form of compressed sawdust), or even dust in some instances.

What is Smoke?

A common misconception is that you need fire in order to make good smoked foods. Wrong! All you need is heat and smoke in order for flavor transfer to take place in your food. The perfect example of this would be cold smoking, which involves no cooking at all during the process. When hot smoking is conducted, it often begins with a small fire just large enough to get things started before dropping down into the smoking temperature range where only smoke will be entering your smoker & coming into contact with your meat/food product.

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What is Flavor Transfer?

When you take a bite of your finished product, that amazing taste & flavor is the sum of the following:

A)       The base food itself (pork, beef, poultry)

B)       The spices you chose to use for seasoning/rubbing

C)         The smoke flavor from whatever wood you used during smoking. And last but not least…

D)         Your temperature range while cooking/smoking. It goes without saying that temperature control is one of the most important factors when smoking foods! Temperature control will determine how long it takes to complete your food items as well as the doneness level reached inside. For example, if your smoker is running hotter than you intended, but you are unaware of the problem until the family starts to complain about dinner being late…then your ribs or brisket may be overcooked by then.

Now that all the technical stuff is out of the way, let’s get back to wood and what makes it so darn special!

Look At The Types Of Wood For Smoking:

The following list contains just about every type of wood that is available used for smoking purposes. I’ve made up my mind after 10 plus years of testing, tasting & trying all types of different wood combinations that there are only three different categories worth considering when choosing a cooking/smoking wood.

1)  Good ol’ fruit woods such as apple, cherry and pear would be my top picks for smoked foods. They are a mild smoke that will not overpower the flavor of most any meat & bring nothing but good flavors into the mix! If you can’t find fruit wood exactly, then it’s no biggie since other woods derived from fruit trees such as apricot or plum would be just fine to use as well.

2)  My next go to choices would be pecan & hickory. Both are very strong smokes that will hold up well even during long cooks (8+ hours). To me, these tend to compliment beef more than anything else…but again give them all a try and see which ones you like best.

3)   The last category where all the ‘exotics’ fall under would be woods such as mesquite, oak, sugar maple, etc…

Special Note:

One other thing to keep in mind is that softwoods will produce creosote…which can leave soot on your meat. They are also not the greatest choice for cooking since they tend to burn very hot and fast which can cause flare ups while cooking. The smoke they give off also has a lighter flavor profile than hardwoods.

The best wood for smoking?

Well let’s face it…there is no “best” out there since what is good for one may not be the best choice for someone else! As far as fruit woods go, I’ve had great luck with all of them but my personal favorite would be applewood.

Other than that, I usually just test out different woods and use what ever it is that tastes best to me at the time!

My thoughts: Always use a water pan unless otherwise specified by the recipe, and be sure to replenish the water when necessary. The water will keep your meat from drying out and add humidity for more even cooking. As mentioned earlier, some foods may require specific woods which you must use if so desired; follow recipes exactly with respect to wood type & amounts unless they instruct otherwise (a good example of such is JBD’s Spatchcocked Chicken). We’ve heard people claiming that adding additional moist ingredients like apple juice or broth to the foil will improve the moisture level in your cooker… but don’t do it! If you can’t cook it dry at 225°F then you shouldn’t be smoking that particular food! The moist heat will surely drive up the cooking temp which defeats the purpose of low & slow.

Time to cook: As a rule of thumb figure on 1-1/2 hours per pound at 225°F. If you are cooking something like spare ribs or chicken thighs, less time is required since they are much more tender meats. On tougher meats like beef brisket or pork butt plan for longer times since they require more time to become fully cooked through. 



Final Thoughts

Finally, if there is only one takeaway message from all this then let it simply be this…have fun with your new found hobby and enjoy what you cook! Experiment with different woods, rubs and sauces to discover what flavors work best for you. Not to mention that it’s extremely rewarding to take cheap cuts of meat & turn them into something special with your own two hands!

That’s about everything I can think of for now, but I’ll be updating the post as needed if anything new comes up or folks have any other suggestions/tips they feel are helpful…so stay tuned!


I hope this article has been helpful in teaching you about how to use different types of smoking woods to add flavor when barbecuing beef brisket. It’s a very tasty cut of meat that should be taken care of properly when barbecuing so I hope you found this article to be very informative and it will help you the next time you head out into the back yard to put some sumthin’ on da grill!

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