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10 Best Types of Wood for Smoking Meat

You probably had plans for a simple barbecue party with your family and friends. The only problem is that you are still in the middle of deciding the best woods you can use for that occasion. Fret, no more. You will learn about ten different kinds of wood for the barbecue and pick the one available in your area. 

Sometimes, wood choices depend on the meat you are going to cook. For example, if you want to grill red meat while adding seasoning to add flavor, you might want to go for the Mesquite wood. On the other hand, fruit and nut woods go well with milder meats. 

As you read on, you will find interesting facts about these woods to make delicious and hearty barbecue meals to serve on everyone’s plate. 

Maple Wood

Maple trees are common in Asian countries, but you can also find them in Europe, Northern Africa, and North America. If you are living in one of these continents, you might discover maple woods easier than other woods. Maple has a subtle and versatile flavor that is perfect for poultry, pork, and game fowl. 

What’s more, maple wood has a slightly strong sweet flavor to add livelier taste to your taste bud. Despite having this uniqueness to your meat, it doesn’t overpower its original taste. It is usually one of the best woods used for different types of meat. 

We highly recommend the Traeger Grills PEL308 Maple 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets (link to check price on Amazon)

Cherrywood

Do you want to add a mild and fruity taste to your meat? Cherry is the ideal wood for your BBQ party. More than that, it creates a unique red color to your poultry, turkey, or ham. These three are the best meat to cook with cherrywood (link to check price on Amazon)

If you want to add a touch of different smoke flavor that would complement well with Cherry, you mix other hardwood such as Hickory. 

Applewood

Applewood came from an apple tree that is one of the best grilling wood giving a versatile smokey flavor. It comes with a pleasant aroma for a more delightful taste. This wood is perfect for chicken, wildfowl, and pork. 

Compared to other woods, it gives a milder smokey taste. So, if you want to enhance your meats’ flavor, you can use Hickory or other hardwoods for the perfect combination. Moreover, this type of wood is easy to find in any season. 

We have used Weber-Stephen Apple Wood Chips (link to check the price on Amazon) on many BBQ occasions and they have always gone down well.

Pecan Wood

Pecan wood releases a sweet and nutty flavor to your meats. Since the taste is stronger than other woods, you might want to balance it out by using harder woods. Furthermore, it brings delicate flavors to your meat since it burns slowly. 

However, if you want to cook rapidly, this one might not be the option for you. But for a nice and long barbecue, this gives a perfect and delicious result for your meat.

The best meats to smoke with pecan (link to see the current price on Amazon) are ribs, roasts, and briskets. 

Oakwood

If you are only starting with smoking with woods, the easiest tool for you is this oakwood. It is one of the go-to smoking woods for both starters and experts. It gives smokey and rich flavor to the meats. The meats suitable for oakwood are lamb, beef, brisket, and sausages. Others could be red meat, fish, or other game meats. 

It gives medium flavor, but it is not overpowering compared to other woods. So, if you want to go for mild but versatile woods, this could be the best choice for your barbecue meals. 

Western Premium BBQ Products Post Oak BBQ Smoking Chips (link to check the current price on Amazon)

Alder wood

When you want a slight and sweet flavor of smoked or BBQ meats, alder woods could give you just that. Other woods overpower the taste of meats, unlike Alder woods, which only provide a mild flavor that compliments your meals’ original taste. 

Alder (link to check the current price on Amazon) is a relative of a birch tree. Its color changes if exposed to air. Nonetheless, it could be a perfect wood to keep at your home for barbecue parties or other occasions. It is one kind of hardwood that you can mix with different woods to give subtle flavor to your meats. 

Hickory wood

Hickory is one kind of hardwood that you can use for any meat. However, keep in mind that too much hickory wood on your griller could cause a bitter taste to your meals. It gives a sweet and hearty flavor to your barbecued meals. 

If you get the right way of grilling meats using Hickory wood, it could also give a slight bacon flavor. This wood is perfect for red meat, poultry, ribs, and pork shoulders. 

Bear Mountain BBQ 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets – Hickory (check the latest price on Amazon)

Mesquite Wood 

For a more robust and intense meat flavor, this mesquite wood is the best choice for grilling your favorite meats. The best meat for that is red meat. You can add more flavoring to your meat while cooking with Mesquite wood. 

It produces earthy flavor since it burns fast, giving more smoke than other woods. Moreover, it quickly cooks meat like red meat steaks and other similar meats. You can also create coals out of this wood. 

Mesquite wood on Amazon

Peach & Pear Woods

For medium smokey and fruity flavors, these two types of fruitwoods could be the ideal option for you. It is perfect for meats like pork or poultry. These words are rare to find, but once you get hold of it, you will never regret it.

The flavor it gives is unique and subtle. You’ll find it different from other kinds of woods available. 

Try the Peach Western Premium BBQ Smoking Chips that you can find on Amazon. we love them.

Walnut Woods 

Walnut woods give a nutty and robust flavor to your meats. It tends to give a bitter taste, so make sure you don’t overdo the grilling. Red and game are the perfect meets for this type of woods. 

If you are not that into a strong smokey taste of meat, you can mix other types of woods to balance out the flavors.

Summary

Finally, you find these top 10 kinds of wood you can use for your barbecue party with your friends and family. Truth be told, the type of woods depends on your taste bud’s preference. 

If you like a stronger taste, you can go with walnut, Hickory, mesquite, and pecan. On the other, if you prefer medium tastes, apple, cherry, oak, and fruitwoods are a perfect choice. Lastly, woods giving mild flavor are alder and maple.

If you still can’t decide which wood you want for smoking why not get a variety pack?

Or as a special treat, you could try Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey Barrel Smoking Chips.

So, what are you waiting for? Grill it ’till you make it! 

What the experts say

BBQ with Franklin

How do you decide what kind of firewood to use for your barbecue? Well, today, we’re gonna talk about different types of wood on BBQ with Franklin.

So, let’s talk about firewood. There are a lot of different types of wood to use. Generally, with barbecue, you kinda typically use whatever’s around. Here in Central Texas, I’ve got a lot of post oak and that’s what I like to use.

Oh, well look at here, a nice piece of post oak. I could tell by picking up this piece of wood that it’s pretty green, that means it hasn’t been cured very long. It’s got a lot of moisture in there. What that tells me is that it’s gonna be really smoky. It’s gonna give me a really slow heat. It’s not gonna get up to temperature very quick, because it’s heavy.

It’s kinda like the empty milk carton syndrome. You pick up an empty milk carton and it feel, it looks like it’s gonna be heavier than it is. You probably know there’s not a lot of moisture in there. Maybe the wood’s dead; maybe you’re not gonna get much heat or smoke out of it.

This one on the other hand feels really heavy for what it looks like, and I know it’s got a lot of moisture. It’s gonna have a lot of smoke; it’s gonna burn slow; and this is what oak looks like. This is my preferred wood.

Even though my preferred wood is post oak, there are a lot of other kinds of woods. We’ve got hickory, mesquite, pecan; you can use really anything that’s available to you in whatever region you’re cooking in. And around here, it’s typically post oak and that’s why I use it.

Oak burns really clean. It’s a nice even heat; it’s not overpowering, and then you go up from that a little bit.

And then you’ve got hickory. Hickory is a little bit stronger than oak. It is kind of my second favorite. I think it’s a real nice wood. It burns pretty clean, if you do it right. It’s got a nice, mildish flavor, although a little but more than oak.

And then you go a little bit above that, you get to pecan. Pecan’s got a much stronger flavors. It’s kinda sweet; it’s really smoky. I don’t suggest it for a long cook. I think it maybe just becomes a little too overpowering on something that might be good for chicken; that might be good for ribs. Something a little bit shorter than, say, twelve hours.

Next up from that is mesquite, and mesquite is a really strong wood to burn. It’s really hot and fast. It’s got a lot of smoke to it. If you’re not careful with it, it’ll get really acrid to use. It will be super overpowering. Typically, it’s the best for burning down the coals. You can grill with it if you want. It’s good for steaks; it’s good for grilled chicken, stuff like that.

I really steer clear of that stuff for barbecue. I really do prefer oak, maybe hickory, and if you live around it, maybe your region has a lot of peach trees, a lot of cherry wood trees; you can dabble a bit in fruit woods.

For competition stuff, fruit woods tend to be pretty popular. Around Texas, we mostly have hardwoods, but that kinda also gets into how you would cure or season, if you will, firewood.

A lot of times fruit woods, you can use green. That means they’re fresh, they’re still have a lot of moisture in there. They’re gonna be real smoky. Still gonna most likely be a pretty mild wood if its fruit wood, but if it’s green, then that mean it’s fresh. And as you season wood, then it becomes cured.

And I prefer two different stacks. I like stuff that’s about twelve months old, leave it out in a field, stack it up, let the air circulate through, let it dry out, and you want the moisture to eventually just dry out of the wood. It’ll burn a little bit cleaner. Um, I prefer really cured oak, or seasoned if you will. I also like something this, maybe about six months old, like this stuff right here is about six months old, and it’s got a lot of smoke and it’s got a good round heat to it.

So, kinda play around. If you buy stuff at the store, likely it’s gonna be kiln-dried or air-dried. It will be very smoky. It’s gonna ignite really quickly. It’s gonna burn really fast. If you cut it down yourself, if you get it off Craigslist or something fell down in your backyard, you’re gonna wanna to age it, probably six months to a year, depends on the weather, and the climate that you live in. But either way, you’ll kinda get a feel for what you’re looking for after a while.

You know, one of the things about doing barbecue, is that you have a lot of time to think. You have a lot of time to experiment. Part of that experimentation comes into learning how to work a fire, going inside making sauces, playing around with different firewoods. It’s a creative process. It’s a craft.

But the main thing to have that much time, is actually sitting there, drinking some beers, watching the fire, putting the piece of wood on, and watching the temperature gauge, watching the smokestack, learning how not to choke off the fire, learning how to control the fire. The better you get at that, the better your barbecue is gonna be.

How To BBQ Right

Welcome back to How to BBQ Right. I’m Malcolm Reed. Today, I want to answer some of the most common questions I get on Facebook and Twitter. This one’s about what kind of wood that I use when I’m smoking.

The main thing for me when I’m choosing a wood is that I want a wood that’s good and dry. That means, it’s had most of its moisture seasoned out, by either age or they’re using a heat process to dry it.

Now, that’s important because when wood goes on hot coals, I want it to go ahead and ignite and start burning, creating that smoke. I don’t want it to sit there and smolder and produce thin white smoke. You’re getting impurities during that time and you don’t want that in your barbecue. You want good, clean smoke, and that’s gonna give you the best flavor in your wood.

Now, for me when I’m cooking with charcoal or lump briquettes as my main heat source, I’m using wood chunks, and I want pieces like this cherry right here that are two or three inches in size. It’s a good piece of wood that’s good and seasoned. I don’t care if it has a little bit of bark on it. You know, I like pieces that have center cut pieces with no bark, and some pieces that have a little bark, because that adds a different note of flavor and you can really pick that up in your barbecue.

Now, if I’m using wood as primarily my heat source, I’m gonna go for these splits, like these hickory splits here. You need about a ten or eleven-inch piece of hickory. Any kind of oak, dry, good, hard wood, that’s gonna give you a lot of BTU’s, and that’s when we’re using wood as a heat source, when I’m burning these.

But most of the time, my pits are all charcoal pits, and I’m running lump briquette on them as the fuel source and wood is just for, just for flavor.

The three species of wood that I really like to use are hickory, pecan, and cherry. I use these in competition cooking as well as cooking here at the house. I use the harder woods like the pecan and the hickory when I’m doing brisket or I’m doing whole pork shoulders, larger cuts of meat. And I use cherry when I’m doing ribs or chicken, anything that’s thinner that doesn’t need a ton of smoke.

The more delicate the meat, the lighter the smoke you need to use and that’s where your fruit woods come into play or your woods like sugar maple. Something that’s a real light, fragrant wood lends well to fish and poultry.

The great thing about cooking with wood, as long as you’re using a good seasoned wood; you can play with those flavors. A lot of times I’ll use combinations of all three of these when I’m doing barbecue because I like the notes that each different species gives my meat.

You know if you’ve got a favorite wood in your area, by all means, try it. Just know that if you use a good seasoned wood, it’s gonna produce good clean smoke and you’re gonna get the best flavor from it.

James

James is the editor at Best Barbecue Wood, he loves BBQ wood and spends his free time cooking outside on his grill. He's always trying the different types of wood to perfect the perfect ribs.

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