The Best Woods for Smoking Meat

The type of wood you use for smoking meat can have a significant impact on the flavor of your finished dish. There is a wide variety of woods on the market, each with its own flavors to offer your smoked meat. So what are the best woods for smoking meat, and what should you pair them with? Here is a list of some of the most popular wood chips, along with their recommended pairings.


Oak is the most popular wood to smoke with, and for a good reason. It is an all-rounder that will pair with most meats that you smoke. If you are new to smoking meat, then you cannot go wrong with oak! It is recommended that you use this wood for lamb, beef, brisket, and sausages.


Hickory is sweet, savory, and heater, which makes it an excellent wood to use if you are aiming for that flavor profile. You need to be careful when smoking hickory; if you overdo it, then the meat is going to taste bitter. Hickory wood is a versatile choice and another common ingredient for smoking. You should try hickory wood chips with rib, pork, and most red meats. 


If you do not want a flavor that is overpowering, then maple is the way to go! Maple wood leaves a subtle smoke flavor that accentuates the meat wonderfully. If you want the meat to maintain a large amount of its initial flavor, then maple will serve you well. Maple pairs well with poultry, pork, and game foul.


Unlike the subtlety of maple wood, mesquite is known for its intense flavor. You should use this wood in tiny quantities as it can quickly overpower the dish. If you want a unique and robust taste, then try mesquite. Pair this wood with red meat or combine it with another wood chip to give your meal some additional flavor. 


Pecan wood chips are the sweetest on the market! It leaves the meat rich and nutty after smoking it. Most people choose to pair pecan with another, more complicated wood to balance the flavor out. In terms of pairings, brisket, roast, and ribs are pecan woods’ best friends.


Applewood is sweet like pecan; however, the flavor is a lot milder. Because it has such a soft flavor, you will need to leave the meat in the smoker for a few hours before it will start to appear. That said, once it does make its way into the meat, applewood will give you a mellow and sweet flavor that is a perfect addition to any meal. You should use apple wood chips with chicken, foul, and pork. 


Alder is very similar to applewood in terms of its subtlety; however, it is slightly sweeter. If you want to put fish in the smoker, then alder wood is a very popular pairing. The flavors complement each other greatly.


Cherrywood contains a mild and fruity taste that will be difficult to find anywhere else. Cherrywood is often paired with a hardwood, like hickory, to achieve a satisfying flavor combination. You should smoke this wood with chicken, turkey, and ham.

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