Best Woods for Smoking

Smoking woods on ceramic smoker

In a world filled with so many choices from which brand of smoker, what type of smoker, live fire or pellet, chunks or chips, it can be overwhelming to even the most experienced. And God Bless the noobie trying their hand at smoking! Hopefully, we can answer some questions and help direct you no matter what level of smoker you are to the best wood choices for smoking.  

What wood should you not use?

Well, in the world of trees there are softwoods and hardwoods. Softwoods are your evergreen trees that are full of sap and moisture. They are not going to give your food a great taste and you really shouldn’t use them to cook with. Campfires, Yes. Cooking, No! You really want to use hardwoods to cook with. They are dense pieces of wood, that when they are seasoned correctly, smolder slower and they give food a great taste. Paired with the right meat it becomes a beautiful dance of flavor that you get to experience/taste. 

What does "seasoned wood" mean?

Seasoned wood simply means cut down wood that has been dried for the optimal amount of time to be used. You can stack up your wood in a dry location for six plus months or purchase from a firewood company who kiln dries their wood. We definitely recommend kiln dried because it also kills any bugs, mildew, or mold plus it ensures reducing the moisture inside the wood. 

Hardwoods

The varieties of wood below are among the most common choices of hardwood:

    • Hickory: 

wood is one of the more conventional options for longer cooks of red meat. It burns clean but has a more robust flavor and smokiness that’s equivalent to bacon.

    • Alder: 

offers refined, floral smoke that pairs well with white meat like poultry and fish. . When smoking salmon, which is often grilled on alder planks.

    • Maple: 

wood is another familiar mild wood, with delightful smoke that gives more refined cooks like chicken, vegetables, and cheese a trademark deep, burnished mahogany appearance.

    • Pecan: 

wood has a moderately, fresh nutty flavor but doesn’t burn as long as oak or hickory. Goes great with fish, ribs, and poultry. 

    • Mesquite: 

wood is one of the most abundant woods in Texas. It burns hot and fast, produces lots of smoke, and has an intensely savory, earthy flavor. It takes a long time to cure but can be tamed. It’s best used for quick cooks like steak, or burnt down as coals.

    • Oak: 

One of the many uses of white oak is the production of whisky barrels, and if you use white oak for barbecue, you’ll notice the smoke gives the meat a slightly sweet, vanilla-tinged flavor similar to a Kentucky bourbon.

    • Fruit woods:

burn faster than oak and hickory and produce smoke with an extremely subtle and well-rounded fruity sweetness. For those reasons, applewood, cherry wood, peach wood, or pear wood aren’t the best choice for brisket but use them for fish, poultry, and pork.

Smoking Wood Types

These are four major types to get your flavor or smoke depending on your smoker. 

  • Logs - are traditionally used for offset smokers to create heat and smoke. You get incredible flavor when the natural juices from your meat hit the hot embers of the wood! 
  • Chunks - are usually used in combination with charcoal. The chunks add the smoke and the charcoal is used to produce the heat. This is the most common method for ceramic live fire usage. Chunks also help with a constant smoke over longer smokes. 
  • Chips - are used with your propane/electric smokers and/or gas grills. Now, with chips, we have been thrust into the great debate of soaking vs. non-soaking. The reality is, it’s all your personal preference. Soaking your chips may prolong the smoke a little, but it’s really up to you and how you like cooking. Chips generate a lot of smoke quickly and are great for those shorter cooks. 
  • Pellets - have become super popular with the rise of the pellet smoker. For those that like the app on their phone and the ease of just buying a bag of pellets. Pellet smokers have become super convenient. Pellets are made from compressed sawdust. You can get different flavors just like you can with logs, chunks, or chips. 

Buying Wood for Smoking

Starting with the ease of use again, pellets can be found in local grocery stores or your big box home improvement stores. Local butcher shops may carry chips and chucks. Logs of high quality seem to be the hardest to find in stores. You can extend your search to the internet and it seems that you can find most of what you want. And that really goes for any of the four, because these other three can sometimes be harder to find. Here at Lane’s, we use Cutting Edge Firewood for all of our woody needs! They have logs, chunks, splits, and pizza cut. They also carry regular non-cooking firewood. We are never disappointed with their products and you won’t be either!


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