Best Wood For Smoking Ribs

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If you are a BBQ enthusiast, it is likely that you already understand the place that wood-smoked ribs have on the American BBQ landscape. Tender, delicious, and juicy with the meat falling off the bone, smoked pork ribs are a delicacy that most BBQ parties cannot do without. Suppose you find yourself managing the grill for such an event. In that case, it is essential to know precisely what kind of wood to use for the smoking process and how different wood choices affect the flavor, texture, and aroma of the ribs differently.

Smoking ribs with wood smoke can impart deep, complex flavors to the meat. Low and slow smoking is a proven way to add more flavor to meat and infuse it with a smoky aroma that goes really well with the usual assortment of sides and sauces traditionally served with a smoked rack of ribs.

To solve this critical riddle, we discuss the best wood for smoking ribs. Let us take an in-depth look at some popular and uncommon options and discuss their flavor profiles in detail.

What Types Of Wood Are There For Smoking?

When it comes to choosing the right type of wood for smoking ribs (or any type of meat,) you can’t just grab any wood off the ground. That’s right, you need to know the different types of wood like hardwood versus softwood, and which is the right kind of wood for smoking. When you go to pick what wood to put in your smoker or grill, you need to use hardwoods, not softwoods like pine or cedar that have a lot of resins that can ruin the taste of your food. 

Can I Use Wood To Smoke Ribs On My Charcoal Grill?

Smoking ribs doesn’t have to just be done on an offset smoker or pellet grill. You can smoke them on a charcoal grill, too. You simply need to set your charcoal grill up for indirect heat and monitor the temperatures well. Rather than using logs of wood in an offset smoker or wood pellets in a pellet grill, you’ll use wood chips or wood chunks to provide the wood smoke flavor. You could even smoke your ribs on a gas grill using wood chips as well. Just wrap them up in an aluminum foil packet as described in our article on using wood chips for smoking.

We will start with some of the milder woods and move on to more traditional stronger flavors. The woods below are selected as the best woods for smoking pork ribs.

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Peach Wood

Peachwood is not a common choice for smoking ribs. However, it is used in certain parts of the country for this purpose. Generally, fruitwoods usually carry sweet, mild, fruity flavors associated with the tree, and peach is no exception. The light, subtle fruity flavor, and a hint of peach, combined with the mild smoke, can result in delicious ribs. Peach can also work well as an additional flavoring component in a mix of other woods.

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageZorestar Pellets
  • Sample Kit
  • All Natural
  • Low Ash
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byb2-table__imageWestern Premium Wood Chips : Peach
  • 100% natural wood
  • Heat treated
  • Large sized chips
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byb2-table__imageDiamond King Wood Chunks : Peach
  • 100% natural wood
  • USDA certified
  • Stored indoors
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Maple Wood

If you are looking for something light and sweet that does not overly mask the natural smell and taste of ribs, maple can be a good choice. The naturally sweet flavor of the smoke just lightly infuses the meat and does not overpower it. If you are looking to serve your ribs with a sweet BBQ sauce and a side of vegetables, using maple can indeed be a judicious option. Otherwise, you can throw in some maple with one of the stronger flavor woods to tone things down and introduce some sweetness into the meat.

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageBear Mountain Wood Pellets : Maple
  • No binders or fillers
  • Works well with all major grill brands
  • Low moisture
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageWestern Premium Wood Chips : Maple
  • 100% natural wood
  • Heat treated
  • Large sized chips
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageWestern Premium Cooking Chunks : Maple
  • 100% natural wood
  • Large size
  • Heat treated
CHECK PRICE


Apple Wood

A more popular fruit wood for smoking ribs than the previous two, apple wood has a distinct heady aroma and a signature sweet taste when used to smoke ribs. The resultant flavor is complex and layered and there is a subtle hint of smoke that does not overpower the meat. 

Since apple wood burns slowly, it is vital that you allow your ribs adequate time in the smoker if you want the smoke to infuse thoroughly and create the desired results. Another benefit of smoking with apple wood is its versatility. You can use it to smoke a wide variety of foods apart from ribs, including poultry and seafood. Apple is also used by many BBQ enthusiasts in a blend with hickory that yields excellent results.

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageBear Mountain Wood Pellets : Apple
  • No binders or fillers
  • Works well with all major grill brands
  • Low moisture
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageWestern Premium Wood Chips : Apple
  • 100% natural wood
  • Heat treated
  • Large sized chips
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageWeber Wood Chunks : Apple
  • 100% natural wood
  • Long lasting
  • Kiln dried
CHECK PRICE


Cherry

Cherry is easily one of the best wood chips for smoking ribs. If you want to use just a single fruitwood for smoking, it is hard to recommend something better than cherry. The signature mild, sweet taste and aroma can be a perfect complement to any rib. However, there is another element to using cherry wood to smoke your ribs – the color. Smoking your ribs with cherry gives them a deep, rich mahogany color, something that you usually see in BBQ competitions. 

If you want your ribs to look good while also tasting and smelling good, using cherry is the way to go. Personally I believe this is the best wood for smoking baby back ribs.

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageBear Mountain Wood Pellets : Cherry
  • No binders or fillers
  • Works well with all major grill brands
  • Low moisture
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageCameron Wood Chips: Cherry
  • 100% natural wood
  • Coarse Cut
  • Made in USA
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageDiamond King Wood Chunks : Cherry
  • 100% natural wood
  • USDA certified
  • Stored indoors
CHECK PRICE


Oak Wood

As we enter the territory of the more traditional smoking woods, oak is a popular choice if you are looking for the intense, bold flavors and deep, rich colors usually associated with the smoking process but at mild levels. 

This incredibly versatile wood renders a soft, savory woody flavor to the meat along with a shiny golden finish, making it a popular choice for BBQ beginners and enthusiasts everywhere. 

It is also an excellent wood to use as a base if you want to experiment with mixing different woods for more complex, layered flavors. 

Oak can burn for a long time while also reaching high temperatures, making it a versatile choice for cooking techniques. You can go low and slow with it or turn up the heat for a different style of ribs.

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageBear Mountain Wood Pellets : Oak
  • No binders or fillers
  • Works well with all major grill brands
  • Low moisture
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageCamerons Wood Chips: Oak
  • 100% natural wood
  • Coarse Cut
  • Made in USA
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageWestern Premium Cooking Chunks : Oak
  • 100% natural wood
  • Large size
  • Heat treated
CHECK PRICE


Pecan

Another excellent choice that imparts a mild smoky flavor along with a savory, heady taste to your ribs is pecan. As it is part of the hickory family, it shares specific characteristics with that more popular smoking choice. However, it has distinct features that you would not get with any other kind of wood. It’s vital to be careful with using pecan wood for smoking your ribs, though. If you use too much wood or leave your ribs there for longer than recommended, you might end up with a bitter taste.

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageBear Mountain Wood Pellets : Pecan
  • No binders or fillers
  • Works well with all major grill brands
  • Low moisture
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageWestern Premium Wood Chips : Pecan
  • 100% natural wood
  • Heat treated
  • Large sized chips
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageWeber Wood Chunks : Pecan
  • 100% natural wood
  • Long lasting
  • Kiln dried
CHECK PRICE


Hickory

One of the most popular smoking woods used widely in Midwestern and Southern BBQ, hickory is perfect if you want juicy, flavorful ribs that fall off the bone. The flavor profile is engaging with both sweet and savory notes and a distinct bacon-like flavor. This makes it a great choice for your ribs if you want them to smell and taste extra meaty and porky. It also imparts a mild nutty aroma to the ribs, making them strong, supple, and able to go with flavorful sauces and glazes. It is important to go easy with hickory as too much can overpower the flavor of the meat. 

Using too much hickory can also lead to an unpleasant bitter taste in the ribs. It is essential to use the right amount. You can also pair hickory with fruitwoods to cut the intensity and end up with a milder, sweeter product. Mixing some apple or cherry with the hickory can yield excellent results.

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageBear Mountain Wood Pellets : Hickory
  • No binders or fillers
  • Works well with all major grill brands
  • Low moisture
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageWestern Premium Wood Chips : Hickory
  • 100% natural wood
  • Heat treated
  • Large sized chips
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageCamerons Wood Chunks: Hickory
  • 100% natural wood
  • Precision Cut
  • Made In USA
CHECK PRICE


Mesquite

If you are a fan of smoked food that really tastes and smells intensely of the smoke in use, mesquite is your choice. Widely known as one of the most assertive wood flavors for smoking, mesquite can give your ribs a heady, earthy aroma while also helping to create a dark smoke coating on your ribs, making them hardy and delicious and able to stand up to robust sauces. Even your mother in law will be impressed! 

Used judiciously in Texas-style BBQ, mesquite can ensure that your ribs are the star of the show. With mesquite, a little goes a long way. The wood is oily by nature and reaches very high temperatures, which means you have to be careful with it, avoiding extra wood and extra smoking time. It is also a salient idea to blend in a lighter flavor of wood to end up with a product that has complex flavors while also being milder.

IMAGE MODEL FEATURES
byb2-table__imageBear Mountain Wood Pellets : Mesquite
  • No binders or fillers
  • Works well with all major grill brands
  • Low moisture
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageWestern Premium Wood Chips : Mesquite
  • 100% natural wood
  • Heat treated
  • Large sized chips
CHECK PRICE
byb2-table__imageWeber Wood Chunks : Mesquite
  • 100% natural wood
  • Long lasting
  • Kiln dried
CHECK PRICE


Wood Matters!

All of these woods are excellent options when it comes to smoking your ribs. Choosing the correct wood or combination of woods is one of the most important aspects that decide the flavor and aroma of the ribs you end up with. 

Once you understand what every single kind of wood brings to the table in terms of flavor, you can start experimenting by mixing and matching different woods in different ratios to find unique combinations that work the best for you. With adequate attention to detail, you can leverage the unique characteristics and strengths of each kind of wood to your advantage and end up with delicious, lip-smacking ribs every time. There are plenty of quality options for you try to suit your personal preference for smoking ribs.

However, if you were to ask us for our opinion on what’s the best wood to smoke ribs with, we’d go with cherry or a blend of cherry and oak. The color that cherry especially can help create will make your ribs Instagram or Pinterest worthy. Then combine that with the flavor of oak? A winning combination in the backyard if you ask us.

Still looking for more information on smoking woods? We have a dedicated page for all smoking wood types.

FAQs:

Question: Will Wrapping My Ribs Affect The Smoke Flavor?

Answer: If you follow our recommended way for smoking ribs (not the 321 method!) you’ll know that the ribs will spend plenty of time taking on smoke despite being wrapped in aluminum foil. Don’t be afraid to add a little liquid to your wrap, like apple juice, to ensure that your ribs stay nice and moist. The foil will help hold all the juices in so don’t worry about drippings getting everywhere.

Question: Is Hickory Or Mesquite Better For Ribs?

Answer: While both hickory and mesquite are considered more of a bold-flavored wood for ribs, we prefer hickory as mesquite can be a bit harder to get right. Pork is more of a subtle flavor than say beef, so mesquite could completely overpower the ribs if you aren’t careful. That’s not to say you can’t use mesquite. Just be careful and use some of the tips shared above.

Question: What Meat Is Best Smoked With Mesquite?

Answer: Mesquite is a staple of West Texas-style grilling and barbecue due to its strong flavor. If you’re looking to try mesquite wood in your smoker, grab something beefy like a brisket or even chuck roast

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2 thoughts on “Best Wood For Smoking Ribs”

  1. I have been using a cheap ball shaped BBQ and using wood instead of charcoal on a regular basis.
    Having a small apple orchard means a constant supply of dead wood. There are also chokecherry bushes on the property. The method for smoking is to put the meat in a small frying pan without a handle. This buffers the heat from the burning wood and prevents scorching the meat. When the fire is off to a good burn, put the cover on the BBQ and open the vent noting the prevailing wind direction. Ribs are well done in an hour and very tasty. Works with hamburgers and rear chicken quarters also.

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