Smoking meat is a fun activity that can add a lot of great flavor to get the most out of your meat. It can be considered like an art form and science all wrapped into one tasty gourmet meal. Finding the best wood for smoking makes a difference in the smells, tastes, and flavors of your meat. Different wood produces different outcomes and finding the right match for you and your tastes are important.
How to Choose the Right Type of Wood
Searching for the correct type of wood for smoking and knowing how that will affect the burn and smokiness of your meat Is essential. It is all fun and games until what you desired, turns out to be the exact opposite of what you get. Hopefully, these insights will help you understand what types of wood offer different values.
Pellets vs. Chips. vs. Chunks vs. Logs
There are 4 main types of wood shapes. These various shapes offer lots of variety in your smoking experience.
The first type we will dig deeper into is pellets. Pellet wood is available in a variety of different kinds and flavors and is quick to light and smoke. In terms of their shape, they look small almost like dog food. They are in the form of small cylindrical pellets that can smoke quickly and are convenient to handle. Pellets require pellet smokers, which are specific to taking care of how pellets burn.
The second type is the chips. Chips are much thicker than pellets and show up around ¼ inch thick to about 1-inch-thick in width and length. This means they are more square rather than cylindrical compared to the pellets. Chips are easy to source and store and much like the pellets, they produce heat quickly.
Chunks are the third shape of the wood. Measuring to about the size of a fist, chunks can be used in smaller offset smokers, water smokers as well as gas grills and charcoal grills. Chunks are similar to chips and pellets, where they can produce smoke quickly and don’t require long burn times.
Lastly, the biggest one of them all is logs. Many of you are probably familiar with logs in a fire pit and sitting around them. Well, they can be used for smoking too. However, logs are most compatible with larger commercial settings when trying to smoke mass amounts of meat at once. Logs are the biggest smoking wood of them all measuring anywhere from 12 to 18 inches.
Angry BBQ’s Top Picks:
|Traeger Texas Beef Blend||CHECK PRICE|
|Western Post Oak Wood Chips||CHECK PRICE|
|Diamond King Post Oak Wood Chunks||CHECK PRICE|
|Traeger Pure Hardwood Apple Pellets||CHECK PRICE|
|Western Apple BBQ Smokin Chips||CHECK PRICE|
|Diamond King Apple Wood Chunks||CHECK PRICE|
|Traeger Turkey Blend Wood Pellets||CHECK PRICE|
|Western Hickory Wood Chips||CHECK PRICE|
|Western Hickory BBQ Cooking Chunks||CHECK PRICE|
|Traeger Mesquite Wood Pellets||CHECK PRICE|
|Western Mesquite Wood Chips||CHECK PRICE|
|Western Mesquite BBQ Cooking Chunks||CHECK PRICE|
|Traeger Pecan Wood Pellets||CHECK PRICE|
|Western Pecan Wood Chips||CHECK PRICE|
|Western Pecan BBQ Cooking Chunks||CHECK PRICE|
Cherry vs. Apple vs. Hickory vs. Maple vs. Oak
These aromas accompany many of the different shapes we discussed above. The wood used for smoking has a flavor that transcends from the wood onto the meat. Choosing a specific type of “flavor” is important for your desired smoking outcome.
The various flavors of wood compliment specific types of meat well. For example, this chart or this guide can help you visualize which type of flavor goes with which meat.
Cherry offers a hint of sweetness with undertones of wild fruit flavoring. Cherry pairs well with poultry; like chicken and duck, as well as pork.
Apple is a deeper flavor than cherry. It offers a thicker flavor with a hint sweetness to it. This pairs well with beef, chicken, pork, and duck.
Hickory compliments a range of meats and poultry, as well as cheese. This aroma offers deep pungent flavors with hints of meatiness to it in the flavor itself. We use hickory with our homemade smoked mac and cheese.
Maple is mild and offers a dash of sweet aroma. It pairs well with poultry. Cheeses make a fantastic duo with maple as well.
Oak is similar to hickory, and offers the palate a stronger genuine smoky flavor but isn’t quite as pungent as hickory. It is a flavor that blends flawlessly with many different types of other flavors and can enhance them for a more complex taste. Lately we have been using oak with our smoked brisket.
Besides these five main flavors, there are several more out there. They get even more playful the more you pair together. Knowing which type of flavor matches your meat and which flavors combine well together can help you smoke the ultimate creation.
Pairing the Right Flavor Palate to the Correct Meat
Different meats and wood types allow for endless combinations. Generally, there is no right or wrong way to flavor profiles. Like I mentioned earlier, smoking is an art form and a science. Make sure that you understand how wood burns. Don’t limit yourself to specific regulatory flavor profiles. It is all about trying and discovering what works for you in the long haul.
It can be exciting seeing all these different flavors and thinking that this is the ticket to the perfect smoked brisket or chicken. And yes, while these flavors create a fascinating combination with one another, it is important to focus mainly on smoking itself rather than the best combination of meat and wood. Starting small and simple; eventually working your way to more complex flavors will give you the expertise you need to thrive.
Angry BBQ’s Top Picks: Wood for Smoking
Best Wood for Smoking Brisket /Best Wood for Smoking Beef
Brisket is a slice of delicate meat that is hard to master but life-changing when you do. The ideal flavor that pairs well with a delicate brisket is a strong smoky flavor of hickory and oak. Oak offers a deep dive into your taste buds as the smokiness finds its way into the crevasses of brisket. The smokiness flavor of oak can be combined with other accompanying flavors as well to create the ultimate flavor palate. The pellets listed below are a perfect way to combine various flavors like deep oak, smoky and pungent mesquite and slightly sweet pecan. All three of these combined offer a complex but intricate balance. The chips and the chunks listed below are perfect for a straight shot to an all-encompassing oak flavor. We do a deep dive into best smoking wood for brisket here.
Traeger Texas Beef
Blend Wood Pellets
Western Post Oak
Diamond King Post Oak
Best Wood For Smoking Poultry
In terms of firing up some poultry, apple is a light but flavorful choice that adds mild sweetness but lots of flavor. All three of the options below are ideal for complimenting poultry. Poultry is usually light meat and this doesn’t do well with heavy, smoky flavors like hickory and mesquite. When most of us think of an apple, it feels and smells light and crisp. It is an accent to a meal and not the main course. Poultry is a slice of lighter meat and doesn’t need a strong flavor to overpower it.
These three are my favorite and my wife loves it when I pair apple and poultry. It is the ideal combination for those that don’t necessarily love the heaviness of red meats and smoky flavors but still want to try smoking. Additionally, the apple pellets are the best wood for smoking ham. Instead of putting an apple in a pig’s mouth while cooking, just infuse the apple into the meat itself. It offers a sweet and savory combination between the heavy ham and the light apple flavors. These three brands are my favorite to choose from for applewood. They are homegrown in the USA and offer a rich flavor profile. Recently we did a full article on best smoking wood for chicken.
Traeger Pure Hardwood
Western Apple BBQ
DiamondKing Apple Smoking
Best Wood For Smoking Turkey
Made from 100% hardwood, these turkey wood pellets, chips, and chunks are ideal for enhancing and complimenting the flavors in your turkey. The wood pellets that I love below, are a blend of oak, hickory, and maple which gives a deep and complex smoky flavor. The oak is more bitter, the hickory offers a smokiness into the blend, and the maple tops it all off with some sweetness.
The wood chips and chunks are both bold hickory flavors that give a true and authentic smoky taste to your turkey. Hickory is an ideal choice for turkey because it is a bold and flavorful smoky wood but it is not nearly as heavy as some of the others. Compared to mesquite and oak, hickory is good at balancing between the authentic hardcore smoky taste and light sweet accents that mesh well with a slice of lighter turkey meat. These wood chips and chunks are both a great option for that classic smokiness that weaves its way into the turkey but allows for that light crisp sweetness to pop through.
Full article on best smoking woods for turkey can be seen here.
Traeger Turkey Blend
Western Hickory BBQ
Best Wood For Smoking Ribs
Ribs are a barbecue classic and are the icon of wood smoking. Ribs are deep, bold meat that needs a deep and bold smokiness to match that. In terms of flavors that go well with ribs, mesquite pellets, wood chips, and wood chunks are ideal for this flavor hungry meat.
While in the smoker, ribs usually form a crispy edge that is irresistible for our taste buds. The reason why mesquite is such a good flavor profile match with ribs is that ribs are a lump of heavier darker meat compared to poultry. A lot of the area of the ribs that make them so good, are the outer crust of the ribs and what it absorbs. This way, there will be no reason to pull out a masking barbecue sauce, because the goal is to have all of that desired flavor in the ribs already. Mesquite is tangy and offers a zing in every bite. All three of these mesquite pellets, wood chips, and wood chunks are from sources that pride themselves on using only reliable hardwood for their wood.
Check out our full article on best smoking woods for ribs.
Western mesquite Smokin
Western Mesquite BBQ
Best Wood For Smoking Salmon
Pecan wood for smoking salmon is the ideal way to enhance salmon. As a very versatile fish, salmon can be used for a variety of flavor combinations from sweet and savory to smoky and tangy. Salmon is a light fish but can alter and change into a heavier one due to wood smoking.
The pecan flavors give a distinct flavor but are a very dynamic one. Unlike apple or mesquite, pecan pellets, wood chips, and chunks start your taste buds with an initial smoky taste and then incorporates more depth with sweet and tangy moderate flavors.
Salmon is a fish that can alter and change with the flavor it is smoked with and is a very flexible fish to smoke. And by this, I mean that salmon goes well with many things but it goes best with pecan wood. All of the pellets, wood chips, and wood chunks below are made from 100% hardwood which is ideal, when smoking wood.
Western Pecan BBQ
Western Pecan BBQ
Figuring out the perfect pairings between the ideal wood and your meat can be a fun science experiment in your backyard. Testing your ideas and flavors is a great way to get better at manipulating just what you want in your ideal smoked meat.
If you are a novice when it comes to smoking, I suggest that you start with basic flavors and nail those down and then start experimenting by creating your blends of wood pellets, chips or chunks in your backyard. This can be a fun and exciting way to understand which wood gives the desired flavor and how that alters the way you enjoy the meat you smoke. Many times, you can’t find the exact blending options you’d like and this is a great way to invent some of your own.
Overall, wood smoking is a process that takes time but you get to reap the benefits at the end of the day at the dinner table. These flavors take time to master and develop, and I hope that some of my favorites can help you along the way to reaching your perfectly smoked meat.