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9 Best Wood For Smoking Meat Reviewed in Detail 2023

Mr James Hall
  Feb 8, 2023 12:58 PM

Knowing the best kind of wood to use for smoking meat is a lot like knowing the flesh from a certain type of animal in some respects.

You can have many different kinds that are better or worse but you will never know the best wood for smoking meat until you try them all.


Best Wood For Smoking Meat

Once you find that perfect one, then it's time to stick with it and not try anything else ever again.

But don't worry because I'm going to go over which is my favorite, but also tell you why so that you have more than just one opinion when making your decision on what kind of grill or smoker is right for your needs and what type of meats to smoke on it. 

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How to choose the right wood for smoking meat

Type of Wood

To choose the best wood for smoking meat, you will first have to understand how the different types of wood obtain their flavors.

Once you do that, it will be easier for you to figure out which woods are going to give you the flavor that you want.

This article is going to go over the most important things that a novice needs to understand if they want to get into smoking meat in their backyards. So without further ado let's discuss what makes different types of wood taste so different from one another.

There are several different types of wood and they all have their own unique characteristics that will help you determine what kind of wood you want to use.

What is the best wood for smoking meat


Pine is probably the most common wood used for smoking meat because it provides a great balance between the flavors of meat as well as a little bit of fruitiness and some earthiness. It's actually the same species (Pinus Sylvestris) but just three different varieties that grow in many different parts of the world. From Canada down to Mexico and even parts of Africa, these all make an excellent choice for smoking meat, especially if you're looking to experiment with the flavorful woods and see which ones you like best. Of course, that's going to change based on the other flavors that you are looking for as well as the type of meat you want to make.


Cherry is another popular wood used for smoking because it has a slight fruitiness to it, which makes it very good for making pork, poultry and a few other types of meats taste like some wild game. This is not really what I recommend using this wood for because you are going to end up with more of a dried fruit flavor after it has been smoked than if you were to add different woods and fruit flavors in your marinade instead. Still, cherry is a good choice if you're looking to experiment with new flavors and combinations.


Maple is a very good wood to use for smoking because it's an excellent balance of the flavors of meat and fruit. It doesn't have any fruit flavors but it does have a combination of other flavors that can make the meat taste as it came from being in the forest. This is another one that many people tend to use because they have not really learned how to use different types of woods when cooking their meats.


Sweetgum is a good wood to use when you are looking for some strong aromas in your smoke instead of just smoke flavor. This is an especially good wood to use if you want the meat to taste like a lot of different things. This is another great wood to use for experimenting because it can give your meat plenty of flavors all at once.


Hickory, also known as oak, is probably one of the most popular types of wood that people use when they are looking for wood flavor. It's a very strong flavor, so you will have to be careful in how much you have in your smoker because too much can overpower your whole house with the smokey flavor. It's not the best choice for meat, but it is ideal for smoking bacon and other fatty meats like pork belly or smoked ham.


Beech is a type of tree that is similar to oak, but it's got more of a vanilla aroma in its smoke. It's very fantastic for smoking a lot of different kinds of meat because it will make the meat taste like a grilled ham that has been marinated in some barbecue sauce and then breaded.


There are two types of birch trees and they both produce some wonderful smoke as well as great flavors for your meats. But the one important difference between them is that one type (butternut) produces more smokey vanilla flavors while the other type (white birch) produces more woody, woodsy flavors.

What Is The Best Wood To Smoke Meat With?

I'm not a fan of using any type of wood other than hickory and cherry. Hickory is a great wood to use if you want something that will give you plenty of smokey flavors, but it's not very good for more complex flavor profiles. Cherry is something that I like to use because it has more fruity tones to the smoking experience, and I think that the combination of fruit in smoke is an excellent idea. The reason for this is that it adds a little bit of uniqueness to whatever meat you are cooking.

There are often times when people don't very well at smoking meat and they don't know why. It's actually quite simple to tell the difference between bad meat and bad wood. If you do not cook the meat correctly, then that's when it ends up tasting terrible and the wood is going to make it taste worse.

To avoid this from happening, you are going to have to do a little bit of research on smoking meats by yourself. Otherwise, you will end up throwing away a lot of money on buying meats that don't taste good when smoking them due to your improper use of wood. So this is an important aspect of learning how to smoke meat properly in your backyard for anyone who is not looking to go through all kinds of trial and error in their own kitchen or backyard.

What is the best wood to smoke meat with?

The Anatomy of a piece of firewood

Wood is made up mostly of two things, resin and cellulose fibers. The reason it has been a traditional choice for the best cooking medium for hundreds of years is that cellulose turns into a gas at certain temperatures, known as molecular diffusion.

As the temperature rises so does the pressure and the strength of this gas, which can be harnessed in order to cook. The resin on the other hand becomes liquid at these high temperatures and tends to pool around itself before spilling onto other pieces of wood. When it cools down it hardens into a resin, but when charcoal burns this carburization takes place before any smoke can be produced by the wood.

This is why all of the wood that I listed in my top 5 is very hard, almost like a solid when they are dry.

Cellulose Content, Hardness, and Value

When you talk about the best kind of wood for smoking meat, you can be sure that there is going to be a very big difference between the "best" and the rest.

On one side you have woods that have very little cellulose content and high hardness. These include Hickory, Mesquite, and Pecan which provide a lot of flavor on their own with no smoke at all. They are all "hard" woods which means that they have a high density and provide a lot of energy.

These hardwoods burn at high temperatures, which makes them ideal for cooking meat on their own because they provide the grill with a considerable amount of heat as well as some flavors. You should avoid using these woods in combination with others unless you want to improve the flavor of your foods.

There are other kinds of wood that have very high cellulose content and almost no hardness to them at all. These include woods like Alder, Apple, Poplar, and Sycamore; these are the types of wood you want to use if you need to add smoke flavor to your meats without actually needing anything else added.

Tips for Using Wood To Smoke Meat

The best way to use wood is in the form of chips because they are easy to light and don't take as much space in your smoker. If you want to use larger pieces of wood, then you should make sure that they are dried out and not exposed to any moisture for a very long period of time.

Wood that is green or wet has no value when it comes to smoking meat because it doesn't burn down completely and instead produces a lot of smoke and gas that fills up the whole house, which makes it difficult to keep the smell down.

The only exception here is alder wood which burns almost white-hot, though this will take a lot longer than using other kinds of woods.

You should also make sure that when you are using wood chips you always keep the temperature under control because most of the time it will be too much for whatever meat you are cooking and it will end up drying it out.

As I have said before, do not use wood as your primary source of heat because it's going to leave a bad taste in your food. If you need to use wood then do so as a bed of coals, but only after you have finished grilling your meat and dumped it all over the coals. Always avoid putting overly smoky foods like ham on top of hot, green pieces of wood because there is a strong possibility that they will burn and be ruined.

This is the main reason that you should keep a basket in your grill and dump the meat into it as soon as it's done cooking. If you are using a grill with very little space then you can put one of your grates on top of the fire, then use a cage to hold all of the meat inside, and put another grate on top of everything else.

If you want to add smoke flavor to your meats without ruining any piece that is overly smoky, then try placing them at the bottom of the cage and putting other meats on top, or just rotate them and place them near the fire later on.

Do not ever skip setting up your smoker if you enjoy making foods like smoked brisket. It takes a lot longer to prepare the meat than it does to actually cook it, so you will have plenty of time to set up your smoker but if not you will be stuck with a pile of burned meat.

There is also the possibility that you might find that you don't need a smoker at all, especially when grilling foods that do not benefit from any changes in taste. You can still improve the flavor by using spices or marinades, but there is no point in trying to replicate the smoky taste if it is not needed for whatever purpose you have for cooking.

Recipes For Smoked Meats

If you are looking for a place to start when it comes to smoking meats, then I have good news for you. You can use any of your favorite recipes as long as you follow these tips:

  1. For the best results, marinate the meat in a 5% solution of salt and sugar overnight before cooking with it. This will help tenderize the meat and give you a better texture after it has been cooked. 
  2. Make sure that your meat reaches an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit before taking it off the grill or smoker. Use a digital cooking thermometer to make sure that the core temperature is high enough, but not too hot, and avoid overcooking it if possible. 
  3. Take the meat off the heat once it reaches an internal temperature of 160 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Serve immediately and make sure that you keep it warm or smoke it again if you have some extra time on your hands.

As long as you follow these simple steps you will be able to have a better experience when grilling meats, as well as have them ready when needed. If you like smoking meat then hopefully I have given you a good enough reason to start using wood in order to do so.



How long does it take to smoke meat?

Smoking meat cook time will vary a lot depending on the type of food you are smoking and its size. For example, a pork shoulder can take anything from 8 hours to 18 hours, so your best bet is to read the manufacturer's instructions and follow them in order to make sure your food is done.

Can I use hardwood chips in a gas grill?

Yes, you can. You just need to put the wood chips in a wire mesh and put that directly over the burner or heat source; this will make sure that the wood burns rather than ripping off pieces of it directly.

Is there any way to speed up the smoking process?

If you have access to an offset smoker with separate chambers, then you can probably cut some time off your smoking process by moving your food from one chamber to another. This will depend on how much fuel you use, but it's still worth trying out if you want to smoke a lot of meat at once and save some time doing so.

Can you make smoked meat without a smoker?

If you can find a smoker that takes the same wood as your smoker, then yes you can. However, this will leave some of the flavors behind and most people prefer to make the best possible use of their resources.


Smoking meat is a great joy, and if you can use wood as your primary component then there are some things that you need to consider in order to do so successfully. In the end, though, smoking will depend entirely on you, so I hope that this guide has given you the tools that you need in order to start doing so.

Just remember that the success of a good smoker depends solely on your knowledge and ability to follow instructions, so if you find yourself putting something like charcoal briquettes or wood chunks directly into your smoker then it might be time for you to start searching for a new smoker altogether.

Good luck!


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