Choosing wood for your smoker

Selecting the correct wood to complement your meat

selecting the right wood for meat
why does it matter?

When it comes to smoking, matching your meat with the right type of wood will help you to produce delicious results. Some meats are better cooked with a strong wood, like nut trees, while other meats need a lighter flavor.

Types of wood for smoking

The most popular woods for smoking are Mesquite, Oak, Hickory, and Pecan. These staples are best suited for larger chunks of meat such as briskets, ribs, and big game but can also be great for pork and fish. These nut trees produce a strong flavor and create a dark rich color in your meat.

chart wood type for meat

Pairing chart by


Fruit woods produce a lighter, sweeter flavor than staples like Oak. These versatile flavors are great for white and pink meats but can also be used on red meats. Some of the most common fruit woods are Cherry, Apple and Peach all of which are great for ribs. For a more detailed pairing chart, check out this PDF from Deejay's smoke pit.

A Few things to remember about smoking

You should treat wood like any other ingredient; don’t overdo it. Using too much wood will make your meat taste like smoke, instead of smoke flavored meat.

Mesquite and Oak, while popular for smoking, should be used with caution. It has a strong flavor that can overpower any meat if not used carefully. It's best for red meats when used in moderation. 

The right type of smoke

The best smoke is pure and clean, not thick and billowing. You’ll know when the smoke is right when you can barely see it. You know the kind: light blue in color and smells great – yeah that’s it. If the smoke is gray or darker, you need to feed it more oxygen.

No worries if you can’t nail the perfect type of smoke at first; you’ll get it.

Final take

Choosing the right wood for your smoker is all about preference. While some woods are generally considered to be better with certain cuts, the only true deciding factor is you. Try out different woods until you find the flavor you like best.

Never use woods that are resinous. Not only will they make your meat taste awful, they can also make you sick.

  • Dwayne says:

    Is red oak good for smoking

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