Choosing Woods for Grilling and Smoking

Take the guesswork out of grilling and smoking meats with wood. With a little information, making the right wood choices for your meats is a snap.

Related To:

Barbecue Wood and Smoke

Grilling and smoking meat with wood can be a complicated task. The smoke is meant to enhance the flavor of your meats and not overpower it. As a basic approach, choose lighter, fruit woods for fish and poultry. Pair them with oak for longer, hotter burning. Experiment from there with other woods, using them in moderation until you reach your desired flavor.

Smoking Wood Chips

Chips are small in size and burn more quickly than chunks or rounds. They are good for small, quick jobs, but will require more maintenance and are less suitable for long cooking jobs.

Smoking Wood Chunks

For many smaller smokers, wood chunks are the way to go. They provide a slower burn for a longer period of time. This prevents frequent opening of the unit and maintaining the even flow of smoke. For many smaller applications, just a few chunks are all you need.

Choosing Hickory

Probably the most common of smoking woods, this wood is strong in flavor and a good candidate for beef cuts and ribs. It can be overpowering so consider pairing it with other woods. A ratio of 2 parts oak to 1 part hickory is a good place to start.

Choosing Mesquite

This wood is very popular for most meats, but should be used on smaller cuts which don't require long cooking times as it can become overbearing. Consider using it with other woods.

Choosing Pecan

Pecan provides a bit of fruity, nutty flavor and burns cooler than many woods. It is a good choice for large cuts and roasts, but can be used in tandem with other woods to complement the flavors of poultry and fish.

Choosing Oak

While not as commonly selected for flavor alone, this wood can be used alone or in conjunction with other woods. Its high temperature and slow burning ability make it a good companion wood.

Choosing Apple

Apple wood is a mild wood which produces a sweet, fruity taste. It is commonly used to smoke poultry and ham.

Choosing Cherry

Much like apple wood, this wood will produce a sweet, fruity taste. It can be very fruity depending on the age of the wood. This is the wood of choice for many who are smoking poultry, ham, or fish. Unlike most other woods that turn a grayish brown over time, cherry wood will turn almost black with age.

Choosing Nectarine

This wood produces flavor similar to apple or cherry with a slight nutty flavor. It is excellent for fish and poultry and pairs nicely with oak.