After smoking brisket for years, I’ve learned that my final product’s overall flavor and texture is largely determined by the kind of wood I use.
Be that as it may, with a lot of varieties of wood available, selecting the best one can be rather tricky.
For a large cut of meat like a brisket, using hardwood is recommended as it takes quite a long time to smoke. I use wood that is slow-burning and can give off heat and smoke for long periods. However, there is more than one kind of wood that would work for this purpose.
In this article, I’ll discuss the best woods for smoking brisket so you can get the exact results that you want.
The Best Wood for Smoking Brisket
As far as getting a brisket fully cooked is concerned, there are no specific wood species preferred over the others. The only difference is that various kinds of wood provide different flavors. Additionally, some types of wood are better than others depending on the ingredients you use.
Oak is one of the easiest types of wood to smoke with. This makes oak ideal for newbie pitmasters. It is easy to use because it has a long potential burning time. Whenever I use it, I don’t need to refill the smoker with wood constantly. It creates long-lasting heat even when only the embers are left.
Moreover, oak produces a smoky flavor that perfectly matches with a brisket’s. It provides a more subtle flavor than other popular kinds of wood like mesquite or hickory. It’s ideal to use in conjunction with stronger-flavored woods to produce a layered taste.
I use mesquite whenever I make authentic Texan smoked brisket. This is because of the pungent, almost spicy flavors that it imparts to the meat.
If you like to dilute the strong mesquite flavor and aroma, I recommend pairing it with lighter woods. Apple or cherry wood is perfect if you desire a subtler taste.
The only flaw of mesquite is that it burns quite fast, unlike oak. I don’t recommend it when smoking larger brisket cuts that need longer periods to cook. That’s why I make sure I have enough wood on hand when using mesquite.
Apart from being widely available, hickory is one of the most popular types of wood because of the nutty flavor it provides.
Hickory produces a complex taste profile that’s strong, smoky, and savory. The nutty notes that the hickory gives to the brisket are delicious. Just be mindful of using too much hickory as your meat can have a very defined bitter taste. To tone down the strong flavor, I use slightly less of it or dilute it with lighter-flavored wood as applewood.
Based on my experience, hickory flavor is perfect when you use sugar or sweet sauce on your meat.
Like hickory, pecan is known for the nutty flavor it gives off. Be that as it may, it is mainly popular for the wonderfully sweet and rich flavor it adds to the meat.
Some might find pecan somewhat too sweet for their tastes. If you want to dial down its sweetness a bit, I recommend adding some oak to even out the flavor. If you don’t have other types of wood, adding a pinch of cayenne pepper to the rub is perfect for giving the brisket a hint of spice.
Along with oak, maple is another excellent wood for newbie pitmasters. This is because it imparts a sweet and light smoky taste to the meat without overpowering it.
What I really love about maple is its versatility. It goes well with other types of meat. I’ve used maple with pork and poultry as well, and I always love the results!
Olive wood may not be the first wood you think of when smoking a brisket. All the same, I believe it’s worth mentioning because it’s a great (and milder) alternative to mesquite. I’ve used it twice, and the flavor it gives off is somewhat like mesquite. However, the taste it imparts to the meat isn’t as overwhelming.
In addition, olive wood adds a hint of Mediterranean flavor. It goes great with poultry. I’ve also tried using it when cooking fish, and the result has been unexpectedly delicious!
If you like subtle flavors, a fruitwood like cherry is a tasty option for smoking your brisket. What I love about cherry is how it darkens the bark of the brisket. The color makes the brisket look even more mouth-watering.
On the other hand, if you like a robust taste on the brisket, you can add some oak or maple wood. The combination will improve the smokiness without removing the sweet fruitiness.
Just like cherry, applewood gives a mildly fruity and sweet flavor to the brisket. You can use apple either on its own or pair it with another wood that gives off bolder flavors. Aside from brisket, I highly recommend using apple for ham and poultry meats.