The right type of wood makes a very important element of smoking meat, right next to time and temperature. Depending on what you smoke, you need to pick the right type of wood so that it perfectly matches the type of meat of your choice.
Wrong choice of wood might result in bad taste of food which will make the smoking a failure. You need to know that not every type of wood fits beef for example, which is why I have prepared a guide for you in which I will briefly present the best wood for smoking depending on the type of food.
Smoking Wood Chart
The table below presents a list of different types of wood with the matching food. If you want to learn more about a particular type of wood, check out the detailed list below the table.
What is The Best Wood for Smoking ?
There is no clear answer to that question. It all mostly depends on what you want to smoke, you can choose among beef, pork, seafood, poultry, lamb, vegetables, cheese and more.
First you need to choose what you want to smoke, then think about choosing the type of wood. It’s a quick and easy way to pick the best wood for smoking the thing you like.
Oak - It generates medium smoky flavor, it burns hot and fits most types of meat. It is slightly stronger than cherry and apple, but lighter than mesquite and hickory.
Great for: It pretty much matches most types of meat, Lamb, Beef, Brisket, Chicken, Sausages
Maple – It gives a more subtle, sweet smoky flavor that is perfect for mild, light and sweet smoking. Good for mixing with things like alder, oak or apple.
Great For: Poultry, Vegetables, Cheese
Cherry – Very good fruit wood that fits most types of meat. It gives a mild fruity and sweet smoke that goes well with alder, pecan, hickory or oak.
Great for: Beef, Pork
Hickory – A very popular type of wood with a strong, stinging smoke that gives food a sweet yet strong bacon flavor. It goes very well with other types of wood, but watch out not to go overboard or else the meat will have a strong bitter flavor.
Great For: Ribs, Pork Shoulders and most types of read meat and poultry
Mesquite – It is famous for its intense earthy flavor so watch out not to go overboard or else the meat will have a too intense negative flavor and scent. A very good wood for grilling when the meat is ready within few minutes, I wouldn’t recommend it for long smoking. It’s a greasy type of wood which is why it burns down very fast and hot, it is recommended for red meat.
Great For: Mostly red and dark meat
Apple – It is mild and sweet and also requires a lot of time to penetrate into your food which is why I recommend it for longer smoking. The apple fruit wood can actually be easily used during any type of smoking. It gives very good results when combined with strong wood such as mesquite or oak.
Great for: Poultry, Beef, Pork, certain Seafood, Lamb
Pecan – It stands out with its rich, sweet, nut flavor ( much weaker than Hickory ). The sweetness of this wood is strong enough to make it good for mixing with other, harder types of wood. Watch out not to go overboard with this wood, which would result with a bitter and acrid flavor.
Great for: Poultry, Pork
Alder – It gives your food a light, delicate, naturally sweet flavor. Its lightness makes it great for smoking poultry and fish. It is mostly known as an obligatory wood for smoking a salmon.
Great For: Salmon and other fish, Poultry, Pork
Walnut – It is characterized by a strong and heavy, slightly bitter flavor, which is why I recommend this type of wood when grilling red meat. During long smoking, it is very easy to go overboard with the Walnut aroma, which is why it is better to mix it with other delicate wood to make the final aroma of the meat softer.
Great For: Mostly red meat
Pear – A light sweet fruity flavor that works great when smoking pork or poultry. I see a lot of resemblance to apple in pear when it comes to flavor.
Great For: Pork, Poultry
Peach – It resembles many other fruit trees in flavor, giving a mild, sweeter flavor similar to Hickory ( slightly lighter ). The peach tree works very well for grilling poultry or pork.
Great For: Poultry, Pork
Mulberry – Similarly to apple, it has a mild, sweet and fruity flavor. Despite working great for nearly every type of meat, I mostly recommend it for fish, poultry and pork.
Great For: It fits most types of meat, being especially recommended for poultry, fish and pork.
Grap Vine – Due to its acrid, fruity flavor, I suggest very careful smoking. I recommend it for Poultry or Lamb, but don’t go overboard or else the flavor will be too heavy.
Great For: Poultry, Lamb, Game, Red Meat
Citrus trees ( like orange and lemon ) – This type of wood gives similar results, as in light, sweet, fruity and citrus flavor. It works great for smoking any type of meat, with poultry and pork being particularly recommended.
Great for: Pretty much any type of meat, I recommend it for Poultry and Pork
Properly selected wood is not everything, it is also important on what you will smoke. In a separate article I have prepared a list of the best smokers, so I encourage you to read if you complain about your current smoker, maybe it's time to change something better?