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The Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

When you’re thinking about preparing smoked ribs, it’s essential to do some research ahead of time. Why? Because you want them to be irresistibly delicious.  Using the best smoker is important in smoking ribs, but the type of wood is also vital in the process.

To the suprise of many first-timers, picking the wrong wood can ruin the ribs’ taste and texture. The meat is exposed to the smoke created by the wood, adopting aspects of it to the overall flavor.

Some woods produce a bitter flavor, while others create a savory and sweet taste. With lots of woods to choose from, it can be tricky to find the ideal one. In this article, we’ll guide you to find the best wood for smoking ribs to get the result that you want.

The Best Wood For Smoking Ribs

You must remember that the “best” wood depends on the taste that you want to achieve.

You can always combine multiple types of wood so that you won’t miss out on the addition of other great flavors. Just keep in mind that hardwoods are the ones best in smoking ribs.

Here is a list of the best hardwoods you can choose from:


Hickory is probably the most popular type of wood used in smoking ribs. This type of wood is very common in the Southern and Midwestern parts of the states. Hickory is known for its intense flavor that has a sweet, savory, and hearty undertones to it.

Since it produces strong flavor, you will need to be careful with how much and how long hickory smoke is around your ribs. This is because the meat could come out bitter if you used this wood too much.


Are you looking for that intense flavor in your smoked ribs? Mesquite is perfect for packing intense flavors and tastes—sweet, earthy, and smoky.

When you use this wood, you will notice a unique taste in your smoked ribs. However, it’s important not to overuse it. It’s not recommended for prolonged smoking, because the meat will end up with a flavor profile that is too intense.

Mesquite is known for being naturally oily. For this reason, it burns down very fast and hot.


If you want a mild and sweet flavor to your smoked ribs, applewood gives you that subtleness. Apple wood is great for more prolonged smoking because it will take a while for this wood to permeate the meat.


Pecan usually burns slowly. It gives out a delicate flavor to the meat—sweet, rich, and nutty.

Just like in other types of wood, you should use pecan in moderation. This is because pecan wood gives off a pungent smell. Additionally, going overboard with this wood would result in a bitter taste.

When using pecan, add another type of wood, such as hickory, to balance out the flavor. If you don’t use another kind of wood, the pungent smell can come out. Plus, the taste may be too sweet for you.

Red Oak

Red Oak is an excellent choice for beginners as it is slightly more mellow and less smoky than hickory. It has a strong flavor, but it does not overpower the taste of the meat as well as its texture.

This wood is very versatile as it pretty much matches most types of meat. It is ideal to use in lamb, beef, brisket, chicken, sausages. Red Oak is slightly stronger than cherry and apple, but lighter than mesquite and hickory.


Cherry wood is one of my favorites as it gives the smoked ribs a vibrant color, like mahogany. Since it is a fruitwood, it gives off a mild and fruity flavor to the meat.

It is quite versatile as well because it fits most types of meat, cherry wood pairs nicely with hickory, oak, and pecan wood. This combination gives off an amazing finished product.

Wood You Should Avoid When Smoking Ribs

Softwoods are the type you need to stay away from when smoking ribs. These woods may contain harmful toxins or tars that may penetrate the ribs:

  • Cypress
  • Cedar
  • Spruce
  • Redwood
  • Fir
  • Elm
  • Hemlock
  • Poison Oak
  • Pine
  • Sycamore
  • Eucalyptus

You should also avoid using unknown scrap wood, chemically treated wood, and painted or stained wood for overall food safety.