There really are few foods that bring drool to the tongue quite like the thought of a perfectly cooked brisket.
And by perfectly cooked, we of course mean a perfectly smoked brisket. I mean, is there really any comparison?
But what you may not realize is that not just any wood goes when it comes to a great smoked beef brisket recipe. Not all trees are created quite equally, and there really are differences.
Let’s dive into the best wood for smoking brisket, so you can get cooking in no time. You’ll learn more about the popular types of wood used for smoking below.
The 7 Best Woods For Smoking Brisket
Generally speaking, you’ll notice a number of familiar tree names on the list, because they’re used in either the production of fruits, nuts, or other common products.
If the tree is known for producing common nuts or sweet fruits, you can expect that it will add a sweeter or nutty flavor to your finished brisket. Using apple wood for brisket, for example, will be a sweet flavor (think applewood smoked bacon), whereas using mesquite wood for smoking brisket will give a more earthy flavor.
There are some other options for wood smoking not on this list, such as alder wood for smoking or boxelder, but the seven below are the most common.
This list is not in any particular order but the first four are the fruity flavor, sweet woods and the last three give more mild and savory flavors.
I mean, who are we to tell you which flavor is best? It’s your tongue.
Sweet, Fruity Wood For Smoking Brisket
Smoking beef with applewood is one of those things where you pretty much can’t go wrong. When it comes to the fruity flavor or sweeter flavored woods, this is definitely one of the most commonly chosen woods.
Applewood for smoking is a great choice to use alone for both its sweet flavor and mild flavor and also because it gives off a dense smoke. This density is what allows it to permeate deep into many cuts of meat, giving that easily recognized “applewood smoked” flavor.
Fun fact about smoking with applewood: despite the more dense smoke, it is great to pair with another wood choice to somewhat dilute out the stronger wood smoke flavor.
Cherry wood has a similar sweetness to apple but will result in a darker finished brisket versus using some of the other options on this list.
Just like cherry wood in furniture and flooring is easily recognized by its characteristic deep red color, meats smoked with cherry wood often come out with a touch of red color to the surface of the meat.
Using hickory wood and cherry for brisket at the same time results in a very nice sweet and medium smoky flavor!
We all know that from maple trees comes maple syrup — and that’s VERY sweet stuff! Be prepared for the same extra sweetness in your finished meats. Maplewood smoked meats are about as commonly found on the shelves and in restaurants as applewood-smoked meats.
This is a great choice for first-time and beginner smokers who are still earning their chops. It’s a more mild wood and a more mild wood smoke flavor so you’re less likely to overdo it and ruin your meat.
Since there are different types of maple trees that can be used for smoking meats, do yourself a favor and try the different varieties and see which specific maple wood you think comes out the best!
Using pecan wood for brisket is less common, but still worth trying. Instead of a sweet, fruity sort of flavor, you’ll finish with a sweet and nutty flavor.
This does tend to be a little stronger, however, so you may want to combine it with one of the savory woods below to soften the sweetness some.
Savory Wood For Smoking Brisket
Hickory wood smoking is kind of the old workhorse of the pit masters. It’s a very commonly used wood in smoking all different cuts of meat and offers a nice nutty flavor but without being overly strong.
This is also a wood that pairs well with multiple cuts of meat, so it’s a very versatile addition to your cooking arsenal to simply keep a supply on hand.
You do run the risk of using too much if you don’t really know what you’re doing, so go lighter with this wood if you’re a beginner.
While oak is one of the best woods for smoking brisket, the best oak for BBQ and smoking is often white oak. Most commonly you’ll find “post oak” on the shelves with the smoker wood chips, and this is a type of white oak.
The reason many people love and even swear by using oak wood for smoking brisket is due to the clean and even burn that oak provides. With little smoke and a mild flavor, it’s one that’s hard to overdo.
Another great choice for beginners.
Mesquite brisket is what most people immediately associate with a classic Texas barbeque joint. Using mesquite wood for smoking brisket brings a strong flavor to the table.
Here’s why those delicious Texas barbeque joints are so expensive — mesquite wood burns quite fast, so you’ll need more wood on hand than other options to keep things cooking nice and consistent.
Due to that fast burn, you’ll also want to be cautious not to overpower whatever you’re cooking, so consider diluting it with something milder to help keep the flavors under control.
Differences In Wood Sizes For Smoking Brisket
Best Wood Pellets For Smoking Brisket
Wood pellets for smoking are essentially compressed sawdust. These will burn quickly and are better suited for smaller-sized cuts. You’ll want to look into these if you’ve got a pellet smoker at home that you’re using for smoking brisket.
If you want the best pellets for smoke flavor, you won’t go wrong with Traeger Grills Mesquite Hardwood Pellets.
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You can either buy single flavors and try custom mixing wood pellet flavors or you can buy their pre-mixed blends to try out. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
Best Wood Chips For Smoking Brisket
You’ll be able to use wood chips for smoking in a variety of grill types, but they might be best suited in an offset smoker. You can also use them in an electric smoker, although that’s not an ideal setup.
They will burn fairly quickly though, so make sure you get a sizeable bag if you’re dealing with a bigger cut of meat. Depending on your exact setup (ie. a kamado grill) and the chips were chosen it is often recommended to soak them in water first to slow the burn and get better smoke.
Wood chips can also be used on a gas grill, with the use of a smoker box.
Want to go for a really standout smoking experience at your next backyard BBQ? Give these Jack Daniels Wood Chips a try!
They’re made from Jack Daniels No. 7 whiskey barrels and will give you an oaky whiskey flavor your guests will be talking about for a long time.
Best Wood Chunks For Smoking Brisket
Using wood chunks in a charcoal grill is a great way to add a unique smokey flavor to your already flavorful charcoal-grilled meats. You can just lay the (pre-soaked) wood chunks straight over the coals after the fire dies down some, and get that nice smokey flavor you’re drooling over.
These Oklahoma Joe hickory wood chunks are a great choice for those new to smoking brisket.
Since many charcoal grills are designed to double as smokers, this is a great way to get a new cooking skill under your belt without having to invest in new equipment.
Best Wood Logs For Smoking Brisket
Using wood logs for smoking brisket means we’re pulling out all the stops. You’ve got yourself one heck of a hunk of meat, you’re in this for the long haul, and you are not messing around with risking anything going wrong.
Whether new to smoking or a pro, you can’t go wrong with the solid choice of oak for smoking brisket. The consistency, mild flavor, and long-lasting burn make it a winning option every time.
These Smoak Firewood Cooking Logs come in 3 different sizes to fit whatever size smoker you’re working with.
Best Wood For Smoking Brisket Tips + Tricks
How Much Wood To Use When Smoking Brisket
Generally speaking, you’re likely going to want a lot of wood. But it’s very easy to go overboard.
Base your calculations on your cut of meat, your specific setup (and check manufacturer recommendations), and what the estimated burn time is for the type of wood (both size and species) you’re using. Generally speaking, you’ll want to budget for 30-60 minutes per pound.
If you’re using wood chips or wood chunks and cooking a larger cut of meat, plan on having a lot on hand to be sure you don’t run out.
If you’re smoking with logs, you’ll still need a fair amount, but it’s a more manageable quantity both to have on hand and for stoking purposes.
Can I Use More Than One Wood When Cooking Brisket?
Yes, you can absolutely use more than one wood!
Many people like hickory and cherry for brisket.
Where To Buy Wood For Smoking Meat
Honestly, you can find the right wood for smoking meat almost anywhere, from your local Home Depot to a farm with untreated wood to right on Amazon.
Store-bought wood is a great way to make sure you’re getting wood that’s been well-seasoned, properly identified, and not bringing anything funky to your smoking, like bugs or rot.
Wherever you buy your wood from, just make sure it’s labeled as “cooking wood.”
Tips For Choosing Wood For Smoking Brisket
This is really a personal choice, so we aren’t going to try to tell you exactly what to pick.
Do you prefer a smokier flavor? Use a wood type and size that will lend to a smokier cook.
Do you prefer a more subtle flavor? Try logs and one of the types that burn clean and slower, so it’s less overpowering.
Regardless of the type of wood, you end up using, just make sure it’s dry hardwood. This will result in the cleanest smoke possible. Too much black smoke will bitter the final flavor.
If you’re new to smoking brisket, choose a beginner brisket recipe to get started, and follow the instructions pretty closely. It’s tried and tested so you know it’ll turn out about right.
As you gain more experience and confidence in your smoking skills, try mixing and matching woods for a unique finished product.
Electric Smoker vs. Vertical Smoker
Using an electric smoker is a very different story than using a traditional smoker. First off, they are easy to use but they don’t provide the smoke in the same way. They can release the smoke in more like puffs, making it slightly less consistent.
The best wood for smoking brisket in an electric smoker is dry hardwood, your choice of flavor, and wood chunks or pellets for most models.
If you’re wondering if you should put the fat side up or down in an electric smoker, the answer is a resounding UP. This way the fat liquefies as it cooks and oozes into the meat for an absolutely killer flavor!
When you smoke brisket in a vertical smoker, you’re again going to follow the same process as the other methods.
The main difference here is access to the smoke source. Can you fuel the fire without removing cooking grates? If you’re using something like a kamado grill, you may find it too tricky to smoke brisket properly.
Generally speaking, the main difference between a vertical smoker and others is the size limitations — these tend to be tall and skinny as compared to a classic, horizontal smoker.
You may need to get creative in rigging up some sort of rotisserie-like racking to fit the entire cut in if it’s quite large.
Final Thoughts On The Best Wood For Smoking Brisket
As we mentioned above, it’s hard for us to tell you which is the best wood for smoked brisket since SO much of that decision hinges on your flavor preference!
But if you’re new, the best wood for smoking brisket for beginners is post oak, like in chips form paired with an offset smoker with a firebox.
If you’re an ambitious pro smoker, the best wood for smoking brisket may be a combination of mesquite and sweet wood. Just remember to have plenty of mesquite wood logs on hand since they burn fast!
Don’t forget to cut yourself some slack if your first couple of tries smoking brisket don’t turn out quite as you hoped. It’s a tough piece of meat, both in texture and in cookability! We have a great article “How To Reheat Brisket: 5 Ways to Keep it Juicy” so you know what to do with your leftover brisket too.