Not only is smoking meat fun, but it also enhances the flavor of the meat greatly. Smoking meat is an art and a science and when done correctly the end product can be a flavorful mouthwatering BBQ. How your meat tastes and smells are highly dependent on the kind of wood that you use when smoking.
Let’s dive into finding the best wood to suit your smoking needs.
How to Choose the Best Wood for Smoking
It is essential to understand the wood types used for smoking burn and the smokiness offered by the wood.
Although you will surely enjoy the smoking process, it can be disappointing if your meat doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. These are the reasons why I’m continually emphasizing how the output varies according to different woods.
Best Wood Flavors for Smoking Meat
Each wood has its own flavor, which gets transferred to the meat as you smoke it. Particular flavors are required for specific results, therefore, choosing the flavor too is an important decision.
The wood offers different flavors, and each of these flavors is suited better for certain types of meat.
Here is a short explanation of what each flavor is like and how it fits a particular kind of meat.
Cherry – Cherry-flavored wood carries with it traces of sweetness and slight flavors of wild fruits. Perfect for duck, chicken, and other poultry types, and even for pork, cherry flavor is a good option.
Apple – Apple also has slight traces of sweetness, but as compared to cherry, the flavor is deeper and thicker. It is well suited for the chicken, duck, pork, and beef.
Hickory – Hickory goes with many types of meats, including poultry and even cheese. Along with the traces of meatiness, this wood has a strong and pungent taste.
Maple – With poultry and cheese, maples make an excellent combination. The flavor offered is mild, with a slight touch of sweetness.
Oak – Oak gives a deep smoky flavor. Though oak resembles hickory, the taste is not as pungent as that of hickory. It efficiently pairs with a vast flavor range, allowing the meat to have a rich and complex taste.
There are various wood flavors available besides the above five main categories. It means the combinations that can be made are vast, so get playful and explore them.
Once you know the combination of meat and flavors that pair well, you can become the master of smoking who creates spectacular dishes.
Best Wood Shapes for Smoking Meat
Wood shapes are classified into four categories, which allow you to prepare different varieties in the smoked meat’s taste and smell.
Pellets – In terms of usage, lighting, and smoking, the pellets are relatively easy. Various kinds and flavors of pellet wood are available. In shape, pellets are like the bullets- they are small, round, and cylindrical. Pellets take lesser time to see, and handling them is relatively easier. Pellets are burnt in a specific way, and for that, a pellet smoker is needed.
Chips – Compared to pellets, chips are thicker. The width and length of chips are in the range of 0.25-1 inches. While pellets are cylindrical, chips are square. Chips are readily available, and storing them is not hard at all. Chips even heat up quickly in a similar way as pellets.
Chunks – Be it smaller offset smokers, grills that run on gas, or the water smokers, chunks are suitable for all. The size of the chunk is around that of a fist. Just like chips and pellets, smoking is quick using chunks. The burn time is relatively low.
Logs – Logs are the largest in terms of size. The majority of the people know about logs since they are used in bonfires where they are lit in fire pits. They are also compatible with smoking. The logs are around 12-18 inches long in size. Smoking using logs is more suitable if, for commercial purposes, you are smoking meat in bulk.
How to Create the Perfect Combination of Wood for Smoking Meat?
Since there are so many types of meats and wood to choose from the number of combinations you can make are endless.
There is no hard and fast rule that in smoking, a particular combination is right or wrong. Smoking is a process that kinds of mixes science and art to produce a BBQ masterpiece.
You need to understand how a particular wood type burns and the flavor it induces, but you don’t need to limit yourself to the typical combinations. Do a bit of experimenting and find the combos you would prefer and would like to recreate later.
Imagining the endless combination of flavor and meat is fun. Thinking of flavors that would create the mouthwatering smoked chicken too sounds fun.
Finding the right combinations can be a challenge. So your primary focus should be centered on smoking itself if you are a beginner.
You can begin with recreating more uncomplicated flavors, and then once you get good at them, you can move on to deeper and more complex flavors.
Our Top Wood Suggestions for Different Meat
Best Woods for Smoking Briskets or Beef
It takes some time to become an expert in smoking brisket since they are very delicate. But once you learn, it can be highly rewarding.
For the delicate briskets, the intense smoky flavor is highly suited, which is offered by hickory and oak. The smokiness seeps into the cracks, whereas the taste provided by oak seeps into the taste buds.
To maximize the flavors and enhance the palate, you can combine other flavors with oak as well.
You can pair deep oak, which offers a smoky and pungent aroma, with pecan with its traces of sweetness to combine several flavors.
Whether you want to go for more uncomplicated flavor or deeper, complex ones, the suggested chips and chunks can effectively provide both for you.
Best Woods for Smoking Poultry and Chicken
If you are thinking of smoking poultry and use apple, you can get a light taste that is equally flavorful. Apple offers various mild flavors along with slight traces of sweetness.
With poultry, the three options mentioned below perfectly pair up. Since poultry comes is a lighter form of meat, hickory, and mesquite, which offer intense smoky flavors, don’t suit it well. Pairing portly with apple is like creating a meal rather than the main course since it’s relatively lighter in terms of smell and appetite.
You don’t need to induce a lot of intense flavor to poultry since it’s a more delicate meat slice.
If you are thinking of trying the apple and poultry combination, then the three options that I mention are perfect. People who want to try smoking but are not that fond of heavy red meat might love this combination.
If you are looking to smoke a ham then go with the apple pellets. The pellets effectively transfer the apple flavor from the wood onto the meat. With the heavy ham, the mild apple flavor produces a blend of sweet and savory taste.
The brands that I recommended below supply the wood grown in the US. These provide you with rich flavors, and they are one of the best I have tried so far.
Best Woods for Smoking Turkey
The pellets, chips, and chunks mentioned can create the perfect duo with turkey and enhance the flavor to a great extent and are entirely made out of a hardwood.
The wood pellets that we recommend offer a quite deep smoky flavor as they made using the combination of oak, maple, and hickory. Maple induces mild sweetness, hickory the smoky flavor, and slight oak bitterness.
On the other hand, the chips and chunk I recommend are made out of hickory. A strong and original smoky flavor is infused in the turkey by hickory. Though hickory offers bold smoky flavor but compared to other types, it is not that strong, making it the best option for smoking turkey.
Hickory goes well with turkey since it creates a perfect blend with the classic smoky flavor and the mildly sweet flavor, which is not offered in the case of mesquite and oak.
The mentioned wooden chips and chunks induce the authentic smoky flavor so that the mild and lightly sweet flavor can be felt.
Best Woods for Smoking Ribs
BBQ is mostly incomplete without ribs, and wood smoking is often the best way to cook them. You need a strong and authentic smoky flavor for ribs since it is a slice of deep meat.
For mouthwatering ribs, you can smoke mesquite pellets, wood chips or wood chunks are an excellent choice.
The crispy edges that result from smoking are simply mouthwatering. Unlike poultry, ribs are a heavier and darker type of meat, and therefore mesquite is such an ideal choice for smoking ribs.
The outer crust is the part from where the full flavor is induced into the ribs, and it is the part due to which the ribs turn out so tasty. Since the ribs have all the needed flavors, there is no need for BBQ sauce as a masking agent. The tanginess of mesquite makes each bite exciting.
The recommended pellets, chips and wood chunks are from reputable brands that only use high-quality hardwood for production,
Best Woods for Smoking Salmon
If you want to enhance the flavor of salmon, then pecan is an excellent choice. With salmon, you have a broad range of flavors that you can go for.
Be it sweet, smoky, tangy, or savory; all flavors suit well. Though salmon comes under the category of light meats, still wood smoking allows you to make it a heavier one.
A very unique yet dynamic flavor is offered by pecan. Pecan pellets, chips, or chunks whatever you use, the taste starts as a smoky one, which later broadens in a more complex flavor which a perfect balance of sweetness and tanginess. It is not the case if you go for an apple or mesquite.
Salmon allows you a lot of versatility in the flavor, and the fish adopts each flavor differently and offers a broad range of ways you can enjoy it. Though salmon can be paired with many things, pecan is the best suited.
The brands we recommend use pure hardwood to make the pellets, chips, or chunks, which are excellent for smoking.
Final Thoughts on the Best Wood for Smoking Meats
You can play around, test, and experiment with various combinations of meat and wood.
This way you can pair different woods and meat so that you attain the flavor that you prefer.
If you don’t have much experience in smoking, it is better if you get skilled at incorporating more uncomplicated flavors first. Later you can play around with various combinations of wooden pellets, chips, or chunks.
This way, you effectively learn how a particular wood contributes to a specific taste and how that contributes to the overall taste. You might be looking for a particular flavor, but you might not know which combination of woods is required. Experimenting allows you to create your own customized flavors.
Though it takes time to learn how to smoke perfectly smoked meats, it’s worth learning!