What Types Of Wood Should You Use For Smoking Meat?

Posted on: 20 March 2018


The process of smoking gives your meat a powerful flavor that no other method of cooking can provide. Part of the fun of smoking meat comes from experimenting with different types of wood and the different flavors those woods can provide. Sure, you're familiar with some of the most common choices, like hickory, mesquite, and apple wood. But have you thought about branching out to other types of wood? Take a look at some of the less common options that you should try.

Fish and Poultry

Fish and poultry have lighter flavors than pork or red meat, so when you decide to smoke them, you need to use woods that produce a lighter flavor as well. Strong-flavored woods like mesquite and oak can overpower the flavor of these more delicate meats.

Consider grapefruit wood if you're looking for a mild, smoky flavor with citrus undertones. Almond or pecan wood can give fish a tasty, nutty flavor. If you want a more exotic taste, look for Kiawe wood. It's indigenous to Hawaii and hard to come by in other locations, but it can give your fish or chicken a flavor that's similar to a sweeter, milder mesquite.


Give your pork a fruity flavor with peach or pear wood. If you want a more complex, denser fruit flavor, smoke your pork with cherry wood – just be aware that cooking on cherry wood will blacken the outside of the meat. However, you can lessen the blackening effect by mixing in lighter fruit woods with the cherry wood.

Butternut wood provides a smooth flavor that's similar to walnut, but milder. Mix it with some chunks of lilac wood to add some floral notes to your pork, or with chunks of maple for extra sweetness. For a sweet and musky smoke with a root beer-like aftertaste, try smoking your pork with Sassafras wood.

Red Meat

Red meats have some of the boldest flavors and can handle being smoked with wood that produces a stronger taste. Choose walnut if you want to add a nutty flavor – it's bolder than pecan or butternut. Be careful, because it can be bitter if it's overused. Try mixing in some ash or pear wood for balance.

If you want a spicy flavor, smoke red meats with peppercorn wood. If you enjoy fruitwoods, choose fig, mulberry, or blackberry for red meats. Red oak wood provides a classic smoked flavor with no aftertaste and contributes to a beautiful smoked color as well.

Don't be afraid to mix and match and experiment with different types of wood. Smoking meat is a way to create new and different tastes that will expand and delight your palate.