Choosing the Right Wood for Smokers

Many of us get excited about just thinking about barbecues. Nothing gives a better feeling than the smell coming from cooking a lump of meat on a bright summer day. From the point of view of a pit master, the anticipation that he or she gets from the guests as they cook and serve is much more thrilling for them. The selection of the right kind of wood is one of the most commonly faced questions for any new barbecuer.

There are various wood options available to serve the purpose of smoking meat. Most of these woods can be procured from any local supplier.  But the most important aspect is to decide on what kind of wood would go along with what kind of meat. You should also know which pellet smoker has a large hopper capacity. We the Grills Forever team, have prepared this Smoker’s wood selection guide for you to help you find the perfect wood for smokers.

wood for smokers


Here is a quick overview of different wood chips followed by their best uses in different types of barbeques.

Wood chips profiles: best one for your meat
Wood chip selection guide for flavor

Alder

This particular kind of wood has gained quite some popularity on the Pacific coast. It’s smooth and slightly sweet taste makes it perfect for all kinds of meats such as chicken, beef, lamb, pork or even seafood. If you are new to BBQ grilling, alder is one of the safest options to go with.

Almond

This wood has a very good nutty and little ashy flavor which go best with chicken, turkey and other kinds of birds. You can also try almond chips with ham or other meats if you are inclined to the nutty flavor, but our chef strongly discourages using almond chips with red meats.

Apple

This particular kind of wood is known for its light smoky fruity flavor which suits poultry meat best. Apple chip also goes finely with red meats.

Hickory

Hickory is commonly referred to as the king of barbecue woods. It has a very pungent flavor, which goes well with chicken, turkey, and beef. you can also use hickory wood chips to smoke lamb or pork. However, it doesn’t go well with fish bbq.

Crab apple, Mulberry, Pear

They are similar to apple wood in both use as well as flavor. A lot of smoke is emitted by crab apple. Hence it is advised to use it carefully till you quite familiar along with it.

Cherry

This is the most popular wood pellet amongst the smoking crowd. it has a strong sweet smoky flavor which suits almost every kind of meat whether it is chicken or pork ribs. However, if you don’t cherish the strong sweet flavor, this might not be the best option for you.

Citrus woods- Grapefruit, Orange and Lemon

This particular kind of wood works well with pork, poultry, beef as well as fish. It is known for producing a mild smoky flavor along with subtle citrus notes.

Coconut

It is not common to use coconut wood chips in barbecue. Coconut hulls are basically used along with only lighter meats like seafood.

Corn Cobs

This particular kind of wood is known to provide sweet and fruity smoke. This fine flavor is extended to the meat, making it ideal for poultry as well as pork.

Cottonwood

This soft wood serves better as fuel and imparts very less flavor. Hence, it is better to use it along with another wood like hickory.

Grape Vines

This particular kind of wood goes well with any kind of meat due to its fruity and tart flavor, including game, red meats as well as lamb. When you are working with grape vines initially, it is better to use it quite sparingly.  To obtain more subtle flavor try soaking the lightly flavored chips into some wine before smoking.

Guava

This particular kind of wood is quite difficult to find and is found in tropical regions. It has partially sweet aroma as well as flavor and belongs to the Myrtle family. It works well with fish, beef, poultry as well as pork.

Hazelnut

It works well with chicken as well as pork and offers a hazelnut to the meat.

Herbs

Unique herbal flavor could be offered to the meats by using herbs line basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, marjoram as well as thyme.  Sage and Rosemary chips, which are quite thicker work well due to their woody steam. Try to use it sparingly at first since herbs will strengthen the taste of lighter meats. Once you get idea about the strength of the flavor imparted by any particular herb of your choice, you can use it as you desire.

Pecan

It is quite similar to hickory in flavor but offer a robust yet subtle and sweet flavor. It works well with cheese, poultry, pork as well as beef.

Sweet fruit woods- Plum, Apricot, Nectarine, Peach

These possess a flavor that is similar to hickory. The only difference is in the fruits notes and milder smoke. These woods are ideal for smoking lighter meats such as turkey, fish, pork, and chicken. The flavor of the wood dissipates with time. If you want to flavor your meat, older supplies would not prove out to be effective. These sweet fruit woods are ideal choices of many people looking for wood for smokers.

Lilac

A cloud of very light smoke is produced by this wood. Its subtle floral overtones work great with lamb and seafood.

Maple

Maple wood chip is one of the most popular smoking choices in terms of bbq grilling. This wood produces a slightly sweet smoke with maple syrup overtones. This is ideal for poultry, pork, game birds and cheese.

Birch

This wood is ideal for lighter meats such as poultry and pork.

Walnut

This is used in small amounts along with lighter woods because of its heavy smoke. Using more concentration can make it bitter. This is best for hearty red meats.

While looking for right wood for pellet smokers, one needs to ensure that the wood chips are ready to be used and is well seasoned. You need to store freshly cut wood for smokers. Bulking will result in spoiling the wood pellets. While looking wood for smokers, try to purchase from reputed stores. Do not use soft woods as they produce resins and tars. That can ruin your smoker as well as the food.

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