When seasoned perfectly, ribs have an incredibly delicious taste and a mesmerizing BBQ flavor. However, using the best wood for smoking ribs can be subjective. Smoking ribs include a lot of variables at each step and you may easily tweak the taste according to your personal preferences. The real taste of BBQ ribs doesn’t just happen, but it demands the use of the best quality of woods to get that perfect taste every time.
The best woods for smoking pork ribs are hickory, cherry, and pecan, while the best woods for smoking beef ribs are hickory, oak, pecan, and mesquite. You can also try ‘signature flavors’ with different mixes of wood from brands like Traeger, Camp Chef, Camerons, etc., for adding a unique flavor to the ribs.
Low and slow smoking is a proven way to produce BBQ ribs that perfectly fall apart from the bone. However, the key to this method of smoking is using the right kind of wood to render a delicate balance of smoke, spice, and sweetness to the pork ribs. Continue reading to find out what is the best wood for smoking ribs.
Best Wood For Smoking Ribs
Without any doubt, Hickory wood is the pitmasters’ favorite wood for smoking ribs. The smoke produced by Hickory wood is not as intense as oak or mesquite, but it is neither as sweet as fruit woods. With its appropriate savory, spicy, and sweet notes, the dish turns out to be extraordinarily flavorful with Hickory wood.
Depending on the recipe and the method of cooking, you can also use Oakwood or Mesquite for smoking ribs. The wood used for BBQ can have intense, medium, or mild flavors. The order of strength of woods goes down as follows:
Mesquite > Hickory > Oak > Pecan > Cherry > Peach > Apple.
Here’s a brief about the flavor profiles of different kinds of wood for smoking ribs.
- Mesquite – Produces intensely strong flavors.
- Hickory – Hickory wood is aptly described as ‘sweet like Maple wood and pungent as Mesquite.’
- Oakwood – produces an earthy, light layer of smoke.
- Pecan – It is a milder version of Mesquite. Pecan wood has traits of mild & nutty flavors, which blends amazingly with Hickory wood.
- Maple – can be used for adding a subtle sweet layer of smoke to the ribs.
- Cherry – imparts a mild fruity flavor and a deep red or mahogany color to the ribs.
- Apple – It is the ultimate ‘fruit wood’ for BBQ that imparts sweet and mild flavor to the ribs.
Best Wood For Smoking Pork Ribs
The naturally sweet flavor of pork ribs blends very well with Hickory and Cherrywood. While professional pitmasters have different opinions, most of them agree that the following list can be mixed and matched for smoking pork ribs:
- Cherry wood can be used for rendering a mildly sweet flavor to the pork ribs. For the best results, use it with a spicy rub.
- Hickory wood has the perfect blend of sweet and savory notes. It is the wood of choice for producing that unique ‘umami’ or ‘bacon-like’ flavor for the pork ribs.
- Pecan wood is stronger than fruit wood but milder than Hickory. It naturally grows in the southern parts of the US and Mexico and is specifically used for cooking. Pecan wood imparts a nutty flavor to the pork ribs, but they tend to burn out faster than Hickory or Oakwood.
- For just ‘masking’ the natural flavor of meat, you can use Maplewood.
- If you want to add a more ‘traditional’ flavor to the meat, you can use Oakwood. It imparts a medium-spiced flavor but an intense, deep color to the ribs. Oakwood can burn for a long time before it reaches high temperatures. It is suitable for versatile cooking techniques, which makes it a popular choice for beginners.
- Pork ribs also taste great with other fruity/ sweet woods like Apple, Pecan, and Maplewood.
Best Wood For Smoking Beef Ribs
Traditionally, nut and spiced woods are used to smoke beef ribs. Since Mesquite has a strong and bold flavor, it is one of the best woods of choice for smoking beef ribs and other cuts of beef. Other recommended woods are Hickory wood, Oak wood, and Alder. Some even like to mix Pimento wood to add a medium-strength and earthy flavor profile to the ribs. Add a little bit of Cherry wood to impart a beautiful dark red color to the meat.
Best Wood Chips For Smoking Ribs
If you are looking for branded wood chips, the following are some of the recommended options for smoking ribs:
Camerons Wood Smoking Chips
The Cameron Wood Smoking Chips work perfectly with charcoal grills, gas grills, or smoker boxes. They are made from natural raw timber and kiln-dried wood. These premium BBQ wood chips are made in the USA and are available in Hickory, Apple, Mesquite, and Cherrywood flavors.
Western Wood Smoking Chips
The Western Wood Smoking Chips are available in six flavors – Apple, Mesquite, Hickory, Cherry, Post Oak, and Pecan. These woods can be used for gas grills, griddles, combos, kettle grills, electric smokers, and ceramic grills.
Smokehouse Products Wood Chunks
These wood chunks from Smokehouse come in twelve assorted flavors and mixes. A variety of flavors, including Hickory, Applewood, Alderwood, and Cherrywood have been added to the pack. You also get a huge amount of wood for the price.
Weber Wood Smoking Chips
Weber Wood Chips add the ultimate savory and smoky taste to your favorite BBQ ribs. Each wood chip has been cut precisely to the size of 192 cu. in. (or 0.0003m³), which ensures effective burning.
Using a signature blend of wood is another great way to imbibe the perfect taste every time you smoke ribs. The most popular signature blends are from brands like Traeger, Camp Chef, Western BBQ, Cameron, Kingsford, etc.
Should You Use Wood Chips, Pellets, Or Chunks For Smoking Ribs?
If you are using a charcoal grill, you may use any type of wood – wood chips, wood pellets, or wood chunks. While a chunk of wood can last for several hours, wood chips need to be replaced every 45-60 minutes depending on the method of cooking. For an electric smoker or a pellet smoker, you should only use wood pellets. Since ribs take less time to prepare compared to other cuts, you may use any of these wood types.
Some Tips For Choosing Woods For Ribs
- The source of wood can also create a significant difference in the taste of the ribs. The chemical byproducts released from wood depend upon the soil, species, age, mineral composition, and the type of wood. Since it is not really possible to determine the source every time, your goal should be to choose a wood that produces ‘clean smoke.’
- Always use hardwood for smoking ribs. Hardwoods have the right amount of moisture content, flavor, and the perfect ‘burn-to-smoke’ ratio.
- Be very careful if you are using Mesquite for smoking ribs. It can render intense smokiness, which may ultimately make the ribs taste acrid or even burnt.
- It is not just the type of wood but also the choice of rub mix, which can significantly alter the taste of the cooked ribs.
Blending different types of flavors is the best way to create custom-made flavor profiles. If you are storing wood chips for smoking ribs for a long time, make sure they are under a cover or kept in a sealed pack to prevent them from wetting. Regularly check for water vapor and mold formation. If you are using a smoker, you may soak them in water for ~ ½ an hour (or as directed in the package) to improve the smoking time.
Scot has loved smoking food in his free time for the last few years. Each major holiday or off-weekend, Scot spends days testing and prepping new recipes for perfection.