Best Wood Chips For Smoking Meats: [Beginner’s Guide]

Smoking meats allows you to infuse the delicious smoky flavor into your favorite meat. Besides knowing how to smoke whatever meat you like correctly, you also need to choose your wood chips accurately for the best results. So what are the best wood chips for smoking meats?

Different meats require different wood chips for the best results. Thus, the best wood chip for smoking a given meat may not be the best for a different meat. Generally, the apple, cherry, hickory, maple, Oak, mesquite, pecan, and alder wood chips are the best for smoking meats. The idea is to ensure that the flavor of the wood does not overwhelm the intrinsic taste of the meat.

Always ensure that you choose the best wood for the specific meat. This means that you must have a good understanding of the different types of woods that you can use for your smoking adventure. Read on for more insights on picking the best wood chips for smoking meats.

wood chips

Hickory Oak

The hickory is the most versatile choice that you can use for cooking different meats in a variety of ways. However, hickory has a relatively stronger flavor than the Oak. Therefore, you must be careful when using hickory wood as it can easily infuse bitterness into your food.

The Oak, on the other hand, is a great wood that is central to Texas BBQ. While the Oak is popularly known for cooking a variety of meats, it is also used for the production of whisky barrels. You will notice a slightly sweet flavor if you use the white Oak to smoke meat.

When comparing the Hickory vs. Oak wood for smoking, the hickory wins because of its exciting characteristics. Some of the characteristics that make the hickory the best choice among many pitmasters include the following;

  • Hickory has a stronger and more intense flavor than Oak the Alder, cherry, apple woods.
  • It adds a darker color to smoked foods making them more appealing
  • It has an excellent ability to infuse unique smoky flavor into the meats. In addition, hickory can be used in smoking, grilling and barbecuing meats.

Maple Mesquite

Both maple and mesquite are among the most common woods used for smoking different types of meats across the United States. The maple wood is popular for its mild flavor coupled with slightly sweet smoke that gives a smoked chicken, cheese or even smoked vegetables a delicate appearance.

On the other hand, mesquite is a popular wood for smoking meats in Texas. It is characterized by burning fast while producing a lot of smoke with an intense earthy flavor. The hickory is best for cooking fast foods such as steaks.

When comparing the maple and the mesquite, the maple takes the lead as it is easily available. In addition, it features several characteristics that make it more useful to pitmasters. They include the following;

  • Burns fast while producing a lot of smoke with an intense and earthy flavor
  • It is best used when preparing quick foods
  • It is incredibly smoky, meaning that you require a few wood chips to achieve your smoking objectives
  • It can add color to smoked meats although it is lighter than Oak and hickory.

wood chips grill

Pecan Apple

The pecan is best known for its sweet and mild flavor, perfect for shorter cooks such as ribs, fish, and poultry. Since it has a mild smoke, you can use it to cook a wide range of meats without worrying about it overpowering the meat.

The apple is also another mild-flavored wood that is popular across the US and it mostly used to cook a wide range of foods. A pecan-apple combination provides an excellent smoky flavor for shorter cooks.

Alder Cherry

The Alder is abundant in the Pacific Northwest and is best known for producing delicate, sweet, smoky flavor, especially when cooking fish and poultry. Like the Alder, the cherry is a mild fruity hard wood and when it is mixed with the Alder, it provides an elevated flavor for preparing various meats. An alder cherry mixture compliments each other to deliver amazing results.

What Are The Best Meats To Cook With Each?

Besides knowing how you combine the different types of wood chips for smoking meats, you also need to comprehend the best woods for cooking meats. In most cases, the choice of your wood will influence how delicious your food becomes.

Hickory And Oak

The hickory and Oak are wood chips for smoking meats and combining the two provides an even further elevated result. Both hickory and Oak are excellent famous for smoking different types of meats, including the following;

  • Whole turkeys, chickens, wild game, and large Texas-style beef brisket
  • The combination of hickory and Oak can also prove effective in smoking salmon
  • Pork such as pork shoulder and pork loin as they pair perfectly with the sweet, smoky flavor of the hickory or Oak

Maple And Mesquite

A combination of maple and mesquite can also be perfect for infusing your meats with an intense earthy flavor. The mesquite is best known for its fast burning, meaning you will have plenty of smoke to convert your food into a delicious delicacy.

So what are the best meats for smoking with mesquite or a combination of maple and mesquite? Mesquite is excellent for smoking meats that can withstand the strong wood flavor or the combination of maple and mesquite. If you use the combination of maple and mesquite to cook foods such as wild game meat, Texas-style brisket, lamb, duck, and Tex-Mex barbacoa, you will definitely get amazing results.

Pecan And Apple

Pecan and Apple have a unique flavor that will definitely add value into your cooking. If you are looking for the wood chips for smoking meats such as turkey, chicken, BBQ brisket, spare ribs, smoked ham, and smoked pork butt, the pecan or apple or the combination of the two will perfectly work for you. Their mild smoky flavor perfectly complements the meats’ intrinsic taste.

Alder And Cherry

Alder and cherry fall in the category of the mild wood chips for smoking meats. They are excellent for cooking poultry and fish. Sweet and smoky flavor associated with the two makes your chicken more delicate and delicious. You can also use it to cook vegetables and even smoked cheese.

How To Pick The Best Wood For Smoking

You should make the right choice when choosing the best wood chips for smoking meats to achieve the desired results. There are several things that you should bear in mind before making your choice.

Hardwood vs. Softwoods

Hardwoods burn slowly and they are therefore the best option when smoking meats that require long duration to cook. However, you need to check the flavor profile of the specific hardwood you want to use to ensure that it will not overpower the meat’s natural flavor.

On the other hand, softwoods burn fast and may quickly overwhelm the meat if you are not careful. They most likely work best for foods that do not take long in the smoker. Generally, consider the following before picking the wood chips for smoking meats;

  • What You Are Cooking – The choice of your meat will always influence the wood you pick. Fruit woods burn faster and are great for fish, pork, and poultry.
  • What Is Local To You – In some situations, the best wood for smoking meat is the one that is readily available. All you need is to understand the flavor profile of the wood and ensure that you use it appropriately.
  • The Flavor You Want – Before smoking meat, you may have a specific flavor in mind. Ensure that you pick a wood that will enable you to achieve your desired flavor.


Choosing the best wood chips for smoking meats is one way to cook a delicious meal. Therefore, when you want to smoke meat, ensure that you do your due diligence to find the best wood for your next cooking adventure. Hardwood is the best for heavier meats such as beef and pork, while fruit woods are great for fish and poultry.