There’s something magical about wood smoke that enchants everyone gathered around the smoker. My Sunday routine has involved spending hours in my backyard, smoking up pieces of meat while sipping on a cold beverage, and it relaxes me like no other.
Smoking is not that hard. You don’t need to be an expert to be able to smoke your favorite kind of meat. Before you get all intimidated, what you need to know are the basics. One of the most exciting preparations before smoking is picking out the best wood for smoking your meat.
5 Top Picks For The Best Wood For Smoking
1. Gourmet New Zealand Wood Chips
Manuka is a hardwood that grows in New Zealand. It is slowly gaining popularity because of its robust flavour that isn’t exactly oak, but something else that is a little more spicy and sweet. This made my list as one of my favourites because it used to be rare, so when I see it in the store, I get all excited and take it at once.
It never failed me when I host dinner for my best girl friends. I would describe the flavour to be in between smoky and sweet, just the way I like it for my delicate meat. I’ve tried it on fish, seafood and even vegetables, and I was never disappointed with the flavour.
- Robust flavour and moderate intensity smokiness that never overpowers the original flavor of the meat.
Sweet and savory
- Awesome aroma
- Best paired with strong wood
- Rich and delicate, making it the best wood for smoking salmon
- Also great for roasting marshmallows!
- Since it isn’t as popular as the others, this is not readily available anywhere.
- Wood chips are too small for long smoking
- They easily burned up
- Though it says ‘large’, it was only good for about two smoking
2. WESTERN 80485 Prime Wood
I am a fan of mild flavors for my smoked meat, so when this was given to me as a Christmas present, I was much excited to try them all out. Since it’s a variety pack, it contains four bags in one of some of my favorite wood: apple, cherry, maple, and peach. I usually just purchase the Western Apple Chips which is their best seller, but this pack did not disappoint me.
Any of these is the best wood for smoking chicken, turkey and pork because of their signature sweet and fruity aroma. If you are the type of smoker who loves trying a little bit of everything, then this is for you. I tried using these in combination with each other, and it gave me an even more awesome flavor.
- Best for new smokers because they get to try a little of everything
- Great quality wood
- Provides a good slow burn
- Allows you to experiment with combining different wood, creating a whole new exciting flavor
- Uniform sizes that fits any burner
- Includes a heavy duty reusable smoker tray
- Quite pricey for the quantity of wood inside each pack
- Even if they come in variety packs, you could still find cheaper alternatives in stores
- It could be too strong if used improperly
3. Jack Daniel’s 01749
I am one who enjoys whiskey, so this Jack Daniel’s smoking chips made my list. I remember that one barbecue I had with my friends when we really did enjoy the aroma this wood created while it smoked our briskets. Jack Daniel’s Whiskey was aged in white oak barrel.
During the aging process, some of the whiskey is taken in by the oak. After the whiskey has been bottled up, the white oak barrel is cut up and made into smoking chips which many have enjoyed so far. Aside from briskets, this is the best wood for smoking ribs as well as other heavy cuts of pork.
- The smell is awesome! Great aroma that normal and typical wood could not achieve.
- Interesting flavor
- Easy to measure and control
- Good burn
- Great additive for other types of wood
- If you are expecting a very strong Jack Daniels aroma and flavour to your smoked meat, then you might be disappointed. Sure, the wood smells like whiskey, but it barely stays on the meat.
- It more likely imparts the flavour that oak wood could give you
- Sizes of wood chips are inconsistent. Some were actually sawdust already.
4. Weber 17005 Apple Wood Chunks
Weber is known to manufacture high quality grills and smokers. I love their apple chunks because the smoke does not overpower the flavour of the meat. I decided to include this in my review because if you like the sweet, fruity smoke flavour in your delicate meats, then apple wood is for you, particularly Weber because they produce good quality wood as well.
- One or two wood chunks is enough to produce flavour. Really good quality wood here
- Convenient because this doesn’t need to be soaked.
- It produces less dense smoke
- Mild and delicate, making it the best wood for smoking chicken, turkey and pork
- Could be mixed with other stronger wood for extra strength and smokiness
- For the price as compared to other brands, it gives you exactly what you need
- The sizes of the chunks are not entirely uniform in size. There are some chunks that are too large that you have to break them down in order for them to fit in your smoker, especially if it’s small. There are also some pieces that are too small that it burned fast.
- Some contain a lot of bark that you have to remove first before smoking.
5. Charcoal Companion Beef, Poultry and Seafood
Smoking allows me to experiment with my wood, so when I got these wood, I found these wood chips blend samplers really interesting. Charcoal Companion created unique blends that are particular for certain meat. If you are into wine soaked chips plus a classic choice of wood, then you would particularly enjoy this.
For instance, beef and lamb are well complemented by the flavours of hickory and mesquite wood blended with cabernet soaked wood chips. For poultry, mesquite and apple wood are blended with chardonnay soaked wood chips.
What works best for salmon and other seafood is the combination of mesquite and alder wood blended with chardonnay soaked wood chips. Being loyal to their packaging, these are the best wood for smoking chicken, turkey, brisket, ribs, pork and salmon.
- Gives variety to your wood collection (if you have one)
- Although it produces an aromatic smoke, it doesn’t make your house smell like strong hickory or mesquite
- The manufacturers have a one-year warranty in case you don’t get satisfied with the workmanship of their product. Not all companies have this.
- Chardonnay and cabernet flavour isn’t that strong as compared to wine barrel oaks bought individually
- Less room for exploration because this already offers combination wood
Before deciding which is the best wood for smoking brisket, pork, ribs, chicken, salmon and turkey, we first have to understand why we need the wood in the first place and the type wood that’s perfect for certain types of meat.
The difference between smoking and other cooking methods is the distinct flavor that smoke imparts to meat, poultry, fish, seafood and even vegetables. Flavor is composed mainly of three components: taste, texture and aroma.
Among these three, it is the aroma that drives us crazy. Just imagine smelling the smoke escape from your grill or smoker in combination with the meat that’s cooking inside.
Even without putting that brisket in your mouth, you practically have an idea of how it tastes like, making you want it more. Your choice of wood plays a role in the aroma you create.
Smoking would also help you achieve the other two elements of flavor, taste and texture. It involves long cooking times at low temperatures, tenderizing the meat, giving you the almost-melting-in-your-mouth feeling.
Smoke wood also imparts a distinct taste to the meat that not salt and pepper could ever achieve. There are different kinds of wood that does the job. All you have to do is pick what’s best.
Know Your Wood
The first step in knowing the best wood for smoking any kind of meat, poultry or fish is understanding what the wood could offer you. Some go the extra mile by actually knowing the origins of the wood, the climate it grew up in and how it was dried. All these will have an effect on the wood.
Not all trees could be used for smoking though. Hardwood especially nut and fruit-bearing trees are best for cooking. They are compact and have less moisture when air-dried, producing better and cleaner smoke.
Softwoods such as pine, red wood and cypresses have more air and sap, making them burn faster. Aside from giving your meat a terrible flavour, it could also be unsafe for consumption. You should also stay away from scrap lumber for smoking because these are treated with chemicals.
Your choice of wood would depend on how you want your meat to taste like. There are woods that impart only a mild flavour, such as fruit woods. These are best for meat, poultry or fish that are not heavily seasoned.
There are also moderate flavour wood such as hickory and oak that are best for thicker meat cuts. The strong wood is for heavily seasoned meat and is usually used in combination with milder wood.
Different Wood For Smoking
Certain types of wood complement specific kinds of meat, but there isn’t one type of wood that is best for only one kind of meat. Below are examples:
There is still an ongoing debate on whether or not to soak your wood. Even pit masters who have won competitions have different opinions on this. Some soak their wood prior to putting them on the charcoal to prevent it from burning up faster. This is especially true for wood chips because their cuts are smaller and could combust faster.
However, during the first minutes of smoking, the smoke produced is mostly from the moisture from the soaking. Only later on will the actual smoke from the wood come out.
Others don’t smoke their wood because it imparts the actual smoke flavor faster. However, you put your wood at risk for burning faster and even catching fire that it could burn your food if you are not careful.
Soaking is an unnecessary process, especially for wood chunks. You would eventually get the smoke flavor anyway. It would be up to you to decide which is best for your meat.
There are lots of different wood out in the market, and they all have their own strengths and weaknesses. I have to say though that my favorite among these five wood products would always be the Weber Apple Wood Chunks.
Aside from the good and clean burn it gives, apple wood simply goes with anything! It is the best wood for smoking chicken, turkey, pork, salmon, and even brisket and ribs. This is always my go-to wood.
Remember there isn’t actually one best wood for smoking brisket, ribs, pork, chicken, turkey and salmon. Think of the wood as having its own personality. Each wood gives you a different kind of effect depending on how they complement the meat. In the end, it all depends on what you like your meat to taste and smell like.
You may go with one type of wood or you could experiment with a combination which is best for you. After all, smoking is an adventure. Jump in and enjoy the ride.