There are many different woods that work well with all sorts of meats. Whether you’re cooking brisket, pork, chicken, ribs, ham or sausage, the possibilities are varied! Some of these woods are more widely available than others. Woods like hickory, apple, pecan, cherry, oak and maple can be purchased anywhere that grilling and barbecue supplies are sold. The rest on this list may require a little work to locate or check with barbecue specialty stores in your area.
You can typically find these woods in many sizes, ranging from good sized split logs like fireplace wood and fist-sized chunks to small, coin-sized chips that burn too fast and should be soaked in water before placing on the coals.
Always use caution with your smoke – too much of even the most mild wood can ruin your food. Because it’s all a matter of personal preference, it’s often a trial and error process to find out what woods you prefer and how much to use.
Almond give a nutty, sweet flavor that is good with all meats. Almond is similar to Pecan but not as widely available.
Apple has a very mild and gives food a slight sweetness. Use with poultry and pork.
Apricot works well with poultry and pork. It’s similar to hickory but sweeter and milder in flavor.
Ash has a light, unique flavor. This wood burns fast. I’ve never tried it personally and don’t know anyone who has.
Black Walnut has a heavy flavor that should be mixed with other wood because of the bitterness it gives food.
Birch has a similar flavor to maple. Pairs well with pork and poultry.
Cherry has a sweet, mild flavor that goes great with virtually everything. It’s readily available and highly popular.
Chokecherry has a bitter flavor and is not highly recommended.
Citrus woods like lemon or orange have a moderate smoke that gives a light fruity flavor that is more mild than apple or cherry.
Cottonwood is very mild in flavor and should be used with stronger flavored woods. Avoid green wood.
Crabapple is very similar to apple wood and can be used in the same manner and with the same meats.
Grapevines make a lot of tart smoke and gives a fruity but sometimes heavy flavor. Use it sparingly with poultry or lamb.
Hickory adds a strong flavor to meats, so be careful not to use too much. It’s especially good with beef and lamb.
Lilac produces a good supply of mild, sweet smoke. A popular wood for smoked cheese, but also good for poultry and pork.
Maple gives a sweet flavor that is excellent with poultry and ham.
Mesquite has been very popular of late and is good for grilling, but since it burns hot and fast, it’s not recommended for long barbecues. Mesquite is probably the strongest flavored wood and should be used in very small amounts.
Mulberry is sweet and very similar to apple.
Oak is strong but not overpowering and is a very good wood for beef or lamb. Oak is probably the most versatile of the hard woods. I prefer white oak over red and use it mainly for heat with other woods mixed in for flavor.
Peach is great for poultry and pork. This wood is similar to hickory but is sweeter and milder in flavor.
Pear is similar to apple and produces a sweet, mild flavor.
Pecan burns relatively cool and provides a delicate flavor. It’s a more subtle wood than hickory, although characteristics are similar..
Plum is great for poultry and pork. This wood is similar to hickory but is sweeter and milder in flavor.