different types of smoking wood

How To Choose The Right Smoking Wood.

This article will help you find the best smoking wood for your next cookout. Whether you’re looking for the best smoking wood for beef, chicken, pork, lamb, brisket or fish, this guide will help you out!

Wood Chips vs Chunks

When it comes to using different smoking wood to enhance the flavor of your food, you can either use smoking chips, chunks or splits (logs). Wood chips are used for short cooks. They burn up quicker than chunks so they are great for using on fish, poultry and smaller cuts of meat that don’t need to be cooked as long like steak, burgers, or sausage. 

Wood chunks and splits are good for longer smokes. Cooks that take hours to finish like pork shoulder, brisket, wings, pork belly and ribs. It is better to use chunks for larger cuts of meat that require longer cooking times because the chunks do not burn up as fast as chips. Wood chunks will add smoke flavor for a longer period of time without having to add more wood during your cook. It is ideal to never have to add any charcoal or wood during your cook so you won’t disrupt the process. If you’re lookin’ you aint cookin’!

smoking wood chunks vs smoking wood chips

Do I need to soak the wood?

Soaking your wood chunks or chips is not necessarily needed. Most people do this to make sure the wood doesn’t burn up too fast. Wood chunks definitely do not need to be soaked because their larger size ensures that they will not catch fire and burn through quickly. For you to see a difference in soaking vs not soaking wood chunks you would have to soak them for several days. But it is certainly not needed. Soaking wood chips will help them last a little longer, but since you are only using them for shorter cooks it is also not needed. Adding wet wood chips to a lit grill will also lower the temperature causing you to have to wait longer to get it back up to your desired temperature. 

Choosing the right type of smoking wood.

Choosing the best type of wood is an essential part of smoking meat, it is right up there with choosing the right time and temperature. Depending on what type of food/meat you’re going to smoke, you need to pick the right type of wood so it perfectly matches the flavor profile of your meat. 

Choosing the wrong smoking wood type could result in a poor taste completely ruining the cook. That’s why you have to be careful in choosing which flavor of smoking wood to use. Use the guide below to help you in choosing the best type of smoking wood. Remember though, everyone’s flavor profiles are different, so with all things in BBQ, test it out!

How much do I use?

Make sure to not use too much wood, especially with stronger wood types. A handful of wood chips is often enough for a short smoking session and you should start a long smoking session with just a few chunks. A slightly less intense smoky flavor still gives great results, but too much smoke can cause food to taste bitter. 

Smoking woods can come off as mild and some can come off as very strong. Mild smoking wood are the fruit woods like apple, peach and cherry. They’re good on white meat, poultry and pork. Middle of the road smoking woods are hickory, maple, pecan, and oak. They’re great with pork, and strong enough to stand up to beef and game meats. The strongest smoking wood is going to be mesquite. Make sure you only use mesquite if you are looking for a strong smoke flavor. Usually only reserved for large chunks of beef….and people from Texas!

Now onto the different types of smoking wood.

big green egg smoking smoker

Different Types of Smoking Wood.

Alder Smoking Wood

AlderMild & Sweet

Alder will typically give you the least amount of smoke but adds a nice sweet profile to more delicate types of meat. It is great for and primarily used on fish but can also be used on white meat poultry.

Great For: Fish, White Meat Poultry

apple smoking wood chunks

AppleMild, Sweet & Fruity

Apple has a mild, sweet & fruity profile. Can be used on virtually anything but it is a more mild smoke flavor so it is better for pork, poultry and fish.

Great For: Pork, Poultry, Fish

cherry smoking wood chunks

Cherry – Mild, Sweet & Fruity

Cherry is a mild to medium smoke level that is sweet and slightly fruity. It is good on pork, lamb, beef and dark poultry like duck and other gamey meat. 

Great For: Pork, Poultry, Beef, Lamb, Duck 

grape smoking wood bbq

Grape – Medium,  Sweet & Fruity

Grape has a medium smoke intensity with a sweet and fruity flavor. Smells great when cooking, great on dark meat poultry, lamb, beef and game, but don’t go overboard or else the flavor will be too heavy.

Great For: Lamb, Dark Meat Poultry, Game, Beef

hickory smoking wood chunks

Hickory – Intense, Smoky & Spicy

Hickory is probably the most popular smoking wood. But it is more intense than the fruit woods so you have to be careful with that you use it on. It has a smoky bacon flavor and is great on beef and pork.

Great For: Beef, Pork

MapleMild & Subtle

Maple wood gives a more subtle, sweet smoky flavor that is perfect for mild, light and sweet smoking. Good for mixing with woods like alder, oak or apple.

Great For: Poultry, Vegetables, Cheese

mesquite smoking wood bbq

Mesquite – Intense, Earthy & Slightly Sweet

Mesquite is the most intense smoke flavor you will find. It should only be used if you really like a bold smokey flavor. Good on large chunks of beef and pork.

Great For: Beef, Pork

mulberry smoking wood chunks

Mulberry – Mild, Sweet & Fruity

Mulberry has a similar taste profile to apple, it has a mild, sweet and fruity flavor. Despite working great for nearly every type of meat, it’s great for fish, poultry and pork.

Great For: Pork, Poultry, Fish

oak smoking wood flavored

Oak – Medium, Earthy

Oak is another popular smoking wood choice. Oak is less intense than hickory but still gives you a great smoke profile. It is great on virtually anything depending on how much smoke you want. 

Great For: Pork, Beef, Poultry

Peach Smoking Wood Chunks

Peach – Mild, Sweet & Fruity

Peach resembles many other fruit trees in flavor, giving a mild, sweeter flavor with similarities to Hickory, but less intense. Smells great when cooking and works well on poultry and pork.

Great For: Poultry, Pork

Pecan Smoking Wood Chunks

Pecan – Medium, Nutty

Pecan has a rich, sweet, nutty smoke flavor. It is a good all around wood. It works well with pork, beef and poultry. 

Great For: Pork, Beef, Poultry

sassafras smoking wood chunks

Sassafras – Medium, Sweet & Fruity

Sassafras has a sweet smell and taste, but you do not need a lot. Can be overpowering if too much is used. Good on Pork and Beef

Great For: Pork, Beef

The Ultimate Smoking Wood Flavor Guide:

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Feel free to comment your favorite smoking wood or any questions and we will be glad to help you out with your next cook!

Our favorite grill to smoke on is The Big Green Egg. Not only is it great for smoking, but it also does so much more! It bakes, smokes, grills and roasts all in one grill. Check out our Big Green Egg  page here!


  • Jesse Tack

    Where can I get pecan splits here in Columbus?

    • Tony Kocheff

      Pecan splits might be hard to come by in Columbus. We carry large pecan chunks but not the splits. Not many people come in looking for splits that’s why we don’t carry them. Your best bet might be searching online, but it probably won’t be cheap with shipping.

  • K. Taylor

    Should the wood chips go in a foil packet with slits for smoke escape and placed directly on the charcoal…..or no foil packet for best results?

    • Tony Kocheff

      You can put them right on the charcoal. I usually spread them out in a spiral pattern from the center out so as the fire spreads out the chips gradually & continually give smoke.

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