Smoking brisket to perfection is no easy feat! It makes sense you’d want to enjoy a balanced smoky flavor, juicy and tender meat, and a crunchy bark after all your hard work. That’s why it’s essential to choose the best wood for smoking brisket. We’re here to help you make an informed decision!
Brisket is a tough cut of meat with a generous layer of fat, so you need to cook it for a longer time at a low temperature to make it perfectly tender.
This gives you plenty of time to provide the meat with a wonderful smoky flavor through your choice in woods.
You’ll also want to choose wood with a strong to medium flavor to complement the meat.
Is it difficult to achieve the perfect smoked brisket? While there are certain steps that help you achieve that tender and juicy meat, the key really is just to be patient.
Regardless if you choose to wrap your brisket or not, the smoking times are long and this is a cut of meat that needs occasional attention.
There are various factors that can affect how your brisket turns out, from smoking temperature and air humidity to the brisket’s internal temperature and the seasonings you use.
Of course, the smoking wood is another decisive factor for the brisket’s final flavor profile.
Here are our top recommendations when it comes to the best wood for smoking brisket!
|Hickory||Intense and robust flavor.|
|Oak||Medium, earthy flavor. Burns steadily.|
|Pecan||Slightly nutty flavor. Best used sparingly.|
|Mesquite||Strong smoky and earthy taste. Burns fast. Can be mixed with milder wood.|
|Maple||Sweet flavor and long burns.|
|Olive||Earthy notes, but less intense.|
|Apple||Classic and easy to find. Mild flavor.|
One of the most popular woods to use in smoking red meats, hickory is a hardwood that’s sourced from -yes, you guessed it- the hickory tree.
Hickory is an East Coast native. Its flavor is definitely on the strong side, producing a smoky taste with a sweet and slightly nutty or bacon-like profile.
As such, hickory is a wonderful option for smoking brisket. It’s even considered a staple thanks to its pungent flavor that’s capable of penetrating tough meat and leaving a great taste.
What’s more, hickory is characterized by a long burning time, which makes it easier to manage recipes like brisket that spend a lot of time on the smoker.
Even more, hickory pairs well with other cuts of beef. Use it for smoked flank steak, and smoked top round steak. You can thank me later!
One thing you need to keep in mind is that too much hickory smoke can make the meat bitter, so you can either create a blend with cherry or apple wood or you can use just a few pieces of wood to leave a more subtle flavor.
Oak is a hardwood with an excellent reputation when it comes to smoking meat.
Native throughout most of the northern hemisphere, oak is also one of the most readily available woods you can get your hands on.
I love it for brisket smoking thanks to its medium-strength flavor that gives meat the complexity it needs without being too bold.
The earthiness of oak complements brisket so well that you really don’t have to worry about it overpowering the meat like with hickory or mesquite.
Looking for other meats to experiment with oak? This smoked chuck roast gets such a balanced, appetizing flavor when oak wood is used!
Or go for a faster smoked meat recipe like poor man’s burnt ends so you don’t keep the guests waiting for too long.
Another reason why oak is a fantastic choice to smoke brisket is its longevity.
This forgiving wood produces a moderately smoky aroma. It’s the best option for a Texas-style brisket, with a deep-colored smoke that adds sophistication to your brisket’s flavor profile.
Do you prefer a milder smoky and slightly sweet brisket? Consider cooking it over cherry wood.
But this wood isn’t just known for its subtle flavor. It also does an excellent job of adding color to the bark of your brisket, turning it into a dark red sight of deliciousness!
It’s quite versatile for smoking meat as it pairs nicely with beef, pork, poultry, lamb, fish, seafood, and even cheese!
If you feel like powering up the flavor of cherry wood, mix it with maple, hickory, or oak.
Each of these combos delivers a stronger kick with a more complex smoke profile.
Pecan wood is a hardwood known for possessing a rich and sweet flavor. What sets it apart from other woods is its strong nutty bouquet.
As such, it’s not a surprise that pecan wood offers a more intense flavor compared to other fruit woods.
But don’t worry, it doesn’t deliver as powerful of a blow as mesquite or hickory.
I wouldn’t worry about pecan turning your brisket bitter, but don’t go overboard with it anyways.
Sometimes I like to mix pecan with maple or oak wood to mellow out the sweetness a bit.
If you’re a beginner pit master, I recommend you experiment with pecan on easy to smoke meats like these smoked Cornish hens.
Widely spread in Texas, mesquite is a staple of Texan BBQs. It’s great for infusing your brisket with an intense, earthy flavor.
The punch from mesquite wood is even more amplified by how extremely smoky it burns.
This is thanks to its high content of lignin, the compound responsible for producing smoke upon the combustion of wood.
Keep in mind that mesquite burns pretty fast, so you need make sure you add more throughout the process.
Also, mesquite produces sparks as it burns, so you may need to put on some safety gear while cooking the brisket.
It isn’t very forgiving and can easily create an overwhelming flavor if you use too much of it. To get around this, I mix it with a mild wood like apple or cherry to tone it down.
As for the color, mesquite adds less color compared to oak or hickory.
Many pit masters use mesquite and hickory in place of one another. While the two share many similarities thanks to their strong flavors, the taste of mesquite smoke packs a more powerful punch than hickory.
I recommend it mainly for beef, as it complements its intense flavor. Because of mesquite’s robust flavor, it’s also one of the best wood for smoking ribs.
Feel free to try it for other quick smoker recipes like these delicious smoked hamburgers.
Acer or maple trees are the source of the lifelong companion to pancakes; maple syrup. But that’s not all — they’re also the source of a wonderful wood for grilling and smoking.
Maple wood is common in North America. It’s a favorite among grilling lovers thanks to its mild smoky flavor and subtle sweet notes.
Paired with brisket, it creates a delicious taste that many people find pleasant and not at all overwhelming.
In fact, maple wood is very unlikely to over-smoke your brisket, so it should be on the top of your list of woods to try if you’re just getting into smoking meats.
As for the aroma, it’s pretty much a case of “smells like it tastes”. Its scent is lightly smoky with a hint of sweetness.
Maple offers extended steady burns that are especially needed for cooking brisket.
Interestingly enough, this wood produces a dark-colored, rich smoke that can trick you into assuming it carries a strong flavor.
Because of its subtle bouquet, it’s great for quick smoking recipes like poultry. Maple perfectly complements smoked chicken quarters, smoked chicken wings, and even a smoked whole chicken.
Olive wood may very well be the least popular type of wood on today’s list, but it deserves more recognition.
It’s a terrific alternative to mesquite wood if you’re looking for a similar earthy, smokey flavor that’s not as powerful. Olive wood is also more forgiving and blendable.
Last but not least, you can use apple wood to smoke your brisket. It’s similar to other fruit woods when it comes to delivering a sweet flavor to meat, but it’s mellower with a very mild smokiness.
Some folks may think that apple wood is too weak to be used alone for cooking brisket.
If you agree, then you can mix it with a stronger type of wood such as oak or mesquite for a bolder taste.
On a side note, apple wood infuses a gentle smoky flavor into the meat, and that’s why it works great for smoked turkey and smoked chicken thighs.
Wood used for smoking comes in various sizes, and let me tell you, size matters in this case.
Depending on the type of smoker or grill you’re using, you’ll need to choose a suitable size/style of wood as follows:
Logs: reaching up to 18 inches long, this is the largest size of smoke wood. It’s best used in grand smokers or on a commercial scale and it takes the longest to burn.
Chunks: Measuring up to four inches, this size is most suitable for household full-size charcoal grills and smokers. I like to use these in the Big Green Egg.
Chips: If you’re cooking in a gas or electric grill/smoker, chips are the way to go. They produce smoke quickly and are easy to store. If you are using an electric or gas grill, you’ll need a smoking box to add the chips to.
Disks: This style of smoke wood is best paired with electric smokers.
Pellets: These are specially designed to use in pellet smokers.
Sawdust: If you’re using a handheld, electric, or stovetop smoker, this form of wood can offer instant smoke.
As you can tell by now, the choice of the best wood for smoking brisket ultimately comes down to your flavor preference and the type of smoker or grill you’re using.
Whenever you want to smoke meat, fish, seafood, or vegetables, consult our free wood smoking cheat sheet. Hopefully, you’ll have an easier time figuring out which type of wood to use.
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