Best Wood For Smoking Brisket: A Detailed Guide

Do your briskets lack that authentic smoked flavor? Are you sure that you are using the best wood for smoking brisket? Smoking a brisket to perfection takes years of practice.

Unlike a charcoal smoked brisket, a wood smoked brisket is packed full of flavor. From ancient times, smoke has been used to not only preserve meat, but to also enhance its flavor. It also goes without saying, not any wood will do.

A majority of wood used for smoking, are hardwood. Moreover, they have low resin (sap) amounts and a lot of flavor.

Wood chips like these are the best wood for smoking brisket

Buying the perfect wood for smoking might be a daunting task due to the sheer number of options. The following is a breakdown of smoking wood types, categorized by the strength of flavor they are likely to impart.

Wood Size

It is important to use the right size of wood for your smoker type. Wood for smoking comes in varying sizes to include.

1. Wood Chips :- Generally, these are shavings or wood scraps. They are readily available in stores. Keep in mind however that they burn out quite fast.

2. Chunks :- These fist sized wood pieces offer a better amount of time. In a smoker, chunks can burn for hours on end. They do nonetheless take a bit longer to ignite. There is no shortage of chunks either.

Whether shopping around for cherry chunks, pecan chunks or indeed exotic types such as the New Zealand manuka wood chunks, you will find that there is no shortage of supply on the Internet.

3. Sticks and Logs :- For offset smokers, these full wood pieces, would be the best choice. Additionally, logs produce more smoke than both chips and chunks.

Woods For Smoking: Strength Of Flavor

Aggressive To Strong Woods

With some smoking chunks being pretty aggressive, it is best to leave these strong flavored woods for large chunks of meat. Briskets are quite capable of withstanding stronger smoke flavors. Common woods include:

#1 Mesquite Wood For Smoking

Mesquite wood will be the more traditional flavor for a Texan smoked brisket. Its does however burn hot and rather quickly. This should therefore only be used for smaller brisket cuts. For a less intense flavor, you are better off looking elsewhere.

#2 Oak Wood For Smoking

Oak is dense and can burn for long periods, making it ideal for smoking any type of meat. It particularly works well with other elements or woods added to the smoke.

#3 Hickory Wood For Smoking

Hickory, while heavier than oak, is more subtle in flavor. It produces a more nuttier flavor. Due to its popularity, it more widely available.

#3 Hickory Wood For Smoking

Hickory, while heavier than oak, is more subtle in flavor. It produces a more nuttier flavor. Due to its popularity, it more widely available.

#3 Hickory Wood For Smoking

Hickory, while heavier than oak, is more subtle in flavor. It produces a more nuttier flavor. Due to its popularity, it more widely available.

#4 Walnut Wood For Smoking

Walnut has a heavy smoky flavor. You might get better results by pairing it up with more mild flavored woods.

#5 Manuka Wood For Smoking

Manuka wood is an exotic wood characterized by intense flavor with a touch of sweetness. Capable of burning for long periods, it is ideal for huge meat chunks, such as brisket.

Moderate Woods

To let your other flavors rubbed on meat take the limelight, you might want to turn down the smoke flavor. Suitable brisket smoking woods in this category include:

#1 Pecan Wood For Smoking

Pecan gives off a woodsy flavor, similar to hickory - making it a great alternative to hickory. It nonetheless is more delicate, with sweet undertones.

#2 Grape Wood For Smoking

Grapevine has an unusually unique flavor. Adding a piece to smokers using woods such as walnut can form a surprisingly good result. It has a fruity, tart flavor.

#3 Olive Wood For Smoking

Olive is a good alternative to mesquite. It is less overwhelming for those who like the mesquite flavor but find it over powering. Use it for a Mediterranean kick to your meat.

#4 Maple Wood For Smoking

Maple might be more suitable for poultry and pork. In spite of that, use it a sweet smoky flavor.

Mild Woods

For a light smoky flavor, that is quite often described as sweet or fruity, I would recommend the wood choices below.

#1 Cherry Wood For Smoking

Cherry wood chunks are used by many a pitmaster on fish or chicken for its pinkish hue on the smoked dish. It will also work well when incorporated with a stronger wood type. It adds a mildly smoky and fruity flavor.

#2 Almond Wood For Smoking

Almond wood is well known for adding a nutty flavor to your meat. Having a few spare chunks will make a valuable addition to your smoking wood arsenal.

#3 Apple Wood For Smoking

Apple wood produces a denser fruitier, smokier flavor than the mild flavored trees. It is quite popular as well. Crabtree logs can be used in place of apple logs for the same effect.

#4 Ash Wood For Smoking

Ash wood chunks produce a light but uniquely flavored smoke. Be cautious when using them. They tend to burn out faster. As such I would recommend soaking them first to slow down combustion.

#5 Citrus Wood For Smoking

Citrus trees produce moderate smoke that gives your brisket a fruity flavor, much lighter than apple logs.

Wood Not To Use For Smoking

Not all woods are good or even safe for smoking. I recommend you avoid the following types of wood.

1. Treated wood :- Chemically treated wood can give off smoke that can do you harm from combustion of chemicals. This does include plywood, chipboards and so on.

2. Softwood :- Most softwood or conifers like pine, redwood, cedar, eucalyptus and spruce contain high volumes of resin. Not only will the meat taste horrid, but they smoke will also make the meat unsuitable for human consumption.

3. Fresh cut logs :- Logs that are too fresh burn unevenly. This negatively impacts the flavor.

Ideally, stick to the moderate to heavy woods for smoking.

Tips For Smoking Brisket

For best results, also consider the following:

1. Soak your wood :- I would recommend 12 to 24 hours of soaking. This is especially required when using wood chips. Prior to placing the drained chips on hot coal, soak them to prevent them from bursting into flames, increase steam and amount of smoke while in your smoker. Fresh hardwood logs however, need not be soaked as the contain sufficient moisture (up to 50% of weight) content for smoke and steaming.

2. Do not over smoke :- Although you would like the smoke to impart your brisket’s taste, leaving them in the smoker for too long leaves your meat with a bitter taste.

3. Experiment by flavoring the smoke :- For that dramatic flavor note, you can try adding flavor to the smoke. Notes such as vanilla or cinnamon are common. Pairing different woods can be just as dramatic.

Though there are many factors to consider when learning how to smoke a brisket, such as meat thickness, rubs, technique and so on, picking the right wood will in most cases make or break the meal’s success.

Choosing Wood For Smoking Brisket (Video)

Listening to legendary pitmasters like Johnny Trigg will tell you how much dedication goes into every cook.

One of the secrets, as you will quickly tell, is that the type of wood you use matters. This video talks in detail about the best woods for barbecues, smokers and grills. A fantastic watch!

Armed with a little knowledge on wood types for smoking brisket will set you well on you path to being a Louie Mueller in the making. Experimenting will usually be the best way to get what works best for your palate.

A few of the listed wood types will likely become mainstay in your cooking arsenal.

As always, your comments and contributions are welcome.

Happy Smoking!

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