Matching the perfect variety of wood with your favorite cut of meat is easy with this handy, printable BBQ wood smoking chart.
There’s nothing like the intense flavors you get by using wood to smoke food. Just try smoking meat in your backyard once and you’ll be hooked for a lifetime.
But there are so many types of wood available. From the traditional barbecue flavors like oak and hickory to the lighter and fruitier apple and cherry. How do you know which is the best wood for smoking chicken, ribs, or ham?
I know how confusing it can be. Which is why I created the simple wood smoking chart below. Just follow the pairings I’ve recommended and you can’t go wrong.
If you think this smoking wood chart is helpful please share it on social media. We’re trying to grow this site and every little bit helps. Thanks!
Smoking Wood Chart
T-rex is a tough cut of meat to find, given that dinosaurs are extinct. But I imagine if I could get my hands on some Dino-ribs, they’d be delicious when smoked with many types of wood.
Common Types Of Wood Used For Smoking
A quick disclaimer before we go into detail on the different types of wood commonly used for smoking:
If you Google “smoking wood chart” and look at a few of the results you’ll see that no two are exactly alike. Taste is very subjective and what’s delicious to one person might be off-putting to the next.
In other words, use this chart as a guide and a starting point. But don’t be afraid to try different wood varieties with different foods and see how you like them. You can even mix and match varieties by smoking with hickory and apple together, or any number of combinations.
OK, now some quick notes about each type of wood.
Alder is a mild wood that gives off a delicate, subtle, and slightly sweet smoke. It’s most commonly used for smoking fish, especially salmon.
Apple wood is a classic and you can use it for smoking any kind of meat (especially bacon), poultry, seafood, or veggies. Apple wood has a sweet and fruity flavor and is mild in nature so it won’t overpower your main dish.
Apricot is great for smoking chicken or pork. Some people think it’s actually similar to hickory, but with a sweeter and milder taste.
Beech is not the most common wood used for smoking and it can be hard to find in stores, though it is available online. Beech has a mild nutty flavor that goes well with chicken, and also cheese.
Cherry wood is sweet and fruity and it can give your meat a nice reddish color. It mixes well with other woods like oak and hickory, and you can use it to smoke just about anything. I especially like cherry wood when I make double-smoked ham.
Hickory has the bold, smokey flavor that comes to mind when people think of barbecue. It’s versatile and goes well with any kind of meat, poultry, seafood, or vegetables.
Maple wood is one of the most popular woods for smoking. It gives a perfectly subtle and sweet smokiness to chicken, pork, and salmon.
Mesquite has an intense earthy flavor and it’s often used for brisket, ribs, and pork. Use caution when smoking with mesquite because its strong flavor can overpower the natural meat flavor if you use to much.
Mulberry wood can be difficult to find but it’s quite good when used with pork and poultry. Mulberry has a very subtle and mild flavor.
Oak is one of the most popular woods for smoking and is used in many restaurants because it burns so cleanly and efficiently. Oak goes well with just about anything, but it’s particularly delicious with beef, brisket, sausage, and lamb. It’s also a top choice for wood-fired pizza.
Orange wood is very subtle and mild. Use it to give a pleasant citrus flavor to pork, chicken, turkey, or duck.
Peach wood is excellent for smoking. It’s a mild wood and will give pork and poultry a sweet, fruity flavor.
Pecan is a great wood for smoking pork or poultry. It has a very mild and nutty flavor and it pairs well with fruit woods like apple or cherry. Pecan is perhaps the best wood for smoking turkey, so make sure you have some on hand for Thanksgiving dinner.
Whiskey Barrel Chips
Whiskey barrel chips are literally made from barrels that were once used for aging whiskey. The wood is actually oak, and the barrel staves are cut up into chunks or chips, bagged, and sold. They give a mild and sweet flavor with hints of whiskey to just about anything you smoke with them.
Woods You Should Not Smoke With
Some woods are not safe to smoke with because they contain too much sap and terpenes that can make your food taste funny or make you sick. Others aren’t necessarily dangerous but will produce a thick black smoke which will make your food taste nasty.
Never smoke with pine, spruce, cypress, redwood, fir, oleander, elm, eucalyptus, sassafras, yew, or sycamore wood.
Another wood to avoid is poison walnut. Other varieties of walnut are fine, but as a rule you should avoid cooking with anything that has the word “poison” in its name.
Cedar planks are popular for grilling salmon, but you definitely don’t want to burn them for smoking food.
Any type of wood with mold growing on it should be discarded because some molds may contain toxins.
Finally, never barbecue with plywood, lumber scraps, paneling, or any wood that has been painted or treated.
Use the smoking wood chart above for suggestions on which woods go best with different types of food. But don’t be afraid to experiment and try different combinations to find the ones you like best.
Drop a comment below and let me know which types of wood are your favorites to smoke with.