Preparing a perfect brisket that is so juicy that it melts in the mouth is a very desirable skill.
When getting into smoking, it is important above all to adequately prepare the meat, and then to take care of the smoking conditions and select matching wood for the meat.
Remember that brisket will spend many hours in the smoker, absorbing the smoke produced by the wood in the meantime. That’s why the type of wood is important because different types create a different flavor and aroma.
It is very important to use wood that 100% suits brisket smoking.
In this post we'll cover:
Best Wood for Smoking Brisket
Wood adds aroma and flavor to food, depending on the type of wood the effect is different.
What matters is to choose the right type of wood as you need to know that they don’t all suit brisket. Out of all the types of wood I have created a list of those that are the most popular.
My guidelines were not only my own opinion and experience but I also researched many other people, especially chefs and pit masters perfectly known by majority.
The list could have certainly been longer but I limited myself to the types of wood that are not only effective but above all easily accessible.
I encourage you to check out the rest of the article where you will also find out more about the sizes of wood.
One of the most popular types of wood used for smoking meat, including beef.
One of its greatest advantages is the fact that it burns for a long time, which turns out to be a very good solution in case of long smoking (like brisket as in this recipe for example). Another equally significant advantage is that oak gives a medium-strong aroma that isn’t overwhelming.
All of that makes it one of the best types of wood not only for smoking brisket, but overall for beginners.
Those more experienced can combine this type of wood with others, achieving a more complex and interesting flavor. I have to warn you, though, that it is not a task for beginners, first learn the basics and then start experimenting.
Another type of wood used for smoking just as popular and great as oak.
It is characterized by a slightly stronger flavor profile with noticeable hints of nut and bacon and with addition of spiciness. Despite the flavor profile being far from the strongest, in this case you should actually be careful.
The smoke from woods of at least the medium flavor profile can give food a bitter flavor if you overdo using them, like in this case.
It is characterized by a very strong flavor profile and is great for smoking brisket Mexican style. However, it is not an easy wood for beginners, for many reasons.
It burns fast and hot, and what is the worst, its strong flavor profile can easily ruin the food’s flavor if you have no experience smoking with this type of wood – you simply have to watch out not to overdo it.
An easily accessible and popular type of fruit wood with a mild, sweet flavor.
It isn’t quite as sweet as pecan which makes it all the more difficult to overdo it with it. It is great for being mixed with stronger, spicier wood.
It gives a mildly sweet flavor to meat and is perfect for mixing, especially if you want to achieve something more while maintaining the sweetness. It is a common and easily accessible wood that can forgive errors when smoking.
It gives quite a strongly sweet flavor which is why it’s recommended to mix this type of wood with something stronger. Overdoing it with this type of wood won’t end quite as badly as in case of mesquite, which will make the meat bitter.
It also offers a mild, fruity flavor. It’s very hard to achieve an overwhelming flavor of meat when using maple which makes this wood recommendable for beginners.
It can be without a doubt placed next to maple and oak as the types of wood that are easy and beginner-friendly.
It is most similar to mesquite but it isn’t quite as strong, however, one should still watch out not to overdo it when using this type of wood. A good alternative to the strong mesquite if you want to achieve a similar yet slightly weaker flavor profile.
What wood size?
Besides the type of wood, you also need to take into account its size. It mostly depends on what kind of smoker/grill you use and how big the piece of meat you’re planning to smoke is.
There are three main sizes of wood:
Logs – This is large, crunched wood that works perfectly when it comes to long smoking. Due to the size and effectiveness, it works great in large dedicated smokers where it is possible to burn just wood alone.
Chunks – Slightly bigger pieces of wood that work best when combined with charcoal. They are usually placed on hot charcoal using different cooking techniques. They actually burn longer than chips and are good for kettle type grills or smaller charcoal smokers.
Chips – This is the tiniest waste and sawdust used mainly in special smoker boxes. These are containers used in electric/gas smokers as well as gas grills. They are effective but they burn very fast which makes them useless for long smoking.
By the way, don’t forget to use a water pan when smoking brisket for juicy, tender meat
I encourage you to try out different types of wood one after another, and then to mix several types together. That way you can see on your own in detail which of them suits you the best.
A lot depends on what you want to achieve, focus on what type of flavor you more or less want to achieve and keep in mind one very important thing when smoking (it applies every time you smoke).
Just don’t overdo it with the wood or else even the mildest wood might give your meat too overwhelming a flavor – the key to a unique, wonderful flavor is moderate wood smoking.
Also read: check out the best way to reheat brisket