Best Wood for Smoking Elk | 5 woods that really bring out its flavor

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  March 20, 2020

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Elk meat is one of the most delicious delicacies on Earth. If you know how to cook it right, you will be mesmerized by its flavor and taste, for life.

However, knowing how to make proper smoked elk meat is a task on its own. It involves a great deal of knowledge on which wood to use while making it and which ones to avoid.

But fret not, for today, we are going to fill you in on all of the details. So sit back and prepare to throw a feast tonight of smoked elk meat.

Best wood for smoking elk

Which woods are the best for smoking elk?

There are several wood choices to choose from when making smoked elk meat jerky. But keep in mind, whichever choice you make, it will enhance or diffuse the flavor of your meat.


Hickory is one of the most versatile wood chips. It is great for smoking all types of meat, especially elk meat. The best part about using hickory wood chips is that it will give a pleasant hint of bacon to the meat.

It wouldn’t be overly strong, but just enough to make the meat more flavorsome. It also provides a rather traditional flavor to the meat, making it bolder and robust.


Pecan wood chips are great for smoking almost all types of meat. They have a similar flavor profile to Hickory. Its flavor is milder and therefore can be a better choice. It can also be paired with any other wood to enhance the flavor.


Mesquite is a great mixing wood chip that can be used on its own or mixed with any other wood chip. It provides a bold earthly flavor to the meat. If you like strong smoked flavor, mesquite is the wood chip you should go for.

However, if you want to tone down the flavor a bit, you can mix it with Cherry wood chips. The mix of both will calm the flavor down.


Applewood chips come from a dense wood that has a sweet, smoky flavor. This flavor is a delight for your taste buds. You can use it on its own or mix it with one of the other woods. Either way, it will work its charm to provide a mild, sweet flavor to your elk meat jerky.


Cherry wood chips are the all-time favorite of the smoking family. They blend in well with just about any meat and is especially tasteful for elk meat. It provides a fruity and mild flavor to the meat, making it irresistible to eat.

Just as the name suggests, cherry wood chips have a sensuous sweet, full-bodied flavor. It has a bit more strong effect than applewood so its best to mix it with mesquite or the traditional hickory to balance out their strong and bold flavors.


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How long do you need to smoke elk?

While smoking the elk meat, you must remember that the purpose is to make it pliable and chewy.

Don’t smoke it too much that it becomes hard like a rock and is impossible to chew. So, ideally, you should begin with preheating the smoker up to 180F using the wood chips of your choice.

After that, add your elk meat and let it smoke for 2 hours straight. After 2 hours, begin checking it in between to ensure that you get the kind of meat you like. It shouldn’t take more than 4 hours to smoke so make sure you don’t exceed that time.

Ideally, for 1/4” slices of meat, it should take you about 3 hours to cook it properly and blend the flavors of the wood chips with it.

What is Elk Meat Jerky?

You must be wondering by now what elk meat jerky is exactly. We understand the confusion. A lot of people don’t know of this delight.

The purpose of making elk meat jerky is to remove the extra moisture from the meat. For that, you have to decide on the meat cut first.

Luckily for all of us, venison meat is lean and any cut will work to make jerky with. However, the best cut to make jerky with is top round.

Which woods to avoid when making this?

While we’ve given you a list of the wood that would bring out the best flavor, there are several kinds of wood you should avoid using.


While grape wood chips have a sweet berry flavor and can also be mixed with applewood, it is more suitable for smoking poultry and wouldn’t bring out a delightful flavor in elk meat.


Using oak wood chips can make elk meat harder because it comes from a dense wood that burns long and slow.


Pearwood chips give a subtle yet sweet flavor but mostly to poultry and bird meat. While the flavor is worth tasting, it isn’t ideal to smoke elk meat.

Also, read these articles when smoking:

Cornish Hens, 8 fruit and hardwoods

Make delicious smoked chili with these 4 wood types

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.