Best Wood for Smoking Rib Roast | 7 top choices & a few to avoid

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  March 28, 2020

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Prime rib roast is one of the most popular types of smoked meats.

This beef cut can weigh up to 30 pounds, but the meat is tender and juicy, and that’s why people love it!

Many people agree that that prime rib is the best cut of beef available. Smoking rib roast takes time because you need to smoke slowly at a low temperature, but it’s a great option to make because it brings together the flavors of herbs, spices, and the distinct notes of smoke wood.

But, which woods are best?

Let’s find out in this post.

What is the best wood for smoking rib roast

Best wood for smoking rib roast

For smoking red heavy meats like beef, it’s best to use hardwoods or a combination of hardwoods and fruitwoods. It’s important to remember that

  • the prime rib is the primary source of flavor;
  • the smoke should act as a complementary flavor, and not overpower your roast.

For rib roast, use a small quantity of wood (2-3 logs) for smoking.

How to buy a bbq smoker video
How to buy a bbq smoker video

Mixing woods while smoking rib roast is common. Expert smokers suggest combining hardwoods with lighter fruitwoods. An example of a great combination is pecan and peach or oak and cherry.

Hardwoods for smoking rib roast

Here is a list of popular hardwoods for smoking prime rib:

  • Oak: this hardwood is recommended for beef and lamb. It is a great choice, especially for beginner smokers. It has a medium to strong flavor, but it’s not overpowering. Oakwood is stronger than fruit woods like cherry but lighter than hickory or mesquite. Oak burns quite fast and produces a medium smoky flavor. Use this wood alone or in combination with fruit woods for the best results.
  • Hickory: this wood is the most popular choice for rib roast. It is a versatile wood that has a hearty, sweet, and bacon-like flavor. This wood is very strong flavored, so be careful to too use too much, or it can make the meat taste bitter.
  • Mesquite: this is a hardwood with an intense earthy flavor. It’s a great smoke choice because it gives a unique, strong flavor to red meat. Mesquite may give off a bitter and overpowering taste is too much is used. It is an oily wood which burns very hot and quite fast, which is useful when smoking dark meats. For the best results, mix mesquite with another wood.
  • Pecan: this hardwood part of the hickory family. It is very sweet and lends a rich, sweet and nutty flavor to ribs. Pecan is not as strong as hickory, and the wood burns cooler and slower. Smokers recommend mixing pecan with other hardwoods to balance out the sweetness.
  • Walnut: this wood has a powerful flavor, and it’s used for smoking red meats in combination with other woods that can take away from the bitterness of the walnut.

Here are some of the top choices I use when smoking:

 

Check out the BBQ smoker products I use in all of my cooking here in my recommended products list.

Oak is also great for smoking nuts like these almonds we wrote about earlier.

Fruitwoods for smoking rib roast

The best fruit woods to combine with hardwoods:

  • Cherry: this wood is excellent for almost all meats. The smoke from cherry wood turns meat a rich dark mahogany color, which gives the meat that savory appeal. For the best results, mix with pecan and hickory.
  • Apple: this wood is an excellent addition to hardwoods because it offers light, mild, and sweet fruity taste. It is combined with mesquite and oak wood. Apple is optimal for smoking ribs because beef requires a long smoke and applewood also takes a long time to penetrate the meat and provide flavor.
 

Which woods to avoid when making rib roast?

  • Avoid using any softwoods such as pine and cedar,
  • or any wood with a high resin content like fir. Resinous wood can ruin your smoker and gives an acrid and pungent taste to the meat.
  • Also, avoid wood that is too light because you probably won’t be able to taste the smoke.
  • Fruit woods such as pear and peach are also not recommended for smoking beef because you probably won’t taste the flavor on a rib roast.

How long do you need to smoke rib roast?

How long you should smoke the meat depends on how much it weighs.

An ideal family sized rib roast should weigh between 10-15 pounds. Plan on smoking for 35 minutes per pound at a temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit (107 Celsius).

So, let’s say you have a 10-pound rib, you’ll need to smoke for a good four hours if you want a medium roast, smoke for five extra minutes per pound.

You must also set aside time for a 15-minute-high-sear at the end of the smoke. The high-temperature sear at the end ensures you get that nice exterior crust.

For the best results, make sure the temperature is continuously between a minimum of 225 F and 250 F. It’s best to use a thermometer to check the interior temperature of the meat, which should be at 130 F in the center.

Now that you’ve chosen your wood, it’s time to fire up the grill!

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.