Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  June 21, 2021

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The end flavor of ribs largely depends on what type of wood you use when smoking. Seeing how many of them are available, the choice might be a little difficult if you don’t have knowledge on the topic.

There’s more to that than just the meat preparation itself, although it is an incredibly important stage. In order to prepare perfect ribs, you need to know how to smoke meat without overdoing it.

An inadequate type of wood or simply too much smoke for too long might give meat too overwhelming a flavor, even if it was a light type of wood.

Best wood for smoking ribs

Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

I have gathered knowledge for you based on my experience and statements by many renowned chefs. Among all the types I have selected several most popular and most easily available types of wood that are perfect for smoking ribs.


A perfect choice for smoking ribs, it complements their flavor by giving quite a strong smoky flavor (not the strongest). A very popular wood for smoking, even good for beginners. Of course one should watch out not to overdo it, but remember that this applies to all types of wood.


Great wood for smoking provided that you know moderation. It is one of the strongest kinds, which is why you should be particularly careful, as it is not too difficult to go too far with this wood. As a result, the meat, instead of the characteristic strong, interesting flavor, will surprise you with strong, overwhelming bitterness.

In small quantities it is great for blending with light, sweet wood.


A common and well-known type of wood for most people. It is great for beginners despite belonging to the group of “medium strong” woods in terms of flavor.

A huge advantage of oak is that it burns over a long time, which makes it perfect for long smoking (especially with offset smokers).

It is also very good for blending with light fruit trees. The oak’s flavor profile is not quite as strong, which makes it safer for beginners.


One of the best known fruit trees in the world that is brilliant for smoking. It gives a light, fruity flavor that goes phenomenally with ribs, complementing their flavor.

To enrich the flavor profile, you can combine apple with oak, hickory, or even mesquite.


A wood of a fairly strong, sweet aroma that fits ribs well. To make the flavor more interesting, I really recommend blending this wood with a different, slightly stronger type. Of course you should watch out not to overdo it with strong wood, or else the meat will get a pretty bitter taste.


Great fruit wood for beef and pork, which makes it perfect for smoking ribs. It gives meat sweet fruity undertones, and being light allows it to forgive some errors when smoking (a little too much smoking).

It goes great with hickory

Also read: is peachwood good for smoking or should you leave it at the fireplace?

Wood Logs vs Chunks vs Chips: Which Is Best for Ribs?

As the title above states, there are three main sizes of wood used for smoking.

The first of them is wood logs which are large cracked pieces of wood that are perfect for long smoking despite producing a little less smoke. They can be used as the only source of heat in a large smoker (mainly offset smokers).

Chunks are smaller pieces of wood that work perfectly for smoking when combined with charcoal. They produce a lot of smoke which is why you shouldn’t use too much of them. Just place a few pieces on the briquettes and that’s it.

Chips are tiny bits that burn very fast while generating huge amounts of smoke. These are most often used in special cans/containers (smoker box), which allows to extend the burning time and improve efficiency. Due to their size and properties, they are mainly used in gas or electric grills and potentially in gas smokers.

You can use multiple types of wood

Once you have properly mastered smoking with one type of wood and know what moderation is, the time has possibly come for you to try something completely new.

Plenty of wood types are good for blending, which gives meat a completely different flavor profile.

Let me remind you once again that this is for experienced individuals who have mastered smoking enough to perfectly know when and how much wood to use so that the meat doesn’t have a too overwhelming flavor.

Also read: can I use Osage Orange for smoking?

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.