Why Hardwoods are the Ultimate Choice for Smoking: Benefits and Features

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 28, 2022

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Hardwood is wood from dicot angiosperm trees. The term may also be used for the trees from which the wood is derived; these are usually broad-leaved. In temperate and boreal latitudes they are mostly deciduous, but in tropics and subtropics mostly evergreen. Hardwood contrasts with softwood (which is from Gymnosperm trees). Hardwoods are not necessarily harder than softwoods. In both groups there is an enormous variation in actual wood hardness, with the range in density in hardwoods completely including that of softwoods; some hardwoods (e.g., balsa) are softer than most softwoods, while yew is an example of a hard softwood.

The best hardwoods for smoking will provide a strong and smoky flavor and burn for a long time. I’ll tell you which woods to use for each type of meat. Plus, I’ll share some tips and tricks to make sure you get the most out of your wood. So, let’s get started!

What is hardwood

The Vast Range of Hardwoods for Smoking

When it comes to smoking with hardwood, the size and cut of the wood are important. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Use chunks, not chips: Chunks of hardwood will burn longer and provide a better flavor than chips.
  • Check the length: Make sure the wood is the proper length for your smoker. If the pieces are too short, they’ll burn up too quickly.
  • Maintain control: If you’re  using a smoker (here’s how to) like a Big Green Egg, make sure you have proper airflow to maintain control of the temperature.

Proper Storage and Drying

To get the best flavor from your hardwood, it’s important to store and dry it properly. Here are some tips:

  • Store in a dry place: Hardwood needs to be kept dry to prevent mold and other issues.
  • Let it dry: If the wood is wet, let it dry out before using it. Wet wood won’t burn properly and can produce unpleasant compounds.
  • Ground hardwood: Some restaurants and supply stores sell ground hardwood, which can be a good option if you don’t have access to larger pieces.

The Western Choice: Mesquite and Other Hardwoods

If you’re looking for a more powerful flavor, mesquite is a good choice. It’s a popular hardwood in the western United States and is perfect for beef. Other hardwoods to consider include:

  • Apple: This is a mild hardwood that’s perfect for pork.
  • Cherry: Cherry is a sweet and fruity hardwood that’s perfect for pork and poultry.
  • Basswood: Basswood is a mild hardwood that’s perfect for smoking cheese.
  • Extra large pieces: If you’re doing a long cook, extra large pieces of hardwood can be helpful. They’ll burn longer and provide a more consistent flavor.

Choosing the Right Hardwood for Smoking

When choosing a hardwood for smoking, it’s important to be aware of the intensity of the wood. Here are some tips for identifying the intensity of the wood:

  • The darker the wood, the stronger the flavor.
  • The larger the chunks of wood, the longer it will burn and the stronger the flavor.
  • Smaller pieces of wood will burn faster and have a milder flavor.
  • If you want a lighter flavor, mix in some lighter woods like fruitwoods or white oak.

Choosing the Right Wood for Specific Cuts of Meat

Different types of meat work better with different types of wood. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Chicken: Fruitwoods, pecan, and hickory work well with chicken.
  • Fish: Fruitwoods, alder, and oak work well with fish.

Unusual Hardwood Options

If you want to try something a little different, there are some unusual hardwood options to consider:

  • Apple: Applewood is a sweet and mild wood that works well with pork and poultry.
  • Cherry: Cherrywood has a sweet and fruity flavor that works well with pork and beef.
  • Maple: Maplewood has a sweet and delicate flavor that works well with pork and poultry.
  • Alder: Alderwood has a mild and slightly sweet flavor that works well with fish.

Choosing the Perfect Hardwoods for Smoking: Features to Consider

When shopping for hardwoods for smoking, there are a few features to consider:

  • Wood type: As mentioned above, different woods have different flavors that work better with specific meats and foods.
  • Price: Hardwood prices can vary depending on the supplier, the type of wood, and the volume purchased. Some specialty stores may charge more than hardware stores, so it’s important to shop around and compare prices.
  • Shipping costs: If you don’t have access to a local supplier, you may need to purchase hardwoods online. Be sure to factor in shipping costs when comparing prices.
  • Pre-cut chunks or chips: Some suppliers offer pre-cut wood chunks or chips, which can be a convenient option for those who don’t have the room or equipment to cut their own.
  • Minimum purchase: Some suppliers may have a minimum purchase requirement, so be sure to check before placing an order.
  • Foraging: For those who live in areas where hardwoods for smoking are abundant, foraging can be a cost-effective option. However, it’s important to do your research and only forage in the fall or spring when the wood is dry and safe to use.
  • Weber smoker option: If you have a Weber smoker, they offer a variety of wood chips that are specifically designed for their electric smoker. These chips are an ideal option for those who want to achieve the best results with their Weber smoker.

Information on Suppliers

When it comes to purchasing hardwoods for smoking, there are a variety of suppliers to choose from. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a supplier:

  • Variety: Look for a supplier that offers a variety of hardwoods for smoking so you can experiment with different flavors.
  • Quality: Make sure the supplier offers high-quality hardwoods that are free from chemicals and additives.
  • Price: As mentioned above, compare prices from different suppliers to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
  • Shipping: Check the supplier’s shipping policies and costs to ensure you can get your hardwoods in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Cookery School Suggests

If you’re new to smoking and aren’t sure where to start, consider taking a class at a local cookery school. These classes can provide valuable information on smoking techniques, wood types, and flavor profiles. They may also offer suggestions on where to purchase hardwoods for smoking.

Why Hardwoods are the Best Choice for Smoking Your Meats

When it comes to smoking meats, the type of wood you use can make a big difference in the final flavor. Hardwoods, such as hickory, oak, and maple, are preferred over softwoods because they burn slower, longer, and hotter. Softwoods, like pine or cedar, contain resin that can make your food taste bitter and can be harmful to your health.

How to Prepare Your Hardwoods for Smoking

Before you start smoking your meats, you need to prepare your hardwoods. Here’s how:

  • Cut your hardwoods into small pieces that are easy to handle.
  • Soak your hardwoods in water for at least 30 minutes to prevent them from burning too quickly.
  • Add your hardwoods to your smoker and let them smoke until they are completely burned.


So, there you have it- all you need to know about hardwoods and smoking. 

You can use the right wood for the right food and the right smoker, and you can experiment with different flavors and types of wood. 

Just remember to keep the wood dry and to store it properly. So, go ahead and get 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.