The Best Wood For Smoking Ribs

Just like there are many smoked rib recipes, there are also many options for smoked rib woods. When smoking meat, different woods are chosen for the flavors they add. While you can use one type of wood, a mix of two or three woods will impart a subtle combination of smoke, fruit, and sweetness. The best wood for smoking ribs is the combination that creates the flavor profile that you like best.

Smoked ribs recipe
The meat of your labor

So, that wasn’t helpful. Now we’ll go through the most common and popular types of wood for smoking pork and ribs and how to use them alone or together. Again, using just one type won’t contribute all of the possible flavors. Most barbecue sauces use three, if not four, types of sugar for a complex experience. Do the same with your ribs.

Smoke flavor is personal preference. Some prefer the lighter, sweet smoke of fruit woods like apple, peach, and cherry. Others like a stronger smoke like oak, hickory, and mesquite. Ribs take on a lot of smoke because they are thin and it is possible to have too much smoke. For a lighter smoke, try only fruit woods. For a bolder taste, try something like 3/4 hickory and 1/4 mesquite.

There are a many options for wood chips and chunks. Here are the best woods for smoked ribs so you can decide for yourself.

The Best Woods For Smoked Ribs

Best Wood For Smoking Ribs


Hickory may be the most popular smoking wood. It has a bold, robust flavor that is versatile enough for smoking all meats, especially pork and ribs

The strong sweet and smoky remind many people of bacon. Hickory does have a strong flavor so keep an eye on how much and how long hickory smoke is around your ribs.


Oak is the second-most commonly used wood for smoking. The flavor is lighter than hickory and stronger than fruit woods like apple and cherry. The medium smoky flavor works will with all meats.

It can be used alone or blended. If you like to smoke ribs for an extended time, oak is less likely to get bitter than stronger woods. At your local grocer, wood chunks may be available as hickory, oak, or a blend of the two.


Mesquite has the strongest flavor of the smoking woods. Using too much can result in a bitter, overpowering taste while it adds a bold and earthy flavor when mixed with lighter woods,.

Oily hickory burns, hot, and fast so don’t use it for long barbecues. The strong flavor stands up well to dark meats and in moderation, pork.

Experiment with blending hickory until you get to know how it works and your taste for it.


Apple is of the lightest smoking woods with a sweet and mild smoky flavor. It is popular for pork but also can be used for white meats and even dessert. Apple can be used in a blend or alone.


Cherry is another versatile fruitwood that can be used for all types of meat. The sweet and mild flavor works especially well with beef and pork and transforms the meat into a deep shade of mahogany.

Try mixing cherry with hickory, oak, pecan, or a little bit of mesquite.


Pecan smoke is similar to hickory but more mellow and nuttier. If what you are cooking pairs well with nuts, pecan is a good choice. This wood also works well for long barbecues. Pecan can be mixed with any wood and like hickory, too much pecan should be used in moderation.

Wood Chips vs Chunks

Smoke wood comes in both chips and chunks. What’s the difference? Smaller chips burn faster than wood chunks. We prefer chunks because they don’t have to be replaced as frequently.

Remember to remove bark from chunks because it creates an acrid flavor when burned.

If you prefer wood chips, protect them from burning in a foil pouch with a few small air holes.

Should I Soak My Wood?

The burning question for many meat smoking aficionados, should I soak my wood?

No. Don’t do it.

Here’s a longer explanation why not.

3-2-1 Ribs Recipe

It’s not especially difficult to smoke fall-off-the-bone ribs but it has to be done right.

The 3-2-1 ribs method is no-fail. Just smoke for 3 hours. Wrap for 2 hours. Sauce and smoke for 1 hour. And start early enough to enjoy the meats of your labor.