Be a Master of the Barbeque with the Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

Be a Master of the Barbeque with the Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

When it comes to barbecuing, ribs are king.

Sure, hamburgers and hot dogs are great, but there’s nothing like the smoky, savory taste of a freshly grilled rack of ribs.

Without the right equipment and smoking know-how, however, you’re going to be left in the dark. It’s easy to make your own food at home, but you need to have the best wood for smoking ribs in order to really get the job done.

What is the Best Wood for Smoking Ribs and Other Meats?

Think carefully about the desired texture and flavor you hope to achieve in your meat. Usually, people use heavy woods when smoking meat, but these can easily ruin the meat’s tats if you pick the wrong ones.

Depending on where you are grilling or what style of grilling you are implementing, you may choose from any number of wood types. In general, you can use any type of wood as long as you avoid things like elm, cypress, cedar, pine, spruce, redwood, and sycamore. These woods are pungent and can destroy the flavor of the meat. Some contain harmful oils that can cause you to become sick, too.

Here are some of the most popular. 

Oak

All kinds of oak can be used in a smoker, but the best wood for smoking ribs is usually red oak. Red oak has a mild flavor that does not overpower the meat. It’s perfect for beef and lamb.

Mesquite

Mesquite is a popular wood for smoking ribs. It is naturally oily, which helps it to ignite more quickly. It has a signature flavor that’s perfect for smoked ribs. It’s not ideal for longer barbeques and is instead better suited for short smokes.

Hickory

Without a doubt, hickory is the most popular type of wood used to smoke ribs and barbeque. Often used in the southern portions of the United States, hickory has a strong flavor that supports the flavor of the meat without diminishing it in any way. Just use it in moderation the first few times you try it to make sure it doesn’t overpower the meat.

Grapevine

Many people don’t think about using grapevines in their smokers, but it’s a fantastic choice if you are interested in smoking fish, beef, or poultry. It has a delicate flavor that is subtle yet pronounced at the same time. It can occasionally give your smoke a bad odor, but it should be fine in moderation.

Cherry 

Cherry is a popular choice for pork and beef. It will give your meat a gorgeous color - not unlike that of mahogany - and a savory flavor.

Apple 

Apple is one of the most widely used wood for commercially smoking ribs. It lends a mild, sweet flavor to your meat and is great for pork, poultry, and especially ham.

Pecan

Pecan is quite similar to hickory when used in a smoker. It’s a great choice for long, slow smokes, as the wood burns gradually and releases a savory, delicate flavor. It can be pungent at first, so you may want to use small quantities or experiment with other combinations before you go wholly pecans in your smoker.

The Best Wood for Smoking Ribs: Pellets, Chips, and Chunks

1. Big Green Egg Smoking Chips: Apple

Big Green Egg Smoking Chips Apple

Big Green Egg is a company that isn’t known for eggs - but instead of meat. This company produces numerous high-end barbeque grills along with a whole line of wood chunks for you to consider.

The apple wood chips are some of the best. Made Out of 100% natural apple wood, these lips can be used on gas, charcoal, or electric grills or smokers. The wood has been treated to resist rot, mold, and pests, so you can rest assured that your chips will stay viable for many months.

The pieces are about 180 cubic inches, making them the perfect size for releasing rich smoke over several hours. Your ribs will be left with a silky smooth scent and flavor that’s savory and rich.

The apple chips are known for their ability to produce rich smoke that is sweet yet mild, fruity yet strong. The chips come in a large e2.9 liter bag, giving you all the volume you need to get through this grilling season and beyond.

The wood does turn your meat a dark brown, but you shouldn’t have to worry about them impacting the flavor of the food in any way - at least, not in any bad way! Perfect for pork ribs as well as poultry and game meat, these wood chips are perfect when paired with herbs and a favorite barbeque sauce.

Produced In the United States, these chips have no additives or unwanted ingredients. To get an even more powerful flavor, let the chips soak in water for half an hour before adding them to your grill - your tastebuds will thank you. 

What We Liked:

  • Adds the perfect dose of smoky flavor to your ribs
  • 100% all-natural apple wood
  • Produces minimal excess or odorous smoke

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Apple wood turns your meat a dark brown color

2. Western Premium BBQ Products Cherry BBQ Cooking Chunks

Smoking ribs is a popular pastime in the American West, and this company pays homage to that tradition with its cherry barbeque cooking chunks. Cherry offers your meat a sweet, yet slightly sour flavor that is mild and complements rather than replaces the flavor of your food.

You can use cherry on just about any kind of meat. These chunks are made out of all-natural cherry wood and can be used on electric, charcoal, or even gas grills. They can, of course, be used on personal smokers.

Made out of high-quality wood, these cooking chunks are aged and treated to prevent rot, mold, and pests. You can store them for quite some time without having to worry about them not being effective or getting the job done the next time you go to smoke your ribs.

Although the word “chunks” calls to mind unevenly shaped pieces of wood, these chunks are perfect for cooking. They are evenly sized, measuring 549 cubic inches per packet. With a weight of 7.6 lbs, the bag is large enough to provide you with three or more barbeque sessions (depending, of course, on the size and style of your smoker and the meat you are grilling).

There are additional small chips inside the bag, too, with every purchase. These chips help to ignite larger pieces of wood so that you can have a fire going in no time. The large chunks burn slowly once they get started, letting out a rich, flavorful aroma while allowing your ribs to cook longer.

Although cherry is milder than apple, you’ll love the sweet flavor these chunks lend to your ribs. Free of additives, the dog or these chunks is extracted from real cherry wood before being dried. You can soak them if you’d like to give them an even milder flavor, but this is not necessary. 

What We Liked:

  • Versatile for many different styles of cooking
  • No additives
  • Resist pests and mold

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Some chips aren’t evenly sized

3. Camerons Products Smoking Wood Chunks (Oak)

The smoking wood chunks from Camerons Products are perfect for outdoor grilling or smoking. Oak is a popular choice for professionals, and while it’s used mainly for sausages, it’s also a phenomenal choice for ribs.

These hardwood chunks are made out of natural white oak. They are kiln dried and then cut into small chunks, containing zero chemicals or any other additives that can harm your health. The final product is uniformly sized, giving you a rich, smoky flavor when you cook your ribs.

Made out of raw oak timber, these wood chunks weigh approximately 10 lbs in the bag. This is plenty to get you through numerous barbeques. The wood density of the chunks does vary, which can impact the weight of the bag, but you’ll usually have enough to get you through several sessions.

It’s recommended that you soak these chunks for about 20 minutes before adding them to your grill. 

What We Liked:

  • Offers a great flavor when mixed with cherry
  • Burns clean and fragrant
  • Has no chemicals or additives 

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Chunks and bags are not a uniform size

4. Oklahoma Joe's Mini Log Smoker Chips (Hickory)

Oklahoma Joe’s offers a unique solution for people who want to smoke their own ribs, but over longer periods of time. These logs are perfect for large smokers and are made out of hickory.

All-natural hickory is the cornerstone of this product. It can be used to smoke a variety of meat products, containing no additives and lending a smoky flavor to your meat. Use the mini-logs on your charcoal grill or in your smoker - you won’t regret it. It adds a strong, sweet flavor that can give your food a taste, not unlike bacon.

Just purchase one of these mini logs and you will be all set - or purchase a package for long term use. There are about 14 logs per box, each of which is roughly six inches in size. You may need to chop some larger pieces down to size to get hem to fit in your grill, but they’ll fit perfectly inside a smoker.

At an average box weight of 25 lbs, these chunks are perfect for grilling and smoking any type of food -but especially ribs.

What We Liked:

  • Has a sweet, smoky flavor
  • Best for a bacon-like finish
  • BUrns for a long time

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Some pieces are too large for a charcoal grill

5. Traeger Grills PEL331 Signature Blend 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets

Finding wood for a pellet grill that burns clean and is environmentally-friendly can be a serious challenge. However, Traeger Grills PEL331 Signature Blend 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets product helps meet that need.

This product is made out of 100% virgin hardwood. You’ll receive consistent reliability for every smoking, no matter how much or how little you use. No additives or fillers are used.

Mesquite is the ideal wood for a variety of cooking applications, from smoking to braising to grilling. You can use it to cook anything from wild game to poultry or even beef and seafood. And of course, this wood is perfect for ribs!

All of Traeger’s mills are located in the United States. Traeger is the primary owner and operator, overseeing the production of these wood products from start to finish. This ensures adherence to the strictest guidelines and results in high-quality pellets and chunks. The company upholds a “gold standard” when making their pellets, ensuring that all products are formulated with the perfect amount of moisture.

In addition, Trager is one of the few companies that uses sawdust extracted from clean, green hardwood. These pellets are manufactured without harvesting even a single tree because the waste products (sawdust) are used instead. Plus, the pellets burn cleanly and evenly, while producing little ash. 

What We Liked:

  • Environmentally friendly option
  • Perfect for grilling
  • Produces a ton of smoke that is sweet and rich 

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Cannot be soaked

6. Traeger Grills PEL305 Mesquite 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets

Traeger Grills PEL305 Mesquite 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets

These hardwood pellets by Traeger Grills are some of the best for replacing your standard gas or charcoal operations. Delivering pure hardwood taste, mesquite is just one of the options when it comes to pellet flavors. The company also offers cherry, alder, apple, hickory, maple, and more.

However, mesquite is at the top of our list because it enhances the flavors of beef, chicken, and fish while also offering robust flavors. Made out of 100% all-natural hardwood, these pellets contain no fillers or binding agents.

Instead, all you’ll get is phenomenal wood-fired taste. You can add pure, unrivaled hardwood flavor to everything you smoke, grill, roast, bake, braise, or barbeque.

These pellets are sourced and manufactured in the United States and adhere to sustainable manufacturing processes you’ll get a great wood-fired taste that you can feel good about. As mentioned, Trager owns and operates all of its own mills and uses virgin hardwood for unmatched flavors. 

What We Liked:

  • Mild flavor that suits a variety of meats
  • Excellent burn rate
  • Can also be used in a smoking tube 

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Not designed to be soaked

7. FireStar Wood Chips (Oak, Alder, Cherry)

FireStar offers a wide array of wood chips for your smoker or grill. Alder, cherry, and oak wood chips are without a doubt some of the best for smoking ribs. When you purchase one of these packages, you’ll get an assortment of the three woods so you don’t even have to choose.

These chips can be used for all smokers, including gas, electric, and barbeque options. You can even use them while camping or in the fireplace.

When you buy, you can rest easy knowing that you will only get 100% natural wood chips. They are packaged in eco-friendly materials - when you’re done smoking the wood you can use the packaging materials to start another fire on another day.

These wood smoking chips are great for both outdoor and indoor cooking. A 100% organic product, they are shipped with equal amounts of apple, alder, and cherry chips - along with a few oak chips, too. The chips are usually about a quarter of an inch to three-quarters of an inch in diameter. You won’t get any sawdust, either. 

What We Liked:

  • Shipped with bonus ebook with smoking recipes
  • An assortment of wood types and flavors
  • Can be used in an electric smoker

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Only small portions of each type of wood included

8. Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey Barrel Smoking Chips

If you’re a fan of Jack Daniel’s, you’ll love these whiskey barrel smoking chips They add the distinct flavors of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 to your favorite smoked meats, making your smoker the talk of the next dinner party.

These wood chips are unique in that they are made from real Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrels, offering a mouthwatering combination of oak and whiskey wood smoke. You can use the chips for electric smokers as well as charcoal and gas grills.

Made in the United States, these chips are designed to be soaked in water for about half an hour. Let them drip excess water before you add your chips to the aluminum pouch. Use them for fish, poultry, or beef, and you won’t go wrong - but they are the best wood for smoking ribs, too!

What We Liked:

  • Smell great and impart a unique flavor
  • Dry with a light sense of bourbon
  • Can be soaked before use for more potency

What We Didn’t Like:

  • The bag is too small for some people’s preferences

9. Bear Mountain BBQ 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets

Made in the United States, the Bear Mountain BBQ 100% All Natural Hardwood Pellets will quickly become your go-to mixture for meat, fish, vegetables, and poultry -and of course, for smoking ribs.

These pellets are made out of all-natural premium hardwood with no fillers, binders, or additives. You’ll enjoy the robust, rich flavor they add to your meat, no matter how you choose to use them. They can also help your meat taste more tender and impart a sweet, smoky flavor.

Use these hardwood pellets on your gas, eclectic, charcoal, or outdoor pellet smoker or grill. You’ll get a 20 lb bag when you purchase, so you’ll have plenty left to try out all different kinds of cooking. A gourmet blend, each bag you purchase will likely vary, as the company uses a proprietary blend of maple, hickory, cherry, and oak.

Great for a classic barbeque like butts, ribs, brisket, the pellets are nonetheless balanced enough to avoid overpowering lighter fare like chicken and salmon. They also work great with a smoker tube!

What We Liked:

  • Smoke well and produce even flavors
  • 20 lb bag has plenty to go around
  • A unique blend of hardwood types

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Some customers complain they take too long to cook

10. Smoking Wood Pellets (Cherry)

These cherry smoking wood pellets from Camerons are some of the best. Not only are they kiln-dried to allow you to get your smoker or grill up and going quickly, but they have a savory flavor that is perfect for pork, poultry, red meat, and more.

These pellets make a great gift. They can be used with charcoal grills, gas grills, smokers boxes, or even indoor smokers. They ignite quickly and combust entirely, allowing for a delicate smoky flavor.

Made out of kiln-dried raw timber, these pellets are made in the United States and are all-natural. Cameron Products has truly mastered the art of producing innovative grilling products, offering some of the best options for home grillers and smokers. These pellets are well-respected, used frequently in fine restaurants for more than 25 years.

The pellets contain no unnatural fillers or preservatives. They are compressed and allow for a smooth, enjoyable cooking experience. 

What We Liked:

  • Give off a good smoke 
  • Cook slowly when used in tubes on gas grills
  • Lend a sweet, rich flavor to ribs

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Containers are quite small

Tips for Using Wood to Smoke Ribs

As mentioned, steer clear of woods like cedar, pine, and sycamore. You should also avoid using treated wood. Remove the bark of wood chunks before cooking to avoid an unpleasant, acrid taste.

When you’re first starting out with your smoking adventures, consider just putting a small amount on the fire at once. Gradually add wood so you don’t overwork the meat. Create a position or pattern that will allow the wood to burn quickly, and if you use wood chips, protect them with a foil pouch.

That’s really all there is to it! Once you have the best wood for smoking ribs and other meats, the rest of your grilling chores will be an absolute breeze. Follow these tips and consider our buying guide for the dining experience of a lifetime.

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