Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

Ribs are some of the most delicious meats which deserve to be smoked by the best wood for smoking ribs. But if you are wondering what type of wood to use, there is a lot that we can suggest and all of these have been proven to bring out that flavor and the smoky aroma that only the best wood for ribs can give. Ribs can be cooked in many different ways and it’s either beef ribs or pork ribs you want to deal with. You can bake them or grill them and they always bring out that soft, juicy flavor that comes not only from the meat but also from the bones.
Best Wood for Smoking RibsSmoking has a unique way of flavoring the ribs which cannot be matched by grilling and baking alone because woods have certain compounds than when they release it thru smoke, these compounds can be absorbed by the ribs. This is the reason why you have to choose only the best wood for smoking pork ribs if you want your pork to taste of that Smokey wood flavor.
Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

Smoking pork ribs like baby back ribs can take about 2 to 3 hours in a smoker. For a tip, you can preheat your smoker to 225 degrees. Then the ribs should be placed on a rack and must be smoked for 2 hours while maintaining the temperature between 225 to 250 degrees. After 2 hours, take out the ribs along with the rack and wrap these with a foil and smoke the ribs again for another hour. After an hour, unwrap the ribs and if you want to add more taste to the meat, bring it back inside the smoker and brush your pork with any sauce you want and smoke it again for 15 minutes. 

Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

Best Wood for Ribs That Suit Your Taste?

Let’s focus more on smoking pork ribs. When it comes to choosing the best wood for smoking pork ribs you have to choose the right wood, Trees develop their compounds as they grow and each species has their unique chemical compounds that when it gets exposed to high heat can evaporate and goes with the smoke. So better choose your wood wisely.  

Interested to know the best wood for smoking pork ribs? Below, we have identified some of the woods that can  be the best partners for your ribs and specified why you should consider each wood:

Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

Hickory wood

This wood can exude that strong and rich aroma with a bit of a bacon-like flavor that will be perfect for smoking your pork ribs and also pork cuts. Hickory is always considered among the best smoking woods for meat especially in the Southern and Midwest parts of the US. Also popular for barbecuing, it always gives out that unique, sweet and bacon-like flavor thus becoming a favorite among Westerners and Europeans. 

Not only that hickory can produce that meaty bacon taste on your meat but can also produce a lot of smoke which you need when smoking your food. Unfortunately, this  character of hickory can also backfire if your ribs get overexposed to smoke because the Smokey flavor of the wood can overpower the taste of the meat and when it gets too much can make your ribs taste bitter. Unlike briskets that are a thick meat and need a lot of smoke, pork ribs have thinner meat. So combining hickory with the best wood for smoking ribs with a milder flavor can make the smoke tamer.

Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

Oak wood

The oak has been a traditional fuel wood for centuries and it is also seen as the best wood for ribs in terms of smoking as well as grilling and barbecuing. Why oak is because this wood also generates more smoke with an earthy flavor that can turn your pork ribs into very delicious refreshing gourmet meat. To produce a perfect woody smoky flavor on your ribs, you have to know how to smoke your ribs properly. 

Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

Oak is a strong-flavored wood so if used alone, it’s woody smoke flavor can overpower the taste of your meat. But if used lightly, you can control the taste of your meat and make it tastier. So the best advice we can give you when choosing the best wood for smoking pork ribs and if you want to use oak, is do not use pure oak wood but add milder woods with sweet flavor like cherry, apple, pecan and maple woods. 

Best Wood for Smoking Turkey

Mesquite wood

This wood is another strong-flavored wood but packed with compounds that can be perfect for smoking ribs. Its smoke is naturally strong and earthy but its taste can also get intense if your ribs are overexposed to its smoke. The wood’s natural oil content is what makes its smoke flavor  strong so if your favorite wood for ribs goes to the mesquite, better mix these also with some fruity milder-flavored wood such as mentioned above. 

Another tip when using mesquite is to slice the wood into smaller pieces so that its smoke can be controlled. Or you can also use wood chunks if you are using an offset smoker or wood chips for the portable grill smokers.     


Being the national fruit of England, the apple wood is a very popular wood for smoking due to its sweet, mellow flavor with its smoke that when this infuses with the meat on the ribs, this would also give that fruity, sweet flavor that can turn your ribs into savory-sweet food. For the record, the Applewood is my best wood for ribs also the best wood for smoking turkey.

Being a mild-flavored hardwood type and a fruity in class, you can use pure apple wood when smoking your pork ribs without worries that its smoke can overpower the taste of the meat. However, if you don’t like your pork ribs to taste too sweet, better tone down the temperature of your smoker. Unfortunately, reducing the temperature can also slow down the cooking process so the best thing that you can do is mix the Applewood with strong-flavored wood such as hickory to get that bacon-like taste and cook your meat faster because hickory wood smokes heavily.

Pecan wood

This wood is a kind of a mild-flavored wood but it can make your pork ribs as well as beef ribs sweet tasting with its smoke. Its rich flavorful smoke can be different from other fruit woods and you can also balance its sweetness with other wood like hickory to come up with earthy smoke . This wood is also known to be the best wood for smoking ribs if you want to get that kind of a nutty flavor on your pork ribs. 

Cherry wood

 The cherry woods for smoking are known to produce that mild and fruity flavor on any meat and you can also combine this with any hardwood that smokes flavorful smoke like hickory so that their smoke will complement each other as well as into the meat. Cherry smoke can also make your meat turn reddish or mahogany in color and with ribs, you can see the change in color on the outer layer of the meat. The wood can also be used singularly and can cook the ribs between 4 to 5 hours but don’t go beyond this because the smoke can overpower the taste of the ribs.   

propane vs electric smoker

Maple wood

Maple wood is known as one of the best wood for smoking ribs if you are looking for fuel wood that can produce that sweet, light, and mild smokiness on your meat. Also, because it does not produce too much smoke, it can still produce that sweet flavor on the outer layer of the meat which is appropriate with ribs that have leaner meat. Like its maple syrup product, maple wood can make the meat taste sweet but not as sweet as Applewood and cherry woods. This wood can also be used alone if you’re smoking any other leaner meat and can also be combined with other hardwoods if you’re smoking thicker meat like briskets. 

Best Wood for Smoking Pork Ribs in Different Forms

There are 3 major types of wood in smoking pork ribs – wood logs, smoking chunks and smoking chips. So your choice for these types of woods in different forms will depend on the type of cooker you use or based on the desired outcome of your meat. So here is a simple discussion on the kind of cooking you can do with these forms of woods.

propane vs electric smoker

Wood logs.

These pieces of woods that were split from large logs can range from small to  medium-sized logs. Mostly, these are used for outdoor cooking and smoking like the fire pits or open pits style as in the traditional smoking pork ribs. The open pits are the simplest method of smoking meat and only involve digging a hole on the ground, throwing in the logs and setting it on fire. Next is to build a grid of sticks near or above the fire or putting on a high metal grill and put the ribs in there so that it will catch the smoke as it goes up.  

The fire pits are man-made structures built usually of bricks, clay or concrete with a separate pit for logs and a tower chamber. This chamber is where the smoke enters and where the meats are placed. Fire pits are much like brick ovens. The only difference is that the logs are outside the chamber unlike with ovens where it is at the bottom. So if you want to smoke a lot of pork ribs outdoors at the same time, you only need to have the best wood for smoking pork ribs and a fire pit is ideal for it.

Wood chunks

Smoking chunks are blocks of woods usually from the more flavorful types of woods. They are commonly about 2 inches long and rectangular in shape. These sizes are good for use on smokers and they don’t become cinders quickly so your pork ribs can be cooked completely before the embers go out.  

Wood for Smoking Turkey

Wood chips

These wood sizes are best for grilling or smoking meat that can be cooked quickly using a regular charcoal grill. But if you’ll use a portable smoker, smoking pork can take about 3-5 hours. Using a single type of wood, leaving the smoker alone would not be a problem with wood chips and you only need to resupply your chips container every hour to maintain the smoke.  

Woods You Should Avoid When Smoking Pork Ribs

When smoking ribs and mixing woods, there’s a very important rule to follow and that is to mix 1/3 strong-flavored woods and 2/3 light-flavored woods and this can be done for all types of meat. Although we all have different taste preferences, this is the safest way of mixing woods so as not to overcome the real flavor of the meat with strong-flavored smoke.

Moreover, we should advise you not to use woods that you are not familiar with. But if you want to experiment with other woods that we have not mentioned here, better do your research first. Nonetheless, no one must stop you from experimenting with using a variety of woods and who knows, you might just find the best wood for smoking ribs or wood mixtures for your kind of meat. Added to that, you can also concoct your own seasoning to add more flavor to your ribs.

To know the woods that you should avoid, the rule of thumb here is to avoid using softwoods, painted woods, chemically-treated woods, dirty woods or woods that are sappy and produce black and pungent smoke when burned. Also, don’t turn old woods into smoking wood because this might previously have molds or wood rot and still have toxins on them.

Kiln Dried Firewood

Common hardwoods and softwoods that you should avoid when smoking meat

  • Aspen
  • Cyprus
  • Elm
  • Eucalyptus
  • Fir
  • Hemlock
  • Mangrove
  • Locust
  • Pine
  • Poisonous Walnut
  • Redwood
  • Sycamore
  • Tamarack
  • Yew

Most of these trees are sappy, have compounds that can be toxic on their bark or wood and some can produce creosote which is the acidic by-product of smokes that can also be toxic.

tips to get best from your wood chips

Just a little precaution when using the best wood for ribs in wood chip forms. According to some meat smokers, it would be better to soak wood chips for about 30 minutes and dry them a bit with a dry cloth before using them for smoking so that they can release more smoke. On the other hand, other smokers say that this is not necessary since the water will just evaporate from the chips once it gets exposed to the heat. Both sides do have good reasons but we have never tried soaking our wood chips. If you are getting bothered  constantly resupplying wood chips while smoking  your ribs ,it won’t hurt if you also try the soaking method.

Nevertheless, we do agree with what many meat smokers say about the process of wrapping the ribs with a foil after an hour of smoking then smoking it again for another hour without the foil. This way, the juice that comes out of the meat will get infused into the meat while maintaining the moisture and preventing the meat from drying out. 

my Conclusion

Finding the best wood for smoking ribs is not  difficult these days especially now that there are a lot of commercial smoker types that you can buy from the portable tabletop types to the largest offset types for wood chunks and charcoal. The tabletop smokers that require wood chips, so far, are the easiest to use and they only require electricity to get fired up. However, these have limited capacity and they are only ideal for quick smoking.

Steak on pellet grill

The offset grill/smoker types which are the larger versions of the portable smokers can accommodate briskets, whole turkeys and a lot of beef and pork ribs at one time. In this case, smoking meat is not a tedious task anymore so what you only need to do now is to identify the best wood for smoking ribs and we have given you lots of ideas

For our next blog, propane vs electric smoker and which of these could meet your needs when cooking your meat with smoke. 

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