What is the Best Wood for Smoking Brisket? 7 Types Smoked and Tested

There’s nothing better than a well-smoked brisket. Just thinking about it is enough to make your mouth water and your stomach growl. There’s more to a tasty, wood-smoked brisket than just throwing some old firewood in a good smoker and calling it a day, though.

Smoked Brisket

You can get wildly different flavors out of your brisket depending on the wood you use. If you’re trying to find the best wood for smoking brisket, keep reading as we test 7 different types.

1. Applewood

Applewood is a great choice if you want to add some mild sweetness to your brisket.

Applewood Chips on a Smoker

When you smoke your brisket in applewood, you add a slightly fruity flavor to the meat. The dense smoke that applewood produces infuses the flavor deep into the brisket, adding flavor to every layer of the cut. Applewood is also an affordable choice, making it great for big get-togethers.

The only downside to applewood is how long it takes for the flavor to infuse fully. You’ll want to give this one a couple hours before digging in.

2. Maple

Maple is one of the best woods for those new to the smoking game.

You’re not going to overwhelm the meat with flavor using maple wood. Instead, you’ll get a light smoky, sweet taste that highlights the natural flavors of the meat rather than taking center stage. If you’re having a few beers with the gang, this is a great accompanying meal.

Maple Wood Chips

There are a lot of different types of maple that allow for even richer flavor profiles. Sugar maple doubles down on the sweetness, while something like red maple will add a smokier flavor. Experiment with types of maple to find the perfect balance.

Maple is affordable, it burns easy, and the flavor infuses fairly quickly. Try it out if you’re dipping your toes into smoking meat.

3. Mesquite

Mesquite gives your brisket an intense, smoky flavor that barbecue lovers will really enjoy.

Mesquite Wood

You’ll need a decent amount of mesquite as it burns quickly. You’ll also need to keep your eyes on it as it’s easy to over smoke. The flavor and taste is more than worth it, though; it smells and tastes just like a Texas barbecue!

If you love that smoky flavor, you’re going to love mesquite wood. You can also mix the wood with something a little sweet for an added treat.

4. Pecan

Pecan wood gives your brisket one of the most unique flavor profiles you’ll ever taste.

Smoking your brisket with pecan wood infuses it with a nutty and sweet flavor that really compliments the meat. You don’t have to worry about any bitterness if you smoke with pecan thanks to all the sweetness. You can counter the sweetness with maple to balance it out.

5. Oak

You might not think of wood as a go-to choice for smoking meats, but prepare to change that mindset.

Oak burns for a long time, making it great for a long, slow-smoke brisket. You won’t have to keep loading up the bbq smoker with new wood like you might with a faster burning wood like mesquite. As far as flavor goes, oak adds a nice, medium-strength smoke flavor to your meet that brings out the natural flavors of the meat.

For a reference point, oak has a stronger taste than applewood or cherry, but it’s lighter than mesquite. This is another great beginner smoking wood, as it doesn’t take much to get a full smoke going.

6. Hickory

As long as you keep an eye on your brisket, hickory is a great wood for smoking.

Hickory Wood Chips

We stress keeping your eye on it as too much hickory can over smoke your brisket, giving it a bitter taste. With the perfect amount of smoke, though, hickory gives your brisket a taste like bacon! It’s sweet, savory, and hard not to scarf down a few servings.

You can top a hickory-smoked brisket with a sweet, sugary sauce for a true treat. This one might not be best for beginners, but it’s an excellent wood to work your way up to.

7. Cherry

Cherry is a versatile wood that works well with any meat, especially a nice brisket.

Cherry gives your meat a mild fruity flavor that doesn’t overwhelm. It’s comparable to that of applewood, with a slightly different sweetness. If you’re just looking for an extra bit of sweetness for your brisket, cherry is a great way to go.

You can up the flavor by mixing your cherry wood with something smoky like maple or oak. It won’t hide the sweetness, but enhance it by contrast. 

As an added bonus, cherry wood tends to give your brisket a nice, dark outer coating that’s mouthwatering. It’s bound to turn heads at a barbecue or get-together. If you just want a touch of color, try mixing a little cherry wood with another of your favorite type of wood.

What Is the Best Wood for Smoking Brisket?

It’s hard to determine what exactly is the best wood for smoking brisket. It all depends on the flavor profile you’re looking for.

Smoked Brisket in Chef's Hand

If you want something sweet, go with one of the sweeter options listed above, like a cherry or apple. If you want something smoky, try something like oak or pecan. If you want to get a little experimental, try combining the woods you imagine you’ll enjoy to find the perfect blend.

If you’re just starting, we recommend a good mesquite or hickory and expand from there. Happy smoking!

TYLER LACHANCE

Tyler Lachance is a cookout professional. His expertise on cooking grilled food, creating marinades, formulating sauces and matching his food with the perfect drink is unrivaled. Born and raised in a family that has a long history of cookout, he has treated this activity as a part of his culture and who he is.