Best Wood for Smoking Brisket


When smoking a brisket, it is imperative to stick to the basics. These basics include celery salt, onion powder, garlic, and pepper. The basics play a vital role in enhancing the taste and flavor.

Since the brisket will be cooking for several hours, the wood-burning also plays a vital role in enhancing the brisket flavors. This article discusses the best wood for smoking brisket.

Let’s jump right into the woods that are ideal for smoking.

In the same way that meats come in different forms, so is wood.

The Three Rules of Wood

There are three rules to be followed when it comes to woods for smoking.

The first rule prohibits one from using softwood to smoke food. We know you may have just chopped a pile of pinewood and have the thought of smoking a brisket with them.

Well, don’t try that.

There is a reason why you shouldn’t use softwood. This includes softwoods like pine as they have plenty of resins in them that gradually turns into tar when burnt slowly. That tar will finally end on your meat resulting in an extremely bad experience.

The second rule requires you to know the difference between pellets, chips, and chunks. Some smokers go for wood pellets that have varying amounts of a binder. Some prefer wood chips, especially those that have propane fuel sources.

However, most smokers go for chunks. Choose the one that fits your requirements.

The third rule requires you to understand the difference between fire and smoke. Smoking precisely involves smoldering wood. It should not be used as a fuel source for your meat.

Though there are some exceptions to that, the smoke is ideally used more as a flavor and not fuel for your brisket. It is worth noting that to avoid the risk of using it too much.

What is a Brisket?

Brisket can be described as the pectoral muscle of the cow. One whole pucker cut of a brisket consist of two major parts. There is the flat part and the point part.

The pointed part is the fattier cut of the brisket. It is the most popular part of a dish where the burnt ends are sourced. The flat part is where corned beef is cut from and is slightly leaner.

Most grocery stores commonly sell the flat. Make sure that you have bought the whole brisket for smoking purposes.

How do you Source Wood for Smoking Purposes?

Back in the day, barbecue was hugely influenced by the trees native to a region.

These trees had a lot to do with the development of these regions, the style of their residential areas, the type of livestock they keep, and the type of rubs, marinades, and sauces they used on their meat.

As time went by, sourcing different types of wood from around the country has gotten easier. This is because they come in diverse forms of wood chips and wood chunks.

However, if you require wood logs, you may have to settle for the type of wood that grows around your area. If you prefer chips or chunks, it will be easy to buy a pack of them online, in a hardware store, or local barbecue.

Different varieties of woods burn at different intensities and speeds. You should be aware of how fast or slow a wood burns when choosing the best wood for smoking your brisket.

You can have a more accurate timing when smoking your brisket and make it just like you wanted.

Best Wood for Smoking Brisket

It doesn’t matter the type of smoker you are using. The wood that works best for smoking does not change at all.

Discussed below are the best types of wood for smoking brisket.


If you are the kind of person that loves complexity merged with a bit of sweetness in your smoked brisket, then cherry will be a fantastic choice. It generates a milder flavor that works marvelously with a brisket.

Cherry wood also comes with the added advantage of giving your brisket nice dark red color.

For those of us who love smokey flavors in the brisket, cheery will come in handy. One can pair it with stronger wood like hickory or oak.

You will achieve the fruitiness flavor as well as elevated levels of smokiness.


When it comes down to the suitability of a brisket, applewood comes on top of the list. Using apple wood for smoking your brisket will give it a fruity sweet flavor.

You can blend applewood with stronger woods such as maple, hickory, or oak and give your brisket a variety of flavors.


Acquiring olive wood is not easy. However, if you find it and use it to smoke your brisket, be assured of some excellent results.

It gives a similar flavor to that of mesquite. It will blend well with other types of wood. It will depend on the end product you want to achieve.


When smoking the hickory wood, an aroma that is so strong is released and it infuses a rich, flavor to the brisket.

It makes a beef brisket taste so good and can also be used to smoke pork cuts. The hickory flavor also gels wells with added sweet sauce or sugar.


This wood is preferred mostly for the Texas-style brisket aficionados. The mesquite releases strong, spicy flavors that make the brisket finger-licking sweet.

Mesquite is the ideal hardwood for individuals who prefer pepper rub and salt to enhance the flavor of the brisket.


Pecan is a perfect choice for those who prefer a mild alternative and nutty brisket. You can add a pinch of cayenne or red pepper to the brisket to make it spicier.

It is worth noting that it cannot burn for extended periods like hickory or oak.


This is one of the most common types of wood used for smoking briskets and other types of foods. This said though, oak generates some mild flavors.

Oak being hardwood burns at extremely hot temperatures that make it a great choice for smoking a brisket.

This will be done at higher temperatures that range between 250 degrees Celsius to 300 degrees Celsius.


This is another type of wood commonly used to smoke a brisket. It generates a lightly sweet smoke that can give the food a signature mahogany, burnished, signature dark color.

Using maple wood to smoke a brisket will give it an incredible flavor that will leave you all enjoying your barbecue.


Just like pecan, the fruitwood will burn a little quicker as compared to hickory and oak.

However, it generates subtle smoke that can give the brisket well-rounded fruity sweetness. It will give your brisket an incredible flavor making it finger-licking good.


This type of wood is available in plenty in areas around the Pacific Northwest regions.

The Alder wood generates a sweet, delicate smoke that blends well with brisket, vegetables, chicken, and many more. Alder burns slowly hence giving your brisket a sweet flavor.

Wood Sizes

There are a variety of wood sizes and shapes you can use to smoke your brisket. Let’s have a look at the different sizes one can go for.

Wood Logs

Wood logs are the size of choice one goes for if they need wood fire to smoke your brisket. Acquiring a quality log is extremely hard.

If you get a chance of getting one quality log, you will be able to smoke a brisket most effectively.

Wood Chunks

Wood chunks are great especially if you are using an offset smoker or a charcoal grill.

You only require a handful of them and you will effectively smoke your brisket. They are available in different flavors and blend very well with charcoal.

Wood Chips

Wood chips are ideal especially if you are smoking in a charcoal grill or electric smokers that are smaller in size and have no room to fit chunks.

They burn with ease and are easy to work with. They are available in different flavors.

Tips for Choosing Your Wood

  • Choose hardwoods like oak, maple, or hickory for the best flavor.
  • Avoid softwoods like pine, cedar, or fir, as they will produce a strong, unpleasant flavor.
  • If you’re not sure which type of wood to use, ask the staff at your local hardware store or lumber yard which one they would recommend. They’ll be able to give you a better idea as to which type of wood is best for your particular taste or the rub/seasoning you are using.
  • Different woods burn with different heat levels, so try a few different options and see what suits your style.
  • Different woods produce different sized coals, so mix it up. Try a combination of wood chips and chunks to get that ideal coal size for your particular taste or rub/seasoning you are using.
  • If you live in an area where finding wood is easy, buy extra. You can store the wood in a cool dry place until you need it. In areas where finding wood is more difficult, try looking for branches off of fruit trees as they tend to produce a lot of great flavor and burn at a high heat level.
  • Different woods have different densities. Try a mix of denser woods like oak and maple with some lighter woods like apple or cherry for your firewood. This will create a more even heat and less hot and cold spots in your smoker.
  • Many people like to use wood chips, and it’s easy to get them at hardware stores or discount department stores. These are flavored for grilling purposes, so you can still get that great barbecue flavor while grilling hamburgers or hot dogs.
  • You can use a blend of chips and chunks in order to get a variety in sizes for your different types of coals.

What Wood is Bad for Smoking?


Conifers woods contains a high level of terpenes and sap. They will make your meat taste odd and can make you sick. Such trees include cedar cypress, pine spruce, fir, and redwood.

Well, cedar planks are widely used for cooking salmon as a cooking vessel, not as smoking wood or direct heat source.

Avoid Eucalyptus, liquid amber, elm, and sycamore, as they give your food a bad flavor.

Chemically Treated Wood

Never use chemically treated wood in your smoking. They contain harmful chemicals that get in the meat as they burn.

When you eat such meat, the toxins go into your body. This will lead you to the hospital.

Chemically treated wood includes pallets and wood scraps from furniture manufacturers. Wood pallets are more dangerous as they are treated with chemicals and sometimes used to carry poisonous chemicals.

Even when you know type chemicals are safe, the smoke will spread a negative flavor to your meat.

Painted or Stained Wood

Painted and stained wood gives a bitter taste to the meat. Just like the chemically treated wood, paints may contain lead which is harmful to humans.

Wood Containing Toxins

Naturally, there are woods known to contain toxins. These woods should not be part of your smoking wood.

As the wood burn, the toxins end up on your meat making you sick after eating. Such wood includes yew, mangrove, oleander, poisonous walnut, laburnum, sassafras, and tambootie.

Moldy Wood

Wood decays with time and as time goes, it gets covered by mold or fungi. When you burn such a block of wood in your smoker, the meat will have a nasty taste.

Furthermore, the toxins pose a health threat to your body. You can still use a proper wood with fungus if only you preborn it before using it in the smoker.


Greenwood includes freshly cut trees, not dried enough or not seasoned.

Even if you use the correct wood, you will have a different smoke taste. This is because green wood contains more sap compared to seasoned or dried wood.

Unknown Wood

If you are not sure of the type of wood, do not use it. Only use wood that you are sure is safe for smoking.

Is Pecan Wood Good For Smoking Brisket?

Pecan is subtle, giving a sweet and nutty flavor. Use it together with a strong flavor wood to avoid having overly sweet brisket.

For people who love sweet brisket, pecan wood is a great choice. It burns slowly, making it perfect for low heat smoking that is suitable for briskets.

Especially for beginners, it will be hard to over-smoke the brisket with pecan wood.

Is Applewood Ideal For Smoking?

Applewood is known to give a fruity, sweet flavor to your brisket. It is a great choice to smoke your pork, beef, fish, and chicken. It has a mild flavor and may take time for the meat to absorb the full flavor.

For this reason, you need to smoke the food slowly. Applewood stands out in the smoking woods.

Not only does it make the food delicious but also does not soot the food. This is because it has a low resin concentration.

How Many Chunks of Wood Does it Take to Smoke a Brisket?

The size and type of your smoker and the size of the brisket will determine how many chunks of wood you will use.

Some smokers have offset smokers and, you need to maintain the heat as the wood is the main source. Some smokers conserve heat making the brisket cook fast.

Considering some wood is meant for slow smoking, there will be a difference in the amount of wood used compared to average smoking temperatures.

On average, you can use about 10 ounces with some additional for your brisket to be ready.

How Often do You Add Wood Chunks to a Smoker?

Different factors determine the number of times you add chunk wood to a smoker. The first thing is the size of the smoker.

You can have a larger smoker that burns wood faster and needs more additions than a small smoker.

In the same sense, you can have a small smoker consuming chunk wood quickly and need extra addition before the meat is ready. With a big smoker, it requires one round chunk of wood to do all the smoking.

The Type of Smoking

Slow smoking involves slow-burning chunks and you may need less chunk as compared to regular smoking, which may require several additionals before the meat is ready.

The type of wood also determines the times you will add chunk wood to your smoker. Some wood will burn faster than others.

The type and amount of food that need smoking varies.

Smoking vegetables take less time than smoking beef. You can smoke vegetables within the first round but you need some additional time when smoking beef.

The amount of food you need to smoke will determine how much wood you need and how often to add.

Also, some food can be smoked together though the size of the smoker will come to play.

Final Thoughts

We all would love to smoke a brisket in our home or backyard. The challenge comes in knowing the right kind of wood to use.

Well, with the help of this article, you will find the best wood for smoking brisket. You can choose any of the above and enjoy your barbecuing experience.

Bobby Johnson

When he's not writing about barbecue, you can find Bobby smoking meat for friends and family. He's been a backyard pitmaster for roughly half his life, and has worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands-on guide to teach them BBQ, but that's what Bobby hopes to do with Electric Smoker HQ. He wants to help people create amazing food that they can be proud of.