From Cherry to Oak: Finding the 7 Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

Hello there! If you’re a fan of juicy and flavorful barbecue ribs, then you know the secret to making them truly unique is in the smoke. But did you know that the type of wood you use can significantly impact the flavor and aroma of your ribs? From the classic hickory to the fruity and sweet applewood, each type of wood can bring a unique and delicious twist to your ribs. 

Let’s talk about the 7 Best Wood for Smoking Ribs and which one might be the best choice for your next cookout!

Adding smoke flavor to ribs is a classic technique used by pitmasters and grillers alike. Wood smoke’s smoky flavor on ribs can take them to the next level, elevating their taste and aroma. Here, we’ll discuss why adding smoke flavor to ribs is worth the extra effort and some of its benefits.

  • Enhances the Flavor: Smoking ribs adds an extra layer of flavor to the meat you can’t get with other cooking methods. The smoke from the wood infuses into the meat, giving it a unique taste that is rich, complex, and often savory.
  • Creates a Distinct Aroma: The aroma of smoking ribs is almost as enticing as the taste. As the wood smokes, it releases a distinctive smell that can fill your backyard with an inviting, mouth-watering aroma.
  • Adds Moisture: Smoking ribs can help keep them moist and tender. As the meat smokes, the water evaporates, and the smoke helps to lock in the moisture, preventing it from drying out.
  • Reduces Fat: The slow and low cooking process of smoking ribs can also help reduce the fat content of the meat. The fat melts away during the cooking process, leaving you with tender and juicy ribs that are lower in fat.
  • Provides Versatility: Smoking ribs allows you to experiment with different types of woods and flavors, giving you endless possibilities to create unique and delicious meals. Different woods can give the ribs different flavor profiles, allowing you to tailor the taste to your preference.
  • Fun and Social: Smoking ribs is a fun and social activity that can bring family and friends together. It’s a great way to spend a summer afternoon or evening enjoying the outdoors and the company of loved ones. Plus, waiting for the meat to smoke and cook creates a sense of excitement and anticipation.

To wrap things up, adding smoke flavor to ribs is a fantastic way to enhance their flavor and make them even more delicious. Whether you prefer the solid and bold flavors of hickory or the subtle, fruity notes of apple wood, there is a wood that can perfectly complement your ribs. 

Just remember to avoid certain woods with overpowering or unpleasant tastes, and experiment with different wood types to find the one that suits your taste best. With some practice and patience, you can create mouth-watering, smoky ribs that will have everyone coming back for seconds.

Best Wood for Smoking Ribs – Buyer’s Guide with Product Recommendations

There are a good number of types of wood available in the market to smoke ribs, but are we gonna consider them all? No, not all of them deserve even a try.

Our goal here is to get delicious tasting smoked ribs, and a general rule for selecting wood for that purpose which many smokers follow is – H.O.M.E – Hickory, Oak, Mesquite, and Everything else.

To get the best of hickory, mesquite, oak, or any other wood for that matter, buying from any name manufacturer is not the wisest option. Not all of them maintain the quality of any given wood.

Here’s our tire-wise list of recommended manufacturers for every wood type we discussed so far – 

Tire 1: The Absolute Best Type of Wood for Smoking Ribs

Hickory is hands down, is considered as the best wood for smoking rib roast by a large number of pit masters. It’s known for its strong bacon-like, sweet & smoke flavor that makes the rib taste delicious. And it’s one strong wood that emits a lot of smoke with a rich aroma.

To get the best of hickory, the Traeger 100% all-natural hickory wood will be our top choice which is trusted by numerous other smokers as well. You’ll get the essence of hickory just when you open that bag – the smell will say it all.

This wood provides an admirable burn time without you having to babysit the smoker too often. It’s sourced and processed completely in the USA and 100% all-natural hardwood having no fillers or binding agents. 

It’ll add that pure hardwood, strong and earthy bacon-like flavor to everything you grill or smoke.

This wood is formulated scientifically with the right amount of moisture content in order to achieve the perfect blue smoke and a clean burn.


If you crown the hickory as the king, you have to consider the oak as the fairer Queen. Alongside hickory, oak has been another go-to wood choice of top smokers for delicious tasting BBQ smoking.

Oak is known for its earthy aroma and infusion of smoky flavor in the meat. Its versatility is unmatched and it’s a tad less strong than the hickory which makes it a great wood for grilling over a longer period of time without overshooting and getting a bitter taste.

For the best oak wood for smoking ribs, we have the Post Oak BBQ Smoking Chips from Western’s premium BBQ product line. This is a heat-treated wood so there are no pests, mold, or rot.

Every pack contains 180 cubic Inches of large-sized oak chips for smoking. This oak will taste particularly delicious with Sirloin or Filets, Braised Brisket, Salmon or Trout, and Pork Loin.

It produces a basic and clean smoke that infuses the earthy aroma and taste of your meat. The burn time is above-average. This can be used both with charcoal, electric, and gas smokers.

Here’s a bonus tip: Mix this wood with hickory in a 1:1 ratio to taste some exquisitely delicious smoked ribs.

As a self-proclaimed grilling enthusiast, I’ve been hunting for the perfect wood chips to take my smoking game to the next level. That’s why I was excited to try out Oklahoma Joe’s Mesquite Wood Smoker Chips, and I’m happy to say they didn’t disappoint. These chips are ideal for adding a strong, earthy flavor to dark and red meats.

One of the things that stood out to me about these wood chips is their versatility. Whether you’re using a smoker or a grill, they can be easily added to your setup and work well with electric, gas, or charcoal grills. I’ve used them on all types of grills, and they delivered consistent and delicious results each time.

What I appreciated most about these wood chips was their all-natural composition. As a health-conscious person, I appreciate products that are free from artificial additives, and these chips fit the bill. The 2-pound bag also provides plenty of chips for multiple cookouts, making them a great value.

Overall, I highly recommend Oklahoma Joe’s Mesquite Wood Smoker Chips to any grilling or smoking enthusiast looking for an easy and effective way to infuse their meats with a bold and smoky flavor.

Pecan compliments hickory really well and these two together are a great combination to use to get mild and nutty flavors to your ribs. It has a nutty smell to it, a little bit like hickory, and it mixes really well with fruit-wood.

This pecan wood pack from Weber works particularly great with gas grills to extract the flavor to the fullest. This wood will make beef and pork taste amazing. Pecan is one of the best wood for smoking pork ribs particularly.

Pure pecan is known to have a strong flavor profile and tends to overpower the natural flavor of the meat often when not mixed with any other wood. However, this bag, having quite a good amount of chips instead of all-chunks, seems to compensate for that by adding less strong flavor. 

I’m sure that’s again cutting a corner to keep the price lower, but this time it seems to bring something good onto the table – I’ll take that.

Tier 2: Best Fruit Wood for Smoking Ribs

When we’re talking fruitwoods, in particular, Apple has to come first. Apple woods are known to add a mild and sweet flavor to your meat which will make your dine refreshing.

For our choice of Apple wood chunks, we have the Oklahoma Joe’s offering. It’s made of all-natural wood chunks with minimal bark and ideal for adding fruity flavor to pork and poultry.

The best result can be yielded when used in charcoal grills and smoked slowly for a long time. The sweet tone it’ll infuse has to be admired.

Try mixing this with some other earthy-flavored woods if you don’t have that sweet tooth in particular and enjoy the smokiness more over sweetish tone. However, my only complaint is that you’ll get a little less amount of wood than the stated 8 lbs. for the package – a quality control issue.

Cherry is another favorite wood type of many pit masters to infuse that fruity flavor but more importantly, that mahogany hue that it brings to the meat which makes it visually much more appealing. 

However, cherry falls on the lighter side in terms of strength, and keeping that in mind, it’s considered as one of the best wood for smoking prime rib as stronger woods tend to overpower them.

And the Western Premium Cherry Wood pack for BBQ is our choice of cherry wood to get the best of it.

Unlike a few other offerings from Weber, this wood pack will not let you complain about the quality. The package has lovely fist-size pure wood chunks, no chips, with bare minimum bark.

Due to the ideal size of the wood chunks, the burn time is simply impressive – one pack will serve you for many weekends to come.

The wood is heat-treated, so it’ll not rot when stored for more than a while and will prevent mold and pests. They’re usable with charcoal grills, electric and gas smokers as well as personal and larger smokers. 

If you can’t wait for the delicious look on your meat with a fruity tone of flavor to it, you can’t get any better cherry wood than this. 

Tier 3: Commonly used in a Blend Or As a Compliment

Maple is best used with hard woods like hickory and oak and is known for adding a very subtle sweet and mild flavor to your meat. To do that job best, we’ll suggest the Maple wood pack from the Western Premium BBQ products range.

The core reason why we had to suggest their wood quite a few times now is the quality they maintain.

First off, Western heat treats all their wood to prevent mold and pests and also not to catch rot when the woods are kept unused for more than a while, which is very likely to happen to us as life doesn’t allow us to have a nice BBQ party every other weekend.

Then, when they say chunks, they mean chunks, same goes for chips. 

This wood will yield great results in terms of bringing a nice aroma and subtle fruity flavor to your meat when mixed with other hardwood. It can be used with different types of smokers – charcoal, gas, or electric.

However, this package is particularly wood ‘chips’, which you can consider as one of the best wood chips for ribs.

Woods You Want to Avoid

While many types of woods work well for smoking ribs, there are some that you should avoid due to their solid flavors or other qualities. Here are some woods to be cautious of when smoking ribs:

  • Cedar: This wood has a strong and distinct flavor that can easily overpower your rib’s taste. It is best to use this wood sparingly or avoid it altogether.
  • Pine has a high resin content that can create a bitter taste and give off an unpleasant aroma when burned. It is best to avoid this wood when smoking ribs.
  • Eucalyptus: While this wood can be used for smoking, it has a strong, almost medicinal flavor that can be overpowering. It is best to use this wood sparingly or blend it with other woods for a milder taste.
  • Redwood: This wood has a strong, resinous flavor that can give your ribs an unpleasant taste. It is best to avoid using redwood for smoking.
  • Cypress: Cypress wood contains a high amount of sap, which can leave a bitter taste on your meat and produce excessive smoke.
  • Redwood: This wood can be harmful when burned, as it contains compounds known to cause cancer.
  • Elm: Elm wood can produce a very bitter taste and is also known to cause allergic reactions in some people.
  • Fir: Fir wood can produce a lot of smoke and leave a gummy taste on your meat, which is undesirable.
  • Sycamore: Sycamore wood can also leave a bitter taste on your meat and produces a lot of smoke, making it difficult to control the flavor.

It is important to remember that different woods will give your ribs different flavors, and it is up to personal preference to determine what tastes good to you. However, by avoiding the woods mentioned above, you can ensure that you don’t end up with ribs that have an overpowering or unpleasant taste.

Wood Chunks vs Wood Chips

When it comes to smoking meat, one of the most significant decisions you’ll need to make is whether to use wood chunks or wood chips. While both types of wood can add flavor to your meat, they each have their unique benefits and drawbacks. Here are some critical differences between wood chunks and wood chips:

Wood Chunks

  • Wood chunks are more significant pieces of wood, typically 2-3 inches in size. 
  • They burn more slowly than wood chips, which is ideal for long, slow cooks. 
  • They produce a more consistent smoke, which helps to create a more even and intense flavor. 
  • They are easier to handle and load into your smoker or grill than more minor wood chips. 
  • They can be more expensive than wood chips. 

Wood Chips

  • Wood chips are smaller pieces of wood, typically around the size of a quarter or smaller. 
  • They burn more quickly than wood chunks, which is ideal for shorter cooks. 
  • They are great for adding bursts of flavor, as they burn up quickly and produce a quick burst of smoke. 
  • They can be easier to find and are often less expensive than wood chunks. 
  • They can be messier to handle than wood chunks, as they can fall through grill grates or smoker boxes.

Ultimately, the decision between using wood chunks or wood chips will come from personal preference and the type of meat you are smoking. If you are doing a long, slow cook, wood chunks may be the better choice.

Wood chips may be the way to go if you want to add quick bursts of flavor to your meat. Either way, using high-quality, all-natural wood will help to ensure that your meat is perfectly flavored and delicious.

Few Expert Tips for You

Smoking ribs is a delicious and rewarding way to prepare meat, but choosing the right type of wood can make all the difference in achieving the perfect flavor. Here are some expert tips to keep in mind when selecting the best wood for smoking ribs:

Choose a Complementary Wood

 One of the most important considerations when selecting the best wood for smoking ribs is to choose a type of wood that complements the flavor of the meat. Different woods produce different flavors, and certain types of wood work better with specific types of meat. 

For example, fruit woods like apple and cherry pair well with pork, while hickory and mesquite work well with beef and other red meats. Consider the flavor profile of the meat you are smoking and choose a wood complementing it. 

Consider the Intensity of the Smoke Flavor

 Another important consideration when selecting the best wood for smoking ribs is the intensity of the smoke flavor. Some woods, like mesquite, can produce a strong and sometimes overpowering flavor, while others, like apple or pecan, provide a milder smoke. 

If you’re new to smoking ribs, starting with milder wood is an excellent idea to avoid overwhelming the meat with too much smoke. Over time, you can experiment with different types of wood to find the perfect balance of flavor. 

Soak Your Wood Chips or Chunks

 To ensure consistency and even smoke, it’s a good idea to soak your wood chips or chunks in water before using them. It will help the wood to smoke more slowly and evenly and prevent it from catching fire and burning too quickly. Soak the wood for at least 30 minutes before using it to smoke ribs. 

Don’t Use Too Much Wood

 Using too much wood can result in an over-smoked, bitter flavor. It’s essential to use just enough wood to provide a subtle smoky flavor without overpowering the taste of the meat. Generally, use no more than two or three wood chunks or a handful of wood chips at a time.

Experiment with Different Combinations of Woods

Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations of woods to find the perfect flavor profile for your smoked ribs. Mixing different types of wood can result in unique and exciting flavor profiles, so don’t be afraid to get creative and try out different combinations. 

Just be sure to start with small amounts of wood and gradually add more as you experiment. With these expert tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to achieving perfectly smoked and delicious ribs.

Meet the Smoking Ribs Gurus: A Look into the Experts Behind the Art

Many experts in the smoking ribs market are well-known for their expertise and knowledge in the industry. Here are a few notable smoking ribs experts:

Aaron Franklin is a renowned pitmaster and the owner of Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas. He has won multiple awards for his ribs, and his restaurant is considered one of the best BBQ joints in the country.

Myron Mixon is a four-time world barbecue champion and a celebrity chef who has appeared on numerous TV shows. He is also the author of several books on smoking and BBQ, including “Smokin’ with Myron Mixon: Recipes Made Simple, from the Winningest Man in Barbecue.”

Tuffy Stone is a competition BBQ pitmaster, a judge on the TV show “BBQ Pitmasters,” and the owner of several restaurants in Virginia. He has won numerous awards for his ribs and is known for his expertise in using different woods and spices to create unique flavors.

Chris Lilly is the vice president of Big Bob Gibson BBQ, a legendary BBQ joint in Alabama. He has won numerous awards for his ribs. He is also the author of the cookbook “Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book: Recipes and Secrets from a Legendary Barbecue Joint.”

Danielle “Diva Q” Bennett is a BBQ pitmaster and a TV personality who has appeared on shows such as “BBQ Crawl” and “Chopped Canada.” She has won numerous awards for her ribs. She is also the author of the cookbook “Diva Q’s Barbecue: 195 Recipes for Cooking with Family, Friends & Fire.”

These experts have years of experience and knowledge in smoking ribs. Their tips and techniques can be precious for both beginners and experienced pitmasters.

Best Wood for Smoking Ribs - Wrap Up

If you’re with me till now, I’d be brave enough to assume that you understand woods now. But if the number of options overwhelms you (likely to happen), I’d say stick with hickory and oak, or mesquite for your primary wood.

They simply are the best wood for smoking ribs and their strong earthy flavor can’t be beaten. If you’ve ever tasted a piece of rib taste of which you can still recall and cherish, strong chances are they were smoked by any of the three or a mix of them.

The other types of wood might be worth trying when you’ve got a handful of experience of smoking and you want to try something new. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Soak My Wood before smoking ribs?

This could be a debatable topic. Many will tell you to do so, many will forbid. If you trust my words as an expert, my suggestion would be to do so, and my decision is science-backed.

I always soak my wood because according to science, the water content will be helping to release the flavor of the wood better when you smoke. It’ll also help the wood to burn slowly and for longer, which you know that I prefer to give my ribs the best flavor and taste. 

Prior to smoking, soak your wood for 30 minutes in clean water, wipe away the excess liquid and then throw them into the smoker to burn.

How long should I smoke ribs for?

It depends on two factors – the temperature and the weight of the rib.

The ideal temperature to smoke ribs is within 225 to 250 F. You can use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the meat which ideally needs to be around 130 F in the center.

Considering that you’ve achieved this feat, the next question is the weight. You need to smoke for around 35 minutes for every pound of rib. Usually, a family-sized rib weighs somewhere between 10-15 pounds.

Say you have got a 10-pound rib in your hand to cook, you’ll need to smoke for a good five hours at least to get a medium roast on your rib.

You also need a make time for a 15-minute-high-sear right at the end. This period will help to achieve a good exterior crust.

Should I wrap my ribs in foil?

Wrapping the rib in the foil yields benefits from multiple aspects. If you like the natural reddish hue of the meat, the wrapping in foil will help to retain that color as less smoke will be reaching the surface of the meat directly. 

Wrapping also helps to retain the moisture in the meat and keep them juicy, while preventing them from drying out in the smoker. It could speed up the cooking process as well.

You could also take the help of wrapping to infuse your ribs with added flavor. You can add liquid like beer or apple juice inside the foil and the vapor created from that will add that extra layer of flavor to your meat.

So you see, wrapping helps!

When should I add my wood chunks or chips?

When you’re smoking using a charcoal grill, you want to wait till the charcoal has died and ready to grill. Then you may add your wood chunks or chips directly into it. Don’t add them prior to the time you can get started with the actual grilling process, otherwise, you’ll be wasting smoke.

For a vertical gas smoker, allow it to reach the desired temperature and then add your chunks or chips. Allow the smoke to start developing and then get going with the grilling process.

Picture of Z Hashan

Z Hashan

Hi, my name is Z Hashan, and I’m passionate about smoking the best BBQ. There’s nothing more satisfying than cooking a delicious piece of BBQ and seeing the joy on people’s faces while they have a bite of it.

Picture of Z Hashan

Z Hashan

Hi, my name is Z Hashan, and I’m passionate about smoking the best BBQ. There’s nothing more satisfying than cooking a delicious piece of BBQ and seeing the joy on people’s faces while they have a bite of it.

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