Best Wood for smoke brisket

by | Feb 7, 2023 | Barbecue, Smoker | 0 comments

An important step to making delicious brisket is to choose the right kind of meat for smoking your wood. The type of wood you use, and its wood size are very important for getting the best smoke flavor out of your brisket! 

As it is, smoking meat is a difficult job that requires a lot of time and effort, so when you pick the right wood, you cut down on half the job.

Some of the best wood choices to smoke brisket with a robust flavor are pecan wood, hickory wood, oak wood, and maple wood. 

For a lighter flavoring, fruity ones like apple or cherry wood are great for giving a sweet and smoky taste to your brisket. 

There is more to using the right kind of wood to smoke brisket and this article shall discuss all the pros and cons of wood available to use when smoking brisket. Read on to know more!

7 Best Wood To Use For Smoking Brisket

When I was an amateur, I used to believe that wood doesn’t affect the cooking process. But, to my surprise, I later found out that wood is part of the cooking process and is not there just to create fire! 

When you use different types of wood for smoking, you also get a particular flavor on the meat that is unique to the wood you use. 

There are different ways to smoke brisket – either making it moist, crispy, and smoky through the smoking process or braising it to have a beefy flavor and stewed texture. The wood also blends with the rub, so have to pick both so that they complement each other. 

Some of my most-preferred wood for brisket smoke are listed below. Take a look at them and you might find a wood that best fits your taste. 

  1. Hickory Wood (Best)

Hickory is one of the most popular wood types used for barbecue and brisket smoking. It gives the meat a nutty flavor that is comparatively less strong than mesquite leaving behind an oaky taste. This slightly stronger flavor wood type makes for a great backup plan due to its wide availability. 

It’s also affordable, and can always be mixed with other wood. Take into account that you should not go overboard with hickory wood as it tends to overpower meat at times and might leave the brisket bitter. Some pitmasters use this quality to achieve a balanced flavor with sweeter variants like apple wood. 

Another drawback of hickory wood is that it has a more pungent flavor to it which might not suit everyone’s taste. It also emits dense smoke, which is great for thoroughly smoking tough meat like brisket, making hickory the most favorable wood to choose to smoke a brisket.

This characteristic also comes in handy when you want to smoke your brisket fast. Simply throw in some oak and hickory chips together and the meat would be smoked in about 2 – 3 hours. 

  1. Mesquite Wood

Mesquite is another wood that has become popular as a smoking wood for cooking brisket. It is more commonly used as a wood for making Texas-style barbecue. It produces a pungent smoke when you cook brisket on it and gives the meat a robust flavor that cooks it to the core as it burns quickly. 

If you want to smoke a brisket that tastes similar to a Texas Barbecue, this is the wood to go for. 

As per my experience, I have found that using mesquite wood is not very beginner-friendly. So, you will have to know how to smoke it. Otherwise, adding mild wood like oak or maple might also help balance out the smoke flavor. 

  1. Cherry Wood 

Cherry wood is another mild wood that gives a sweet and smoky flavor to the brisket which can be paired with other hard wood to balance the taste. It is also known for giving the meat a slightly red color which wears off from the color of the wood itself. 

If the presentation of your brisket is an important factor at the moment, you can certainly use cherry wood to make the meat appear richer. Trust me, it has made my brisket look beautiful. 

This flavored wood can be used in two ways – pairing it up with hardwood to maintain a balance, or mixing it with a mild wood like apple to tenderize the meat and enhance the savory taste. 

  1. Pecan Wood

For those who prefer a mild smoky flavor to their brisket, pecan makes for a great option as it is a wood that produces a light smoke that gives the meat a savory and nutty flavor. 

People who like their brisket sweet will enjoy the flavor cherry wood brings as it complements all kinds of sauces and side dishes. 

Pecan wood is great for roasting meat like pork or beef ribs as it creates the sweet and nutty flavor people desire. To smoke a brisket using pecan, I suggest that you mix the wood with some kind of hardwood like oak.

  1. Post Oak Wood

Post oak is a type of wood that works as the safest choice for smoking meat as it works well with every variant, but in particular, beef brisket. 

The wood smoke is much cleaner than other wood choices and the meat cooks well with a mild, smoky flavor that never has a risk of overpowering that of the meat. 

Oakwood can burn for a long duration with mild smoke but can also go up to higher temperatures, making it the most efficient wood to smoke a brisket. It is also great for mixing with other wood chips as it can allow cooking for a long time, letting the other flavor of the wood sink in as well. 

For beginners at smoking brisket, it would be easiest to use oak as it does not need to be observed at all times. Since oak has cleaner smoke, it is also very easy to experiment with. 

Some professionals like to mix oak with stronger wood chips like hickory and pecan to attain a complete flavor profile. 

  1. Maple Wood 

Another beginner-friendly wood for smoking brisket is maple, which is a mild wood that gives out a light smoke and sweet flavor to your meat. It goes well with brisket, as well as all kinds of other meat, always having consistent smokiness and sweetness in flavoring the meat. 

If you are looking to make brisket that tastes closest to its original flavor without too much smokiness or added enhancers, then maple wood will be the perfect pick for you. 

  1. Apple Wood

Applewood is a great smoking wood for brisket as it can give a very subtle and sweet tinge to your meat. There will also be hints of fruitiness that suit other meats like turkey and chicken as well. Though it produces a lot of smoke, it is intense and seeps deep into the brisket to give it a sweet characteristic. 

Most people do not use applewood singularly but like to mix it with other wood to produce a balanced flavor of your brisket. 

Choosing The Best Woodcuts To Smoke Brisket

Apart from the type of wood you pick to smoke your brisket, picking a particular size also contributes to the making of quality brisket. Wood for smoking brisket comes either as pellets, chips, wood chunks, or logs, and different pieces of wood have varying effects. 

Your brisket will get cooked according to the size of wood you are using. Larger pieces like wooden logs burn for a long time while smaller pieces like wood chips go out quickly, and are only suited for cooking meat cuts. 

Following are the four types of woodcuts and how you can use them when you’re smoking a brisket. 

  1. Pellets

Wood pellets are basically sawdust that was recycled and turned into the shape they are in. They are normally made completely out of hardwood and are 100% natural, so when you put them on the grill, you get clean smoke that can flavor the meat to have a subtle oaky, wood flavor. 

  1. Chips

Wood chips (about ¼ inch thick and 1 inch long) are slightly larger than pellets and are shavings and wood scraps that are easily available but do not smoke for long. Best suited for gas or electric smokers, they burn quickly and are great for flavoring small cuts of brisket.

  1. Chunks

Wood chunks are slightly larger, rectangular pieces of wood (up to 4 inches in size) that are normally mixed in with charcoal. 

They last for a long time, perfect for larger meat as they can keep burning for hours and have your brisket smoked thoroughly. In offset smokers, wood chunks are usually mixed with charcoal so that they can burn slowly for a long time. 

  1. Logs

Wood logs are one of the larger-size wood options (up to 18 inches in size) that are great for the long hours of cooking brisket. They work best for offset smokers since they become the source of both heat and smoke. 

Different Flavor Profiles Of Wood To Smoke Brisket – Quick Overview

The following are some of the flavors you can achieve through the popular wood types we have discussed in the article. 

Type of WoodFlavor
Hickory WoodHickory will give your brisket a robust flavor that will be strong and heavily smoked. 
The meat gets a nutty flavor which is often compared to bacon and has a more intense flavor than oak or pecan. 
Mesquite WoodMesquite also produces a lot of smoke and an intense flavor like hickory, but it burns quickly, so the meat is left with an earthy flavor. Best for smoking a brisket Texas-style. 
Cherry WoodBeing a mild wood, cherry gives a light smokiness to the brisket without ever overpowering the flavor. 
Instead, it adds a tinge of sweetness and a redder color to your meat, making it great for culinary presentations. 
Pecan WoodPecan leaves behind a nutty and sweet flavor that does not best suit the flavor of brisket. 
Ideally, it should be paired with stronger wood like oak or hickory to avoid the meat being inappropriately sweet. 
Oak WoodOak is the easiest to work with for beginners, and has a clean, mild smoke that burns for long durations. 
Even its temperature is easy to control and can reach higher limits. When in a rush, you can always mix hickory and oak if you want to finish smoking a brisket within just 2 to 3 hours. 
Maple WoodMaple leaves behind a slightly sweet and smoky flavor, not doing much for the brisket, or enhancing it in any way. 
Not the best choice for primary smoking, but will work as a good substitute. 
Apple WoodApple is also a wood that leaves behind a tinge of sweetness on your brisket, and can easily pair up with other wood to give the meat a fuller flavor. 

Lastly, if none of the mentioned alternative woods are available to smoke your brisket, a last go-to option would be olive wood. 

Similar to oak, it does not have a large flavor profile and is one of the milder alternatives that simply smokes the brisket without enhancing it particularly. 

Related Questions

  1. How Do Professionals Smoke Brisket? 

Professionals usually choose to cook brisket by slow-smoking it at 250 Degrees Fahrenheit and letting it sit for at least 1 hour of cooking time for every pound of meat. 

  1. What Wood Is Used For Texas Brisket?

Mesquite is the best wood for smoking brisket Texas style as it has a damp, pungent smell that gives the meat an intense flavor. 

  1. What Wood Should You Not Smoke With?

Generally, you should avoid smoking with wood that contains a high level of sap and terpenes like redwood, cedar, pine, cypress, fir, and spruce which can result in the meat having a funny flavor. 

Final Thoughts

Different wood brings out their unique flavors when cooking brisket depending on what you want your brisket to taste like. 

Overall, hickory is a great choice as a constant or go-to wood to smoke brisket as it balances out the flavor of the meat and is easy to grill the meat on. 

At the end of the day, choosing the best wood for smoking brisket is a matter of personal preference. Hence, if you are new to smoking meat, don’t hesitate to experiment and find your own personal pick – that’s what I did! 




Colin has been grilling, smoking, and barbecuing in his yard for as long as he remembers.  His favorite dish is pork belly smoked on his favorite offset smoker. Read more about Colin here.


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