Many different factors go into making the perfect brisket—the meat itself, the seasoning, and of course, the smoking process. Choosing the right wood is critical to making that perfect smoked brisket. There are a lot of different woods you could use for smoking brisket, but not all of them are created equal for the bold flavor of this meat. So, what’s the best wood for smoking brisket? Let’s review your options.
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Your best option: Hickory wood
Hickory wood is, in our book, the best wood for smoking brisket because it has a robust, smoky flavor that can stand up to the bold taste of brisket. There’s an earthy and slightly nutty flavor here, too, that pairs very well with smoked meats as a whole. Think of it as a bacon-like flavor, as hickory is the wood smoke used for bacon.
Plus, hickory is a very dense wood, so it burns slowly and evenly. That slow, even burn is important because it allows the smoke to penetrate the meat deeply and evenly, resulting in a more flavorful beef brisket.
While hickory is the best wood for smoking brisket, oak wood is a close second. Oak has a slightly milder, less nuanced flavor than hickory, so it won’t overpower the taste of the meat. But it’s still strong enough to give the brisket a nice full-on smoked flavor. Like hickory, oak is a dense wood that burns slowly and evenly.
If you’re looking for a milder smoky flavor, apple wood is a good option. The taste of apple wood is very subtle – think of it as a subtler hickory flavor with an underlying sweet flavor. That sweetness is what makes apple wood an excellent alternative here. Among fruit woods, it’s known to be the sweetest.
Cherry is another good option for those who want a milder smoke flavor. The flavor of cherry wood is similar to apple wood – it has a subtly sweet, fruity flavor with a hint of smokiness. However, cherry wood is a bit softer than apple wood, so it doesn’t burn as evenly. It also burns rather quickly, so be prepared with plenty of wood chips to keep the smoke at a sustainable level.
The added benefit of cherry wood is the color of the meat post-smoking. It imbues the smoked meat with rich red color, which, to many, is very tasty.
Maple is an excellent option if you’re looking for a milder flavor. The flavor of maple wood is similar to cherry and apple – mildly sweet with a hint of smokiness. Maple, in fact, is a terrific option for cutting with other woods on this list to add a little nuance to the smoke.
If you’re looking for a bolder smoke flavor, mesquite is where to turn. The taste of mesquite wood is robust – it’s the boldest smoke of all the woods on this list. However, because it’s such a bold-tasting wood, mesquite can easily overpower the taste of the meat. So use it sparingly and keep an eye on the smoke level to avoid making your brisket too “smoky” tasting.
You could also cut your mesquite with hickory or a soft wood like apple or cherry to cut back on the overall smoky flavor.
Must-read related posts
- Our Smoking Woods Guide: Learn about the different types of woods for smoking, plus tips on their use.
- How To Get Smoky Flavor Off The Grill: There are spices that can provide smokiness when you don’t have traditional options.
- How To Use Liquid Smoke For The Best Flavor: You can get surprising results when used right!