Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

This is our review of the best wood for smoking ribs for 2022 to help you select the pairing for your next barbeque. 

Best Wood for Smoking Ribs
Best Wood for Smoking Ribs Review

One of the best ways to cook ribs is smoking. The art of smoking and barbequing involves balancing many variables. Then, as you master the basic variables, you can start adding more layers in your journey to pitmaster. One of these extra variables is mastering wood types. Adding wood to your barbeque process adds a completely new layer of taste and sophistication. 

But what is the best wood for smoking ribs? There are so many options that it seems easy to select the wrong one. Don’t worry! We have tried and researched the best of them to help guide you with this.

Bear in mind that selecting the best wood depends on the flavor profiles you like. Some like a stronger smoke taste rather than a sweeter flavor. Based on our personal preferences, apple wood is the best wood for smoking ribs. As it is a fruit wood, it adds a sweet touch to the ribs without overpowering their natural flavor. Our favorite wood chunks are the Weber Wood Apple Chunks and our favorite wood chips are the Western Premium Wood Chips: Apple. Which ones we chose will depend on the style of ribs we decide on making. We explain this in our buying guide below. 

So let´s take a look at some of the best wood for smoking ribs. We´ll start with our favorites and end up with the traditional go-to woods.

Our Top Picks for Best Wood for Smoking Ribs

Apple: sweet and very mild fruitwood

Peach: light fruity flavor with mild smoke

Cherry: sweet flavor and adds red color to the meat

Pecan: nutty flavor with mild smoke

Maple: sweet and light smoke

Hickory: strong bacon-like flavor and smoke

Oak: earthy aroma with light smoke 

Mesquite: strong, earthy, sweet, and spicy smoke (Southern style)

Why use wood in ribs? 

Most traditional smokers work with charcoal, which is a wonderful fuel. Yet, charcoal doesn´t produce too much smoke. So if you want to add a smoky taste to your food, in this case ribs, you will need to add wood. There are MANY types of woods, so the choices can be overwhelming. However, the beauty of this is that you´ll have a wide range of possibilities to enhance the flavor and aroma of your food in subtle ways.

Best Wood for Smoking Ribs – Top 8 Choices

Here are our reviews for the best wood for smoking ribs. You’ll find our selection from our favorite fruit flavors to the classic go-to smoking woods. 

Apple

Apple is our top choice for the best wood for smoking ribs. It has a sweet note that is perfect for ribs and homemade BBQ sauce. Apple wood will have a very unique aroma and its smoke is subtle so it won’t overpower the meat’s flavor.  It´s no wonder why apple wood is commonly used in rib competitions. 

There is only 1 important consideration. Apple woods only works well if you cook low and slow. The reason is that the wood itself burns slowly, so you need to give extra time for the flavor to be infused into the ribs. If you cook the ribs at a high temperature, then you won’t get much of the apple wood smoke. 

The subtleness of apple wood’s flavor is a great characteristic to use in combination with other stronger woods such as hickory or oak.

Here are our favorite apple wood options: 

Chunks: Weber Wood Apple Chunks

  • Subtle sweet flavor
  • Thoroughly dried
  • 100% natural wood, not coated or treated



Chips: Western Premium Wood Chips: Apple

  • Mild, sweet, smoky flavor
  • Heat treated to eliminate and prevent pests, mold, or rot
  • 100% natural wood



Peach

Peach is our backup pick when smoking ribs. It is not a very common selection, but we really enjoy it. Like other fruit woods, its flavor is on the sweeter and milder end, which combines great with ribs. Along with apple wood, peach is often seen in BBQ rib competitions. 

This wood will burn faster than apple wood, so it can be more convenient to use. The flavor of the smoke won´t be too much, so it’s more forgiving to use than other choices like hickory and mesquite. This same characteristic also makes it a good wood to combine with the stronger flavor woods.

Here are our favorite peach wood options: 

Chunks: Diamond King Wood Chunks: Peach 

  • Stored indoors after harvesting to preserve the moisture and cleanliness
  • Patented drying system to preserve the sugar and remove the free water
  • In the higher price range 



Chips: Western Premium Wood Chips: Peach

  • Mild aroma and sweet flavor
  • Heat-treated
  • 100% natural wood



Cherry

Cherry is like other fruitwoods in that it renders a sweet and mild result, both in smoky flavor and aroma. But it also adds a great extra: color. Smoking ribs with cherry woods will give them a really nice red mahogany touch.

Cherry is also one of the best woods to mix with hardwoods like hickory, mesquite, and oak. The flavors between these woods and cherry complement each other pretty well.

Here are our favorite cherry wood options: 

Chunks: Diamond King Wood Chunks: Cherry

  • Mild and fruity smoke
  • Stored indoors after harvesting to preserve the moisture and cleanliness
  • Patented drying system to preserve the sugar and remove the free water



Chips: Oklahoma Joe’s Cherry Wood Smoker Chips

  • Mild fruity flavor
  • 100% natural wood
  • Good value for money



Pecan

Moving away from the fruitwoods, pecan is a very safe choice for most BBQ meats. Pecan wood is a variety of hickory, but it is milder than hickory. It also has a much sweeter taste, similar to apple wood. This makes it one of the best wood for smoking ribs.

The main difference with apple wood is that the flavor is richer and has a hint of nut. As the wood flavor is stronger, you need to be more careful using pecan than the previous fruitwoods. If you use too much or leave the smoke for too long, you might end up with a little bitter flavor. 

Here are our favorite pecan wood options: 

Chunks: Weber Wood Chunks: Pecan

  • Rich and sweet flavor
  • Thoroughly dried
  • 100% natural wood, not coated or treated



Chips: Western Premium Wood Chips: Pecan

  • Sweet and strong flavor
  • Heat-treated
  • 100% natural wood



Maple

You have probably tasted maple syrup in your ribs at some point. The sweetness of the syrup complements greatly the ribs and BBQ sauce. In a similar way, using maple wood for smoking ribs renders a sweet, light, and smoky taste to ribs. The wood is not strong, so the light results won’t overpower the natural flavor of the ribs.  

As the smoke of maple wood is light, it makes it a good wood for combining with a stronger flavor. Doing so will render a stronger flavor, but with a sweet tone underneath.   

Here are our favorite pecan wood options: 

Chunks: Camerons Wood Chunks: Maple

  • Good size chunks
  • Kiln-dried
  • 100% natural wood



Chips: Western Premium BBQ Chips: Maple

  • Sweet and mild flavor
  • Heat-treated
  • 100% natural wood



Hickory

If you have eaten BBQ in the South or Midwest of the USA, then you have probably tasted something cooked with hickory wood. It is a very traditional wood choice in these regions. 

Most will say hickory is the go-to wood for smoking meat, including ribs. It has a very distinct, bacon-like, and sweet flavor. This combination makes it one of the best wood for smoking ribs. The flavor profile exalts the porky smell and taste of ribs. But it also adds a sweet layer that works beautifully with BBQ sauces.

Having said all this, you need to be careful while using hickory as its flavor is very strong. Take in mind that ribs don’t have too much meat. This means they can easily be overexposed with strong woods. If this happens, the flavor of hickory could overpower the taste of ribs, and can even render a bitter taste. So just keep this in mind and don’t use it too much or for too long. A way to avoid this issue is to combine hickory with a fruitwood, which are milder and sweeter. 

Here are our favorite hickory wood options: 

Chunks: Camerons Wood Chunks: Hickory

  • Good size chunks
  • Kiln-dried
  • 100% natural wood



Chips: Western Premium BBQ Chips: Hickory

  • Sweet and strong flavor
  • Heat-treated
  • 100% natural wood



Oak

Oak is another one of the traditional, go-to woods for BBQ smoking. Like hickory and mesquite, it will have a stronger and richer flavor than fruit woods. However, it will be a milder flavor than hickory or mesquite which are the stronger ones. Oak is also kinder than hickory in that if overexposed, ribs won’t get too much of a bitter taste. Like with other hardwoods, if combined, oak should be paired with fruitwood. The end taste of oak is characterized more by a “woody” flavor. Similar to cherry, another benefit of using oak wood is adding a golden color to the meat.

You may hear or read that oak is a versatile wood. What does this mean? Well, oak can burn for a long time, but it also burns well at high temperatures. This allows you to cook low and slow, but also with other high-temperature techniques. This versatility is a reason why oak is also on our list of the best wood for smoking ribs.

Here are our favorite oak wood options: 

Chunks: Western Premium Cooking Chunks: Oak

  • Subtle and mild flavor
  • Heat-treated
  • 100% natural wood



Chips: Camerons Wood Chips: Oak

  • Balanced and smoky flavor
  • Kiln-dried
  • 100% natural wood, coarse cut



Mesquite

Mesquite is another option quite used in the Southwest of the USA. It is most common in Texas-style BBQ, where mesquite is king. Mesquite’s flavor and aroma are earthy, smoky, and a little sweet. If you use mesquite for cooking, it will likely create a darker coating on your meat than other woods. Mesquite quite is naturally oily, being able to reach high temperatures. 

The wood renders a very strong taste, so it is a choice where less is usually better. If you use too much mesquite or for too long, it can easily overpower your ribs’ flavor. Like other strong hardwoods, mesquite is a good option to blend with milder woods. Having said this, some BBQ pros sometimes mix hickory with mesquite to emphasize the Southern taste.

Here are our favorite mesquite wood options: 

Chunks: Weber Wood Chunks: Mesquite

  • Strong, bold flavor
  • Thoroughly dried
  • 100% natural wood, not coated or treated



Chips: Oklahoma Joe’s Mesquite Wood Smoker Chips

  • Bold and earthy flavor
  • 100% natural wood
  • Good value for money



Summary Table

For a quick comparison of all the main characteristics, see the table below:

WoodPicksType
AppleWeber Wood Chunks : AppleChunks
Western Premium Wood Chips : AppleChips
PeachDiamond King Wood Chunks : PeachChunks
Western Premium Wood Chips : PeachChips
CherryDiamond King Wood Chunks : CherryChunks
Oklahoma Joe’s Cherry Wood Smoker ChipsChips
PecanWeber Wood Chunks : PecanChunks
Western Premium Wood Chips : PecanChips
MapleCamerons Wood Chunks: MapleChunks
Western Premium BBQ Chips: MapleChips
HickoryCamerons Wood Chunks: HickoryChunks
Western Premium BBQ Chips – HickoryChips
OakWestern Premium Cooking Chunks : OakChunks
Camerons Wood Chips: OakChips
MesquiteWeber Wood Chunks : MesquiteChunks
Oklahoma Joe’s Mesquite Wood Smoker ChipsChips

Buying Guide

Selecting the best wood for smoking ribs has 2 main components. The first one is the taste profile you want to add to the meat. This can be very subjective, so opinions may vary. In our section above, we described the flavors of our selection of the best wood for smoking ribs. You can use that as a guide to select the taste profile. The second main variable is the wood type to be used:

Different Types of Woods for Smoking Ribs

Wood for smoking will come in different presentations. It will be the same wood but in different types of cuts that will have different characteristics. 

The most common wood types you’ll find are chips, chunks, pellets, and logs. Each has its own special characteristics that favor some styles of cooking:

Wood Chips

  • Wood chips are small strips or wedges of wood. 
  • The small size of chips favors easy ignition, thus, they are a quick way to get smoke.
  • Chips will consume fast, so they’ll need more attention if you are cooking for extended periods of time. 
  • You’ll be able to use chips in almost all devices from gas grills and charcoal smokers to even some electric ones.  
  • Some smokers will have wood trays that are too small for wood chunks. So many manufacturers will recommend only using chips.
  • A common technique using chips is to wrap them in foil and punch a few holes to let smoke escape. 
  • As ribs have little meat and they only need a little smoke, chips are usually the best type of wood for them. 

Wood Chunks

  • Wood chunks are larger pieces of wood than chips. They are usually bout the size of a fist. 
  • Being larger, chunks take a while longer to burn and generate smoke. 
  • Wood chunks will last longer to consume. This gives three advantages: 
    1. they become a heat source of their own along with whatever other fuel you are using, 
    2. they will need less attention to replace/refill them, and 
    3. they will produce smoke for longer periods of time. 
  • Given the above, chunks are usually better for low and slow techniques. These techniques need and allow longer exposure to smoke for meats such as pork butt or brisket. Having said this, they are also a good option for ribs if you are using a low and slow technique like the 321 ribs method.
  • Warning: Read the instructions of your grill/smoker before using wood chunks. Not all devices are compatible with wood chunks due to their size.

Wood Pellets

  • Wood pellets are compressed sawdust from wood kinds. Just like chips or chunks, you will be able to find them in all flavors.
  • Pellets are specifically designed for pellet smokers. So don’t try to use them if you have another type of grill or smoker. If you do, stick with chips or chunks.
  • Pellets may burn quite clean, so their smoke might be less than that of chips or chunks. Still, with a good pellet smoker, they will work just fine to infuse your ribs with a smoky flavor. 

Wood Logs

  • Wood logs are the largest pieces of wood you’ll find for smoking. 
  • Being larger than chunks, they will need even more time to burn and generate smoke. They will also last much longer.
  • Using logs is only worth it if you are cooking for long periods of time. 
  • No need to even consider using logs for smoking ribs. 

FAQ

Is there a wrong wood to use for smoking ribs?

You should avoid smoking ribs with softwoods (such as pine or cedar) or any kind of green wood. All the options mentioned above are hardwoods. These are the ones you should look for smoking ribs as they will add flavor and smoke. 

Before cooking with hardwood chunks or logs, it is also a good idea to remove any bark from them. The taste of burnt bark is no good. 

How long does it take to smoke ribs?

The approximate time for cooking ribs will vary depending on your cooking temperature. If you use a low and slow technique like our 321 Ribs Method, it can take up to 6 hours to cook pull-off-the-bone, juicy ribs. If you Grill Ribs at a higher temperature closer to 225°F-250°F, ribs could be cooked in about 2 hours. 

Should wood chips be soaked before smoking ribs?

Soaking wood chips before smoking is a topic of debate. People in favor claim that soaking the chips will help release their flavor and also burn longer. We agree with the people that say this is a myth. Why? First off, wood doesn’t absorb too much water. Also, if you try to burn wet wood, water will evaporate first before the wood will start to burn. This will only delay the smoke, which is against what we want. 

Can I mix and blend woods?

Quick answer: Yes. As you saw in our section above of the Best Wood for Smoking Ribs, mixing and blending woods is possible. Moreover, many pitmasters do it and recommend it. Blending the flavors of strong woods with fruitwoods renders great results.

How can I add wood to gas or charcoal grills? 

Charcoal Grill

For a charcoal grill just place your charcoal on one side. Once you have your grill up and running, put some soaked wood chips on top of the charcoal and let them slowly burn.

Gas Grill

In a gas grill, we are going to use only one side of the burners. We are going to tightly wrap our chips in aluminum foil to create small pockets. Using a knife, pierce holes in the top, to let the smoke out. Place the pockets directly where the burners are and wait for the smoke to start coming out.

How much wood should I use for smoking ribs?

Determining the right amount of wood is more of an art rather than a science. Why? Because achieving the perfect result is a matter of taste. Some people like a stronger smoke flavor than others. So it is something you must try, experiment with, and define what is your sweet spot. 

What you want to keep in mind is:

  • Adding enough wood to expose your ribs to a sufficient amount of smoke.
  • Not adding too much wood so as to overpower the ribs’ flavor.

The expert’s advice is that too little is better than too much when it comes to smoking ribs. 

Having said this, if it’s your first time ever, don’t add more than 2-3 chunks of wood or 2-3 handfuls of wood chips. This should be enough for your first run. Then you’ll be able to judge and decide whether to use more or less next time. 

What wood should I use for Pellet or Electric Smokers?

Pellet smokers should always use pellets. Don’t use any other type of wood in them.

For an electric smoker, always check the manufacturer’s instructions for what type of wood to use. Most use pellets, but some can use wood chips too.

Our Top Choice

Adding wood smoke to your ribs will take them to a next level of tastiness. Any of the hardwoods presented above should make a great option. Which one to choose is more a matter of taste when selecting the best wood for smoking ribs for you. 

Based on our personal preferences, apple wood is the best wood for smoking ribs. Being a fruit wood, it complements the natural flavor of ribs with a mild sweetness and smoky taste. If you are thinking of a low and slow technique, we recommend using the Weber Wood Apple Chunks. If you are in the mood for a faster cooking technique and want quick smoke, then try the Western Premium Wood Chips: Apple

Now is your turn! Select your best wood for smoking ribs and tell us about it. Once you´ve tried it a couple of times, don´t be afraid to experiment by blending in some other woods like hickory or mesquite.

In The Sunday Grill

We believe you deserve a great grill every time you fire it up, and we are here to make sure you get it.

The Sunday Grill - Small-Grill-Pic