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best wood for smoking ribs – Full Guide guide

smoked ribs on white plate

It took me years of trial and error, a few beers, lots of bags of wood, and research to figure out the best wood for smoking ribs.

Smoking meat is a fine art, and as with any art, your taste and preferences play a role in what you consider to be the best. However, it is also true that some woods provide smoke tastes that complement pork better than others.

Let’s Talk About Types of Wood for Smoking PORK Ribs

best wood for smoking ribs

In this article, we will focus on woods you can use for smoking ribs and get good flavor. We will center this article on what wood to use for smoking ribs. The wood flavor profiles to smoke ribs are many, but some wood flavors are best for grilling and smoking ribs.

Even if you use good lump charcoal, smoking wood should be used as the primary source of smoky barbecue flavor; charcoal is just fuel.

Burning flavoring wood in your grill or smoker is the only way to get that authentic BBQ smoky flavor. If you use a gas grill, an electric smoker, a propane smoker, or even a charcoal grill, smoking wood adds flavor to your meat. 

I’m not saying that good lump charcoal won’t add a tad of flavor to the meats, but if you are serious about smoking meat, you will need to learn to use smoking chips or wood chunks.

Yes, you can turn your gas grill into an amazing BBQ smoker. We recently wrote an article on how to use your gas grill to smoke ribs using chips or wood pellets and add smoky flavor to your meats. Remember that when smoking meats, you should follow minimum temperature guidelines.

Our minimum temperature guide will help you find temperatures for pork and other meats.

What’s the Difference Between Wood Chips and Wood Chunks?

Before we dive into the different types of woods and talk about flavors, let’s talk about the differences between wood chips and wood chunks. There are two main types of “packaged” smoking wood available in the market, smoking wood chips and smoking wood chunks. Wood chips and chunks will produce the same flavor but provide different amounts of smoke since smoking chips burn fast, are smaller, while chunks last and can burn for longer periods.

Wood Chips

wood chips

Wood chips are usually scraps or shaving of wood much smaller and thinner than chunks. The typical “cut-style” of chips allows for faster wood ignition and smoke production.

Wood chips work well in smoke boxes, gas grills, smokers, and even charcoal grills. Their small size makes them a good choice for smoking ribs. Easily adding smoke on demand while grilling or smoking a rack of ribs. 

Chips are easy to add, and in my Green Egg, I usually just throw a few pieces through the cooking grate to add flavor to taste but do not need much smoke.

Many using propane and electric smokers prefer wood chips. In fact, because most BBQ smokers use a wood tray to hold the wood, many smoker manufacturers only recommend chips as wood chunks are too big for the wood trays, and the chunks will not ignite properly if at all.

I prefer to use chips when grilling in my Green Egg and want that extra smokey flavor. I find the Jack Daniels chips are the best wood chips for smoking baby back ribs and adding that distinct “smokey, oaky flavor” touch.

Since chips burn fast, I know I won’t overpower the meat’s seasoning during a short cook, which is great for a small rack of smoked ribs.

Wood Chunks

stack of wood chunks

Wood chunks are large pieces of hardwood ranging from about a few inches to about fist-size chunks cuts. The advantage of wood large chunks is that their size allows long cooking periods since chunks can burn and char slower, producing smoke for longer periods. 

Wood chunks are the preferred wood smoke source for large meat cuts smoking since you will not have to worry about replenishing the chunks as often as you have to refill wood trays.

Wood chunks take longer to ignite but can produce smoke for hours, perfect when smoking large meat cuts such as pork shoulders, turkeys, or briskets. 

Typically wood chunks are laid down on top of hot coals, and as the charcoal ignites, it will slowly ignite the chunks and start producing smoke. 

Please be sure to read your grill or smoker instructions, as some manufacturers do not recommend using wood chunks in some of their models.

Here are the woods I use, tested and Recommend

We have tested and tried many different types of wood flavors to smoke ribs, and here are our top woods for smoking ribs.

1. Our Top Choice – Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey Barrel Smoking Wood

Jack Daniel's smoking wood

I genuinely enjoy the flavor these wood chips produce. The Jack Daniel chips add a distinct and unparalleled flavor unique to the Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 brand and are the flavor for smoking ribs. These chips are manufactured from Jack Daniels whiskey barrels, yes, Jack Daniels whiskey barrels! 

Jack Daniel’s wood chips are made from white oak barrels used in the Jack Daniel’s whiskey aging process. Yes, you heard that right, wood from barrels used to age whiskey. The whiskey absorbed during the aging process gives these wood pieces their distinct look, smell, and flavor. You will taste a smooth yet district whiskey and oak flavor when cooking with these chips.

These are my go-to wood chips. I use them on everything from ribs, chicken, and steak. Jack Daniel’s wood flavor goes well with everything.

This is one of the best woods for smoking ribs and our best choice when we want a good smoky flavor and a unique flavor profile.

Sometimes it is good to experiment and try flavors outside your traditional hickory, pecan, cherry wood, and mystique flavors.

Also, Jack Daniel chips are made in the USA.

What we like:

  • Unique whiskey and oak smoke flavor for smoking ribs.
  • These chips can be used to cook just about anything, especially if you like whiskey!
  • These chips work well in just about any kind of grill or smoker.
  • Made in the USA.

What we don’t like:

  • It is tough to find any cons with these chips, but everyone has their opinion regarding food taste. It is safe to say that some might not like that light whiskey flavor, but I haven’t had anyone give me that kind of feedback.

2. Good Choice – Hickory Wood – Western Premium BBQ Products Hickory BBQ Smoking Chips

Western Hickory wood

The hickory smoke flavor is popular for smoking pork and yields that classic Kansas City type flavor. The hickory flavor is also popular in BBQ foods in the southern US States.

Wester Premium asserts their chips are made from 100% natural hickory wood and made in the USA.

These wood chips work great with grills and smokers but as with any kind of chips, make sure you put them in a smoke box when using smoke chips in your gas grill.

What we like:

  • Strong flavor great for smoked ribs.
  • Made in the USA
  • 100% Natural
  • Hickory Wood is more on the bitter side

What we don’t like:

  • Some users have reported different results when cooking with these chips, but I always like to remind our readers that taste is a very unique aspect and everyone has their own preference.
  • Hickory Wood is more on the bitter side and too much hickory smoke can add a bitter taste to the ribs.

3. Post Oak Wood – Western Premium BBQ Products Post Oak BBQ Smoking Chips

Western post oak wood

Oak is another popular smoke wood flavor you can use to smoke ribs. I always tell people to explore and test to find your flavor, but oak is a safe flavor.

If you like Texas-style BBQ, then Oak wood chips will be one of your favorite choices. Oak chips produce a smooth taste and are perfect to compliment the perfect rub or seasoning on smoked ribs. 

What we like:

  • We like Western Premium products because they heat treat the wood to improve the wood’ quality.
  • Made in the USA

What we don’t like:

  • Although we like Western Premium Products, be sure to check out other OAK chip brands. Oak chips are very popular.

4. Mesquite Wood – Oklahoma Joe’s Mesquite Wood Smoker Chips

Oklahoma Joe's wood chips

Mesquite is a popular wood chip for grilling and smoking ribs, but it also burns hot and fast. This wood flavor is strong, and I recommend caution when using these wood chips or chunks during longs cooks, as this wood flavor can overpower the taste of your meats.

We like Oklahoma Joe’s Mesquite Wood smoker chips, but don’t be afraid of trying other brands.

What we like:

  • Distinct flavor is excellent for trying new flavor mixes or add to other flavors. 

What we don’t like:

  • Powerful taste can overwhelm your favorite rub.

5. Apple Wood – Western Premium BBQ Smoking Chips, Apple Wood BBQ

Western Apple wood chips

Sweet and Mild flavor will originate from fruit trees wood. Apple, Cherry wood, and Peach tree wood can yield mild and sweet, smoky flavors.

Applewood chips give meats a sweetness taste, similar to hickory but sweeter. Apple wood chips are a nice touch for pork and poultry, and many pitmasters use apple wood sweet fruity flavor alongside other woods to create unique and flavors.

Suppose you like sweet and fruity smoke flavor; cherry wood is a good wood choice. Pecan wood can also be used to add a touch of sweet flavor to your meats, but it will also introduce a nutty flavor.

We like Western Premium Apple chips because they burn clean and are 100% natural.

What we like:

  • Apple wood adds a mild and sweet flavor.
  • Fruit wood is perfect for combining with other wood flavors.

What we don’t like:

  • Some might not like the sweet taste.

How to add or Use wood chips or chunks to your Gas or Charcoal grill

Adding smoking woods to your charcoal grill is very easy. You can place wood chunks on top of your lump charcoal and let the charcoal slowly ignite the chunks.

If you are using a gas grill, you will need to use a smoker box or wood chip box to place the wood and isolate it from the burners. We have also used what’s known as “smoke bombs,” a homemade approach to smoke boxes. 

If you are using a meat smoker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but you will likely use either a smoke box or wood tray to place your wood chips or chunks in. Again, most smoker models recommend using wood chips.

Related: How to Cook BBQ Ribs on a Gas Grill ( with a smokey flavor)

If you use a large charcoal smoker or a Kamado-style grill, chunks will work best. However, most propane and electric smokers are designed to use wood chips.

Related: Lump Charcoal for Your Grill

Using the wood properly will ensure a good taste; even the best woods for smoking will ruin your meat’s flavor if not burned properly.

We recommend these articles to learn more about smoking ribs. These how-to smoke ribs at low temps and this method will produce the best most tender ribs.

Final Thoughts

Smoking ribs or any meat is a fine art. Finding the right wood to smoke your ribs is a fun part of this process.
I always tell people to have fun, enjoy the process, and fall in love with this craft, as this is the only will you will find joy when going through the many trials and errors.

Smoking woods have been around for years, and it is the favorite flavoring method for BBQ food. Take the time to try and test different types of wood every now and then.

Some woods for smoking ribs will yield a sweet flavor, while others will give your ribs a more bitter taste. The best wood for ribs will add flavor and complements the BBQ sauce of your choice. It all has to work together.

The creative options can be endless and once you find your taste and narrow down your wood flavor likings the process becomes easier.

Ribs smoked with the right type of woods will pack incredibly rich flavor; it is worth trying different flavors.

Enjoy Life! Get grilling.



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