best wood for smoking ribs

What is the best wood for smoking ribs?

For years I asked myself this very same question, and it took me years of trial and error, a few beers, and friends 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 best. Nevertheless, some woods yield a more desirable smoky flavor than others, especially for cooking or smoking pork.

Let’s Talk About the Best Wood for Smoking Pork Ribs

best wood for smoking ribs

In this article, we will focus on the best types of wood for smoking ribs. We will focus this article on pork ribs.

The wood flavor options you choose to cook pork meat are not limited, but particular types of wood flavors are best for cooking and smoking pork ribs.

Burning wood pieces or wood chunks in your gas grill or smoker is the only way to get that authentic smoky BBQ flavor. If you are using a gas grill, electric smoker, propane smoker, or even a charcoal grill, wood adds flavor to your meat. 

Even if you are using the best lump charcoal, wood chips and wood chunks should be used as the primary source of smoke Barbecue flavor; charcoal is just fuel.

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

We recently wrote an article on how to turn your gas grill into a smoker and add flavor to your meat. Yes, you can turn your gas grill into an amazing BBQ Smoking Pit. 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?

There are two main types of packaged smoking wood available in the market, chips and wood chunks. Wood chips and chunks will produce the same flavor but will provide different amounts of smoke and flavor since wood chips burn fast, but chunks last longer.

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.

Many using propane and electric smokers prefer chips. In fact, because most BBQ smokers use a wood tray to hold the wood, many smoker manufacturers only recommend using wood 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

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

Wood chunks are the preferred wood smoke source for large meat smoking since you will not have to worry about replenishing your chunks as often as you have to do with wood chips.

Wood chunks take longer to ignite but can produce smoke for hours, perfect when smoking large meats 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.

How to add wood chips or chunks to your grill, Which type of wood to smoke ribs?

Adding wood chips or chunks 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 wood 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 smokebox or wood tray to place your chips or chunks in. Again, most smoker models recommend using 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, then wood chunks will work best for you. However, most propane and electric smokers are designed to use wood chips.

Related: Best 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.

What is the best wood for smoking pork?

We have tested and tried many wood flavors, and here are our top picks. Smoked Pork pulled-pork is one of our favorite BBQ dishes.

bbq grill academyJack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey Barrel Smoking Chips

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 best wood for smoking pork ribs. These chips are produced from Jack Daniels whiskey barrels, yes, Jack Daniels whiskey barrels! 

Jack Daniel’s wood chips are made from white oak barrels used to age Jack Daniel’s whiskey. 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. These wood pieces’ flavor goes well with everything, especially smoked ribs.

This is one of the best woods for smoking ribs and our number 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, and mystique flavors. The best wood for smoking meats should go well with your favorite BBQ Sauce. Just saying’

Also, Jack Daniel chips are produced in the USA.

What we like:

  • Unique whiskey and oak smoke flavor. 
  • 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.

bbq grill academyWestern Premium BBQ Products Hickory BBQ Smoking Chips

The hickory smoke flavor is a prevalent flavor when smoking pork and yields that classic Kansas City type flavor. The hickory flavor is also popular in BBQ food in the southern US States.

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

These 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 wood chips in your gas grill.

What we like:

  • Sweet and Strong flavor great for smoked ribs.
  • Made in the USA
  • 100% Natural

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.

bbq grill academyWestern Premium BBQ Products Post Oak BBQ Smoking Chips

Oak is another popular smoke flavor you can use to smoke your bbq 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 chips’ 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.

bbq grill academyOklahoma Joe’s Mesquite Wood Smoker Chips

Mesquite is a popular wood chip for grilling and smoking, 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.

bbq grill academyWestern Premium BBQ Smoking Chips, Apple Wood BBQ

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

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

Final Thoughts

Smoking ribs or any meat is a fine art. 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. Finding the right wood to use to smoke your ribs is a fun part of this process.

Smoking wood is has been around for years, and it is the favorite flavoring method for BBQ food. Take the time to try and test a different type 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 smoking ribs add flavor and compliment the BBQ sauce of your choice. It all has to work together.

However, once you find your taste and narrow down your wood flavor likings, the creative options can be endless.

Enjoy Life! Get grilling.

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