Although there are various kinds of wood chips you can use to smoke meat, there are some that take the lead in terms of dependability, consistency, and popularity. The most common woods for smoking meat may vary from region to region, but around here, the top 4 are maple, pecan, hickory, and oak wood chips.
Continue reading to learn more about these four wood chip varieties, and what they can offer your premium cuts.
Maple wood chips offer a mild and subtly sweet flavor profile. They are commonly used for smoking poultry and small game birds, such as turkey, chicken, duck, and quail. Many people choose maple for smoking other foods besides meats, like cheese and vegetables.
Of all fruit wood chips, pecan is the strongest. However, this strong wood is still a milder alternative to hickory and mesquite. Pecan wood chips pair best with poultry, but can provide added flavor and zest to all other meats too. Just be careful using it in excess, as it can turn overpowering and bitter.
Hickory wood chips are very popular in the Midwest meat smoking industry, partly because they offer a sweet smoky flavor with strong hints of bacon. But because the smoke is pungent, its flavors are quite strong. These chips are well-suited for most meats, but couples best with pork and ribs.
If you are looking for a lighter, milder flavor profile than maple and hickory, oak is the answer. Oak wood chips offer a medium-strong smoky flavor, and work great with virtually all meats. Although great alone, they can also be combined with cherry, hickory, or apple wood chips for added flavor.
It is strongly recommended to not use Eastern cedar, cypress, elm, eucalyptus, liquid amber, pine, redwood, fir, spruce, and sycamore. These trees are high in resin and oils that cause a thick smoke when lit.