Cooking with wood is a fantastic alternative to charcoal because of how much better it burns and how well it can improve the aroma and flavor of your meats. However, there are many types of cooking wood with unique benefits, depending on the species of wood and where it grew. With this in mind, you can take advantage of a wider range of flavors and aromas available in your region and find ways to cook meat with different woods. Let’s look at the best woods for cooking meat so you know what pairs best with each type.
Oak is the most versatile wood to cook with. This is a go-to if you’re new to smoking, and it will never steer you wrong. Oak provides a pleasant, smoky taste that is neither too weak nor too overpowering and instead brings out the best of the meat’s flavor. Red meat, chicken, and pork are all good pairings for this jack-of-all-trades cooking wood.
Mesquite has long been famed and loved in Texas’s famous barbecue. Mesquite is strong, intense, and bold, making it a great type of wood for grilling and providing meats with an abundance of flavor. The high burning rate of mesquite is absolutely perfect for grilling over an open flame or smoking meats to perfection. Appropriately, mesquite wood is best paired with red meat to bring out intense flavors and aromas.
Considered one of the bolder woods, hickory cooking wood has long been praised for its strong flavor and stronger smoky aroma. Naturally, this makes hickory one of the best options for smoking meats like ribs, brisket, or chicken. Like oak, hickory is one of the best cooking woods for each type of meat, so long as a strong, smoky flavor and fragrance are what you’re after.
Pecan wood, related to hickory, is fantastic for long barbecues because it burns slowly and awards patient grillers with a delicate, savory flavor. The unique nutty flavor of pecan wood pairs well with poultry and pork. For poultry like chicken, the assertive nutty flavor acts as a wonderful foil while meats like pork get the pungent aroma of pecan after a lengthy smoking process.