Wood smoking guide – Which wood is best for different meats

The type of wood you use when smoking food will make a big difference to the finished product. The general rule of thumb is that fruit woods are mild and sweet, hard woods are more robust and savoury, and nut woods produce a strong smoky flavour.

Here is a list of woods that we can recommend sticking to if you are starting out, they are also the most commonly available. You can also mix the wood types and experiment to get different flavours.


It has a medium to strong flavour that is not overpowering Great with meat, pork and heavy game. It is easy to use which makes it a great place to start for beginner smokers. 


Having a mild and sweet yet mellow flavour profile, it gives a great taste but can take a long time to impart on the meat. Apple works best with chicken and pork.


This is a versatile choice as it can be smoked in many different ways.. Sweet to strong, heavy flavour. Good with pork, ham and beef. Though too much can cause a bitter taste in the meat though, so quantity is key with this one. 


This is a really subtle wood to smoke with and imparts only a slight flavour. It’s good for giving a light, sweet taste so works best with poultry, pork, cheese and game.


This wood has an intense flavour and is great for grilling the meat afterwards. It is best used in small amounts due to its unique flavour and works best with red meat.


A mild and fruity flavour that works well with other hardwoods such as hickory. Combined, these two can give a tremendous flavour that works well with chicken, turkey and ham.


Gives  a rich, sweet and nutty flavour and is often combined with another wood due to the sweetness to bring some balance. It works best with brisket, roasts and ribs.


This is a delicate but sweet and light flavour that doesn’t need as much balancing. It works best with fish, especially salmon.

There are a couple of things to bear in mind when you are choosing your wood

  • Avoid softwoods such as pine, fur, spruce, redwood or cedar, they may contain sap and can affect the flavour of the cook and in some circumstances can be harmful.
  • Try to source wood that has no bark on it, as the bark can contain nasties that may be poisonous or unpleasant in taste.
  • Avoid any wood that has been treated in some way, painted or has any mould on it.
  • Wood specifically prepared for cooking and smoking is the easiest and safest way to ensure that you have the right woods.


Understanding how and when to use wood in its different sizes will have a great effect on your cook.


Wood chunks burn for longer and are recommended for longer cooks. Used with charcoal smokers and grills, they can be placed directly onto the coals or on the cooking grate directly over the heat source.

Wood Chips & Smoking Box


Wood chips may be added to either a charcoal or gas barbecue to add flavour to short cooks, often wrapped in foil or placed in a dedicated smoking box to ensure they don’t burn too fast.  They are also often used with grills such as kamados which feature specific wood chip feeders.

Smoking dust & Cold Smoke Generator


Dust is generally used for cold smoking in conjunction with a cold smoke generator.  The dust is ignited and it smoulders over a long period of time. The smouldering dust emits little heat and therefore has minimal impact over the temperature in the smoking chamber making it perfect for cold smoking


Generally made from sawdust, pellets are manufactured by forcing the dried sawdust through a die at high pressure. This causes the sawdust to heat up and release the natural lignin’s in the wood that bind the sawdust together to form the pellet. The benefit of the pellet is that it shows consistent quality thanks to the highly controlled manufacturing process.

The main type of wood pellets are those used for a pellet grill or smoker such as Green Mountain Grills and Pit Boss.  The pellets are generally made up of 40% flavoured wood and 60% oak, therefore you will find a broad range of wood flavours available on the market