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Grilling & Barbecuing

Choose the Right Wood for Smoking BBQ

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How to Choose Barbecue Wood

Barbecue is cooked not only with charcoal but also with wood, which produces flavorful smoke when burned. Different woods produce smoke with various flavors, which in turn affect the taste of the food you barbecue.

Barbecuing Woods

The table below shows the most popular barbecuing woods, the taste each wood produces, and the foods most commonly barbecued using that wood.

Aroma and Taste
Used to Cook
Mild and slightly sweet
Pork, poultry
Slightly sweet with some bitterness
Beef and fish
Strong and bacon-like
Ribs, pork shoulder, chicken
Mellow, smoky, sweet
Pork, poultry
Earthy and honey-like
Beef, pork, poultry
Like mesquite but milder
Beef, pork, sausage
Sweet and nutty
Pork, turkey, fish

Use only the woods on this list as smoke wood for your barbecue. Other woods are likely to produce a bitter smoke that will ruin your food.

Where to Get Barbecuing Wood

Wood for smoking can be bought in the form of logs, chunks, or chips.

  • Logs: Used only in large, professional smokers
  • Chunks: Great for family-size smokers, but may be too big for some grills
  • Chips: Can be used in smokers or grills

You can buy chunks or chips at home-supply stores, supermarkets, specialty food stores, or from online home-supply or barbecue-supply sites. Be aware, though, that you’ll rarely find the seven main types of barbecuing wood at one retail location, because not all woods grow in all regions. If you want to barbecue with a specific wood—especially with a wood not native to your region—your best bet may be to order it from an online vendor.

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