The best woods for smoking beef steaks, from oak and hickory hardwoods to cherry and maple. Find the right smoked wood aroma for your next smoked barbecue today.
Steak is a classic cut of meat served on date night, July 4th, or any other time you want to give people a meal that feels special. Smoked steak adds an extra dimension of flavor that doesn’t come from just throwing it on the grill or in the pan.
Steak isn’t the instant cut of meat, so you’ll want to make sure you’re smoking it properly with the right woods. The best woods for smoking steaks are alder or fruit woods like apple or cherry. You can also use more durable hardwoods like oak.
Here’s your guide to the best woods for smoking steaks.
Alder is a delicate wood derived from the alder tree, members of the birch family that grow throughout North America but are densely populated in the Pacific Northwest. All wood that IS used for grilling is hardwood, but alder is one of the softer types of hardwood. It has a mild and sweet taste.
Alder wood is good for a smooth smoke that doesn’t overwhelm the steak. However, if you want more flavor, try a sturdier wood.
Cherry wood comes from the cherry tree, a fruit tree native to Eurasia that now grows throughout North America. Cherrywood has a distinctive reddish brown color and a sweet smoke, although its fruity flavor is less overpowering than other fruitwoods.
If you want a mild, sweet flavor for your steak, cherry wood is a good choice. Cherry is very versatile, if you also reuse your stash later for another meal it’s a good wood to have on hand. Cherry wood takes a while to build up enough smoke so it’s best if you like your steak well done as the meat spends a lot of time in the smoker when working with cherries.
Pecan is a durable hardwood from the pecan tree, a pecan tree native to the southern United States. Walnut wood is used for many types of grilling thanks to its rich, nutty flavor. Of the nut trees has the most assertive flavor.
Pecan wood is a great option when you want to add a sweet and savory dimension to your steak’s smoke. However, it doesn’t burn as long or evenly as oak or hickory, making it a better choice for rare or medium-sized steaks when a quick browning is desired.
Maple wood comes from the maple tree, a tree that produces sweet sap and is widespread in the northern United States. Maple has a sweet taste, which is to be expected since the tree trunks contain the sweet sap that becomes maple syrup, but its smoke is actually not as sweet as some of the fruit trees on this list.
Maple is a good choice when you’re looking for a subtle way to add a little sweet flavor to your steak. However, it is more difficult to find commercially than other types of wood.
Hickory is one of the hardiest wood species native to the United States and comes from the hickory pecan tree that grows in the United States. Hickory is a staple of the Carolina barbecue.
Hickory is a dense wood that burns evenly for a long time, making it a good choice if you want to smoke your steaks longer without worrying about the smoker. It has a nutty, smoky flavor that’s earthier than the mild flavors of the other fruit and nut trees on this list.
Oak is one of the most durable types of wood as it comes from the hardy oak tree. It’s popular for grilling because of its durability(oak wood produces a constant flow of smoke that lasts a long time) and versatile flavor.
Although oak has an assertive smoky flavor, it is not overpowering like other woods. It’s perfect when you want to complement the flavors of your steak but are afraid of overpowering it. Its slow and steady smoke also makes it an ideal choice for all methods of steak preparation, from raw to well done.
Mesquite wood comes from a tree native to the arid Southwest and is a popular wood choice in traditional Texas grilling. It creates a unique type of wood smoke thanks to its smoky and intense taste.
Mesquite pairs well with steak because steak has an assertive flavor of its own, and mesquite works with that flavor rather than overpowering it. If you want to give your steak a very special smoky flavor, then mesquite is the best choice. Mesquite burns slowly and produces more smoke than many other wood species, making it a little harder to work with than other wood species for beginners.