7 Best Woods to Smoke Brisket | Oak, Hickory and More


Choosing the right wood for grilling is important to get the best possible results. But with so many types of wood, how do you know which one to choose? Here are my top 7 picks for the best brisket smoking wood.

Smoked brisket resting on a cutting board

The brisket is a cut of meat that blends perfectly with the aromas and flavors you get with the smoked BBQ. It has soft and delicate textures that make it perfect for absorbing moisture and smoky flavors. That makes it one of the best smoked meats in the world.

Our top 3 woods for smoking brisket

Infographic of the best woods for smoking brisket

Brisket is one of the most popular cuts of meat to grill and is often used as a food item to use as a benchmark for comparing other BBQs and Pitmasters.

When well cooked, there are few better cuts of meat. Its fleshy fibers are lodged under a thick layer of fat that melts when cooked. This gives it a hard texture but also wonderfully tender.

In order for it to look good, it must be smoked for a long time at a lower temperature . It should also be paired with the right type of wood to bring out its flavors without overpowering them.

Choosing the best wood for your brisket will determine whether your end product will be soft, tender and flavorful… or just plain sloppy.

If you are looking for a simple option, oak or hickory are the best options. Other favorites of BBQ smoke enthusiasts include pecan, apple, mesquite, maple, or olive.

Oak firewood in a basket


One of oak’s strengths is that it produces a smoky flavor that pairs beautifully with brisket. It’s long been a popular choice of wood, in part because it’s one of the easiest woods to use in a smoker.

One of the reasons for this is that it has a long potential burn life, which means you don’t need to maintain or care for it like you do other types of wood. Additionally, it has a much more subtle flavor profile than other popular wood species like hickory or mesquite. This means you can combine it with other types of wood to create a full flavor.

My pick: Smoak Firewood for cooking logs

Smoke firewood for cooking logs

A variety of white oak that produces a lot of heat and grills both as a fire and smoldering. White oak, in particular, is an electric fuel for grilling.

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When choosing a good oak wood we want something that will produce plenty of heat and smoke in both fire and slow flame forms.

This White Oak variety from Smoak Firewood Cooking does just that. White Oak, in particular, is an electric fuel for grilling.

These records are great. This isn’t an issue if YOU are using oak as your primary grilling fuel, but if you’re hoping to use it as a secondary flavoring wood, consider something else. I don’t consider this a huge loss, however, as oak is a much better primary fuel than secondary fuel.

They come in a variety of sizes so you can buy in bulk or start more modestly. They also start at a very expected price, so you won’t break the bank when it comes time to buy wood for grilling.

Wood chips soaked in a bowl


Hickory remains one of the world’s recognized wood species for smoking and grilling, largely for its lovely nutty flavor. It’s becoming widely available quickly, so in the case of Brisket, it’s a great alternative if you can’t find anything else. Despite this, it’s still an excellent option.

It has an oak flavor that isn’t as strong as mesquite. Still, if you use too much, you risk it overwhelming your meat with a very distinct bitter taste.

Free yourself not to go overboard. Better to tone it down by using a little less or even thin it out with some applewood.

Hickory is smoked but has a spicier flavor than oak. People may prefer that, but one of the downsides is that the smoke it gives off isn’t as clean as oak.

If you plan to smoke your brisket hot and fast and only for about 2-3 hours, then a hickory/oak blend is a good choice.

My choice: Weber Hickory Wood Chunks

If you prefer something with a stronger flavor, hickory might be the wood for you.

Hickory goes great with brisket. The brisket’s tough, meaty fibers allow it to withstand and absorb hickory’s strong, rich flavors beautifully.

Where better to go than at Weber? The German brand has been making great barbecue grills for years, so they know a thing or two about making great barbecue fuel.

These Weber Hickory Wood Chips can be used on their own as the primary fuel source, but can also be combined with Oak if you want to soften things up.

Each bag weighs just a few pounds, which means you can easily start small to try them out, or scale up and buy in bulk. Uniformly sized at three inches, each piece of wood is as solid and dependable as you would expect from a brand like Weber.


This is one of the most common types of wood used for smoking, especially for brisket. It’s one of the cornerstones of Texas smokiness, and with good reason. It is a spicy wood that contains a very intense flavor.

One of the disadvantages of mesquite is that it tends to burn fairly quickly, so use a lot whenever you’re preparing a large brisket, especially.

If you are unsure about pairing a rich wood like mesquite with your chestpiece, I would recommend mixing it with a softer wood. For example, you can dilute it by mixing it with applewood to give it a softer touch without affecting the overall flavor too much.

My choice: Weber Mesquite Wood Chips


It’s definitely not for everyone, but the pecan adds a nice sweet, rich flavor that I think works great with BBQ brisket.

If you want to tone down its sweet flavors a bit, you can temper it with some oak to balance it out.

My choice: Western Premium Pecan BBQ Chunks


Maple is another great wood for novice smokers. It’s a smooth stem that gives the brisket a slightly smoky, sweet flavor without overwhelming it with its flavors.

What I like best about maple is that it not only goes well with brisket, but also with other types of meat. I’ve used it with poultry and pork to great effect.

My pick: Smoky Maple Wood Chunks by JC


I’ve mentioned applewood a few times on this list before, but I wanted to mention it on its own.

Unsurprisingly, it has a delicious fruity-sweet flavor, but it’s also a great diluent to use with other woods to balance out strong flavors. It combines very well with brisket, but also as firewood for smoking turkey, ham and chicken.

My pick: Camerons Products Roasting Wood Chips

If you prefer something with a more nuanced flavor and some sweetness, then a fruity wood like apple might be a good choice.

Applewood tends to give off a thick smoke that is great for carrying the chewy textures of the brisket flavor. It adds a sweet flavor and a more subtle layer of fruitiness.

This can be used as a primary or secondary fuel, either making up the focal point of your smoke or adding oak to add sweet notes.

These chunks are approximately 4 inches in size and come in a 10 pound bag. That’s also enough to get you started at a very reliable price point.


Olive wood isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when choosing wood for grilling, but I think it deserves a mention. It’s a much milder alternative to mesquite as it has a fairly similar flavor profile but isn’t as overwhelming.

As well as brisket, it goes very well with poultry and, if you dare, even fish.

My pick: Charcoal Store Olive Wood Smoking Chunks

Which wood size to choose

Before deciding on the flavor, I think size is also important to consider. There are basically three different sawn timber sizes to choose from.

  1. records.  Intimidating in size at times, but perfect if you’re using an offset smoker due to the sheer amount of smoke they put out. The downside is that it can be difficult to light and keep burning, but great with the right smoker.
  2. Potato Chips.  My choice of using a charcoal grill or an electric smoker. These are sometimes referred to as wood shavings or scraps and are very small. As a result, they burn very quickly and are therefore only suitable for smaller brisket pieces.
  3. hunk. These can also take a while to glow, but they burn for a long time. These are the perfect choice when you need to grill over a period of time.

Wood for smoking brisket in electric or pellet smoker

While offset smokers are typically the choice of seasoned grilling professionals, many home users are more likely to use electric or pellet smokers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it’s important to know how this might show up on your kitchen.

While offset smokers tend to produce a steady stream of smoke, electric smokers tend to emit smoke in waves or waves. For your meat, this means it’s harder to carry meat with a strong smoky flavor, especially one with subtle undertones.

Learn how to smoke brisket in an electric smoker

So if you use a softer wood like oak you risk the final flavors being quite weak.

To avoid this, I’d recommend mixing in some hickory to try and up the flavor profile a bit. Electric smokers are limited, hickory will also help you get more out of the smoke you need to play with.

If you’re still unsure about hickory, try other types of wood: walnut, apple, mesquite, or cherry. Sweet notes of cherry and apple offer a fantastic balance with the deeper smoky notes of oak. The breast is a tough piece of meat made up of tough fibers. In order to break them down and soften them, they need to be exposed to just the right type of smoke.

Both oak and hickory offer a dense, heavy flavor profile that smolders over time and helps break down stubborn fibers in the meat.

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