you might as well be eating wood. On the flip side, if you smoke ribs with low-intensity wood, you run the risk of its flavor being so faint, you’re not even sure it's there.
So to make your next rib smoking day a successful one, we’re going to showcase the three best woods to get your ribs tasting their smoking best.
Let’s get straight into it here, no dancing around the fact, we know you haven’t got time to spend perusing wood, you’ve got ribs that need smoking!
The three best woods for smoking ribs in order are hickory, pecan, and oak. Why are these the best you ask? Let’s find out.
Backyard BBQ bandits, professional grill masters, smoking extraordinaires, ask them all, and they’ll tell you that hickory takes top honors for smoking ribs.
Hickory is a medium-intensity wood. This intensity definition translates to hickory burning at a moderate rate and producing a moderate amount of smoke.
This middle ground on the smoking scale means it works well on a number of bone-in and boneless meats, but pork is where hickory was destined for.
If you’ve ever had BBQ in the South or Midwest, then there’s a super high chance you can conjure up a hickory-smoked experience because they can’t get enough of it.
Known for its distinctly sweet tasting notes that come with plenty of heart, hickory and pork go together, well, like, hickory and pork.
Hickory-smoked bacon is a staple of all pork lovers, but if you’ve never tried hickory-smoked ribs - this is you officially being put on notice - it’s a must!
However, and like all the best things in life, hickory comes with a disclaimer - it’s no daisy-chain wood, hickory takes no prisoners.
Even though it’s considered medium-intensity, hickory is a heavy wood that can overpower ribs if you’re not careful.
This is because ribs aren’t excessive in meat, so you really want to protect what meat they do have at all costs. For this reason, less is more when it comes to hickory, and a split that leans more to the side of coal is essential.
Forget pecan pie, have you ever tried pecan-smoked ribs? Although it may not be the first wood that comes to mind for smoking ribs, pecan delivers ribs a sweet nuttiness that gives you the right to get messy and chomp on down.
In the same family as hickory, pecan has a rich, savory flavor that works wonders on racks of ribs, but also just like hickory, it comes with a pungency disclaimer.
Although pecan is considered milder than hickory, it is still a wood that needs to be used in moderation.
There’s nothing in this world that’s more demoralizing than spending your hard-earned money on a finger-licking good rack of ribs, only for its flavor to be overshadowed by pecan.
If you keep it contained, pecan can open up ribs to the complexity of sweet, savory, and nuttiness, making it more than deserving of our number two spot.
Oak is another gold standard wood for smoking, not just ribs, but plenty of other pork, beef, chicken, and lamb cuts. The earthy profile of oak-smoked ribs made them an instant classic way back in the day, and their high-regard hasn’t faltered once.
Known to offer a delicate layer of smoky notes, oak is a gentler smoke when compared to hickory, which makes it a great option for beginner smokers.
Its ability to enhance flavor with little risk of overpowering means oak is where many everyday smokers turn. Although oak smokes well with beef and poultry, do you know what it smokes even better with?
Pork! But, as with pecan, oak is still considered a medium-intensity wood that should be used sparingly until you learn the ins and outs of the wood and become one with your smoker.
Although this is a top three, we thought it would be useful to hit you with a few more common woods that BBQ experts use on the daily to smoke their ribs.
Mesquite, cherry, maple, apple, peach pear - these are what professional and backyard smokers alike are currently using to give their ribs that extra kick.
If you’re looking for an especially potent smoke, then mesquite is considered a high-intensity wood that comes with a figurative “approach with caution” label.
Mesquite is a smoky wood that offers meat plenty of zingy spice, but over-smoking with mesquite is not good for your meat, and not good for you.
As you may have noticed, the rest of these woods are fruity ones, and they all fall under the blanket of “low-intensity”.
Smoking with these woods will bring on a mild fruitiness that has less chance of overpowering your meat, but, in turn, also brings less flavor to the table.
Oklahoma Joe’s is a renowned name with the movers and shakers of BBQ - they own restaurants, they sell barbecues, and they bag up wood.
Their hickory wood smoker chips are an easy choice for the backyard BBQ crew looking to smoke on small to medium-sized smokers.
These 100% natural chips skip on the bark, and create a clean and even burn across your entire smoker. They come compatible with electric, gas, and charcoal set-ups to give every keen smoker something to sing about.
The hickory flavor of Oklahoma Joe’s comes through strong and sweet meat, infusing rib racks, particularly well.
Coming in a two-pound bag, you should have no trouble firing up multiple smoking sessions before the bag is empty. However, like everything in life, buying in bulk generally means savings, and we know how you like savings.
So, if you know you’ll be smoking all summer long, consider a 4-pack of bags to save at the checkout.
In this BBQing world, there is Weber, then there is the rest. Soaring to the top of the game off the back of their competitively-priced gas grill range, this U.S.A made company is who the people of America turn to when there’s some grilling to do.
So it’s little surprise that their smoking woods are the most highly rated on Amazon, with many happy users and reviewers raving about Weber wood.
This 4-pound bag of pecan wood chunks is pleasantly priced without sacrificing quality. Expect big chunks of pecan creating that irresistibly nutty flavor that pecan is known for.
If you like what Weber is chopping, then they’re also, unsurprisingly, stocking the rest of the best woods too. Hickory, apple, cherry, and mesquite, it’s hard to deny Weber wood when they make it so dang easy to smoke.
Cameron’s oak smoking chunks are kiln dried to offer the driest wood that comes ready to burn. 100% natural, precision-cut, raw oak timber, this is high-grade wood if we’ve ever seen it.
Cameron knows you like to smoke, which is why they’re serving up their best in 10-pound amounts, giving you a good stockpile come summertime.
For maximum flavor, Cameron recommends soaking a session’s chunks for 20 minutes prior to placing them on ready-to-go hot coals.
Doing this will ensure the smoking gets going straight away and will infuse the delicious earthiness of the oak right through your ribs.
One thing to note is that Cameron both box and bag their wood up, and can’t promise which one you’ll get delivered. Not that this is a big issue, but Cameron wants you to be in the know, and now you are.
Smoked ribs are some of the most delicious things you can eat in life. By giving smoked ribs the time they deserve, the meat will be as tender as anything.
To make sure your ribs are extra juicy, with zero chance of drying out, you need to keep them at the industry-standard temperature of 225°F and 250°F.
Keeping them in this sweet spot is one secret, and the next secret we’re going to let slip is time.
Smoking ribs right through should take (give or take) six hours under the correct conditions. This timeframe is in conjunction with the 3-2-1 method of smoking ribs.
What’s this 3-2-1 business you ask? The 3-2-1 is a fool-proof way of ensuring ribs are moist, juicy, tender, and with crispy edges and skin - you know, the good stuff.
The technique refers to time, and it’s all about honoring the smoking mantra of “low and slow”. Give your ribs three hours in a preheated, ready-to-go smoker to kick things off.
Next, you want to wrap them firmly in foil and whack them back in the smoker to let steam for another two hours.
Then it’s time to glaze them up nice and sticky-like and bang them back in the smoker (without foil) for their final hour before it comes time to devour them.
Stick to this process and you’ll be reaping its rewards for, as long as you’ve got ribs in the fridge, forevermore.
With the smoker heating up, and your chosen wood at the ready, there will be no stopping you and your ribs. There’s no escaping the fact that smoked ribs hit differently to plain-old-jane grilled ones.
The culmination of time, smoke, and technique allow ribs to take on flavors that grilling simply can not match. Whether you’ve found comfort in hickory, pecan, or oak matters little. What does matter is that you’ve turned up, and you’re ready to smoke.
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