When it’s your responsibility to bring the smoked ribs to the party or tailgate, you can’t afford to get it wrong! Picking the best wood for smoking ribs is the first step. With some many different woods to chose from, this can become a tough decision. In this article we will discuss picking the correct wood for smoking the perfect ribs.

Picking the wrong wood could ruin the ribs texture and taste. This is a mistake I know first hand. I chose some random wood out of a field behind my house. The meat had a horrible taste and it was due to the poor selection of wood that I used. You can say I have learned from my mistakes.

Heavy woods are the popular pick when it comes to smoking ribs due to their strong flavor. Depending on what part of the country could also influence your wood choice.


Hickory is our pick when it comes to the best wood for smoking ribs. This wood is very common in the Southern and Midwestern parts of the country. You will notice a strong flavor that has a sweet, savory, and hearty undertones to it. You will need to be careful though when using Hickory wood. Too much hickory flavor can cause the ribs to come out bitter.

Red Oak

Red Oak is also a very popular choice for smoking ribs. It is also a great choice for beginners as it has strong flavor and rarely overpowering.


This wood is know for packing intense flavor. You will notice a unique taste that makes smoked ribs taste great. Mesquite is naturally oily and this will make it an easier wood to burn.


This wood is another excellent choice for smoking ribs. It has more of a mild and sweet flavor. This will wood lend more of a mellow flavor when compared to then intense flavor of a Mesquite wood. Apple Wood will take a while to permeate the meat, so it will require several hours of smoking.


Pecan wood will lend a sweet, rich, sweet, and nutty flavor. I usually add another type of wood such as Hickory to balance out the flavor. If you don’t use another type of wood, the flavor might be too sweet for you. Pecan wood burns slow and also gives off a pungent smell, so adding another type of wood is a good choice.


Cherry is another one of my favorites. Cherry wood will give your smoked ribs a really nice color, similar to a mahogany. You will notice a mild and fruity flavor, and goes great when paired with another wood like hickory. This combination gives off an amazing finished product.


Maple wood goes great with a sweet barbecue sauce. This wood gives off a light, sweet and mild smokey flavor. Also, it’s doesn’t have an overpowering flavor like other wood.

What Wood Should I Avoid When Smoking Ribs?

There are plenty of options for picking a type of wood to smoke ribs, but all are not the same. As I mentioned before, hardwoods are what is commonly used in smoking ribs. Softwood is the type you want to stay away from. The smoke this type of wood gives off may contain harmful toxins or tars and most likely penetrate the ribs. I can only imagine ribs smoked with a nice big piece of pine! Stay away from the following types of wood:

  • Cedar
  • Fir
  • Poison Oak
  • Cypress
  • Spruce
  • Pine
  • Elm
  • Sycamore
  • Eucalyptus
  • Redwood
  • Hemlock
  • Unknown Scrap wood
  • Painted or Stained wood
  • Chemically Treated wood
  • Green wood

Stay away from these types of wood!! The pungent smell will give your ribs an awful taste and you could possibly even get sick. Although cedar is on the list, when it comes to smoking salmon it is perfectly fine to smoke on a cedar plank. The cedar is just used as the cooking vessel and not being smoked. Please be smart when choosing the best wood for smoking ribs. Good luck with those ribs!

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