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How to Choose the 7 Best Wood for Brisket Smoking
Oklahoma Joe's Wood Smoker Chunks
Available as chunks.
Fully natural wood.
Available in Apple, Hickory, Mesquite.
Good for grilling and smoking.
Works with all types of grills.
Western BBQ Smoking Wood Chips
Available as chips.
Available in Apple, Mesquite, Hickory, Cherry, Maple, Pecan.
Available in special flavor of Post Oak.
Works with electric and gas grills.
Good for smoking.
Traeger Hardwood Grill Pellets
Available in pellet form.
Made from hardwoods.
Available in Alder, Cherry, Hickory, Maple, Oak, Pecan, and blends.
Good for grilling and smoking.
Available as logs, chunks, and chips.
Good for grilling and smoking.
Can be used with all types of smokers and grills.
Available in Alder, Oak, Cherry, Apple.
Jack Daniel's BBQ Smoking Chips
Made from Oakwood.
Ideal for smoking.
Made from whiskey barrel, aged wood.
Gives whiskey flavor combined with oak.
Sold in chip form.
The brisket is cut from the breast part of a cowl. It is a large type of cut and can weigh up to 20 pounds. Due to its size, it is quite expensive too.
The brisket is a tough cut of meat. So it requires slow cooking. It is important to choose the very best wood for brisket. The reason is that during slow cooking the wood that is being used gets a lot of time to impart its flavor.
Components of a Brisket
The brisket can be further cut down into two pieces:
The Point Cut: It is the more flavorful part of the brisket, but it has more fat than meat. It makes great meat for shredding and grounding purposes. It is shaped a bit like a triangle, a little thicker on one side and gradually becoming slimmer towards the other side.
The Flat Cut: Most of the brisket comes under the flat cut. As the name suggests, it is flatter than the point cut. It is long and thin. It is less fatty and has more meat. It has a layer of fat on top which helps in keeping it moist while cooking. It is easier to slice. Usually, it is more expensive than the point cut.
It is fine to use the whole cut if you want to cook a large amount of brisket. But if you are looking for a smaller portion, it is better to go for the flat cut. You should note that it’s not the cut that decides the flavor of your brisket. Your choice of marinade, spices, and sauces play a major role. The wood that is used to smoke the brisket also plays a big role in deciding its flavor.
Wood Vs Other Fuel
While you can choose to cook the brisket with gas or any other alternative heat source, we will always recommend using wood. The smoke from the wood gives your brisket a unique flavor that cannot be achieved with any other fuel.
Your choice of wood can make or break your game. And surely, you will never want to ruin such an expensive piece of meat. You may have a question, “Why is it so necessary to choose the best wood for brisket? After all, it will just turn into ashes.”
Well, for the first part, every wood has a signature flavor. Some woods have a very subtle flavor, while others are quite strong and pungent. The wood will impart its flavor to the brisket while burning. And if you don’t know about the flavor beforehand, you may end up being disappointed after tasting the meat, as it may have a very different flavor than what you had expected.
Secondly, the wood also contributes a lot to the temperature. Some types of woods burn at a much higher temperature than others. You should always keep the temperature in check for a more flavorful and juicy brisket. With certain types of wood, it will be easier to control the temperature.
The woods that are generally preferred for smoking a brisket are as follows:
These woods are not ranked here according to the quality. An important thing to note here is that you cannot declare one of these woods as “the best”. They all have their advantages. The choice that you will make should depend on your preferences. The kind of flavor profile you are aiming for plays a crucial part in the decision. You can also mix different woods to create a complex, unique flavor profile. We will go over the signature flavors of these woods in detail later in the article.
Factors to Look For When Choosing the Best Wood for Brisket
Let’s go over the factors you should keep in mind when choosing wood for smoking a brisket:
The hardness of the wood: Brisket takes a long, long time to cook. So it’s important to choose a wood that will burn for a long time. Keeping this in mind, softwoods are not a good choice for firing brisket. They burn quickly and don’t produce strong flavor. Different hardwoods are a good choice; they will burn for a long time. They will also produce a lot more smoke. They will impart a strong flavor that will penetrate the brisket and remain with it long after it is done cooking.
The Size of the wood: The size of the wood will depend on the smoking instrument you are using. The different options available are:
Chips: Wood chips are small in size. They are 1-2 inches big. These are very easy to ignite. They will be the best option for electric or gas type smoker. They burn out quickly, so you will have to replace them quite often. They should not be used for large briskets. They are better suited for small cuts of brisket.
Chunks: Wood chunks are larger than chips. They are 4-6 inches in size. They take a little time to ignite. They are good for medium-sized offset smokers. They will burn for longer than wood chips. They can be used for large briskets.
Logs: The logs are larger than all of the above. They are best suited for large offset smokers. They are mostly used for large scale smoking. They burn for quite long hours and produce a lot of smoke. However, they can be very difficult to ignite.
The dryness of the wood: Always take care that the wood you are using for smoking a brisket must be dry. Freshly cut wood should be avoided. Wet or damp wood should never be used as they take a long time to catch fire. It makes them unnecessarily inconvenient. Not just that, they also produce a lot more smoke than heat. It might result in improper cooking of the brisket. It can cause smoldering which will ruin the flavor of the brisket. It is hard to control the temperature when you are dealing with damp wood. Also dry wood would prevent any fungal growth, which can sometimes prove to be quite harmful. That’s why always make sure that your wood is nice and dry. An easy way to check if the wood is fully dry is to light it on fire. If it burns easily and quickly, that means it is dry. If not, you should better look for another option.
The treatment of the wood: Almost all the woods that are sold for lighting fire are natural. But still, you should take extra care. Since the smoke comes in direct contact with the brisket for a long time, you don’t want any unwanted stuff in your wood. Make sure that the wood does not contain paint layers. Any unwanted material should not have been stored in it previously. The wood should not have undergone any treatment. Chances are that most of the wood would be safe to use, but there is no harm in keeping an eye out for extra safety.
The flavor profile of the wood: Every wood has a different flavor profile. It imparts that flavor to the brisket during the smoking process. There is no single best wood flavor for brisket. It depends upon your personal preference. You can combine different woods to create a flavor profile that suits you the best. Following hardwoods are popular for smoking brisket:
Oak: Oak is a dense wood and burns slowly. It has a mild flavor that is not too overpowering. It burns at a hot temperature, often reaching 250-300 degrees. It is considered easy to handle wood for beginner smokers.
Hickory: It gives the brisket a nutty flavor which is very bacon-like. It is widely available. Too much of this wood can result in an overpowering, bitter flavor.
Mesquite: It has a quite strong and pungent flavor. It makes the brisket taste quite spicy. Due to this, it is a popular choice for Texas-style brisket. It can work with basic salt and pepper rub as it is spicy in itself.
Apple: Applewood gives a mild flavor. Since it is a fruitwood, it gives a sweet and fruity flavor to the brisket. It works best when paired with stronger flavored wood, like oak.
Pecan: Pecan wood gives a strong, sweet flavor. However, using too much of this wood will result in too sweet brisket. It should always be used in combination with other stronger woods.
Olive: Though olive is not widely associated with brisket smoking, it can prove to be an interesting choice. It tastes similar to mesquite but milder. It gives a hint of the Mediterranean flavor.
Maple: It is one of the mildest woods. It adds a sweet and smoky hint to the brisket.
Cherry: It gives a mild smoky flavor with a touch of fruitiness. It pairs well with Hickory.
These wood chunks are manufactured by Oklahoma Joe’s brand. You can choose from the various options available in the wood type. It is ideal for smoking a brisket. It has a long burn life, so it is ideal for smoking large cuts.
Available in large-sized chunks
Made of fully natural wood
Wood types include Apple, Hickory, and Mesquite
Ideal for smoking meats, poultry, vegetable, and fish
These wood chips are manufactured by Western. It is made in the United States. They come nicely packaged. You can also buy a gift set of 3-4 different wood varieties. It provides you the chance to try different flavors.
Available in all the popular flavors: Apple, Mesquite, Hickory, Cherry, Maple, Pecan
Works best with electric and gas grills
Can be used for smoking all types of meats
Available as wood chip
Best wood for brisket smoking.
Also available in Post Oak wood flavor used by Aaron Franklin.
These pellets are sold by the brand Traeger. All pellets are made from Hardwoods. They are available in a great range of wood flavor. They make sure that all the woods used are natural and there is not any binding agent present in them.
Available in all the flavors: Alder, Cherry, Hickory, Maple, Oak, Pecan, and blends
These woods are sold by the brand Zorester. They provide wood logs, chunks, and chips. They are one of the few sellers of logs online. Wood chunks are available in bags of 15 pounds. The size of the chunks is between 2 to 3 inches. They ensure that the wood does not contain harmful additives.
These are sold by the brand Jack Daniel’s. These wood chips are made from Jack Daniel’s whiskey barrels. The wood of the barrel absorbs the whiskey in its lifetime and when burned, it provides whiskey flavor to the meat. It is a popular choice among the lovers of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.
Made from Oakwood
Can be used for meats, fish, and poultry.
Ideal for smoking
Made from Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 whiskey barrels
Gives a unique flavor of whiskey combined with Oak
These wood chips are sold by DiamondKingSmokers. They import the barrels from Europe. The wood obtained from these barrels can have the flavor of various alcoholic drinks. If you are a fan of exotic drinks, these chips would be a great option for you.
Available in the flavors of Brandy, Red Wine, Whiskey, and White Wine
Sourced from Europe
Made in the USA
Clean and fresh wood that has undergone the aging process.
Can be used for smoking alone or blended with other woods
These are made by the brand Bangerz Sunz. They are prepared in the United States. These chips are highly combustible, hence very easy to use. They are made from mold resistant wood which does not contain any harmful filler. They are also available in a gift set of all the available wood flavors.
Available in flavors: Apple, Mesquite, Hickory, Cherry
Made from all-natural hardwood
Used in all kinds of smokers and grills.
Available in a gift set of different woods.
Perfect for smoking meat, fish, poultry
Now you know the different options available for the best wood for brisket. The popular choices include Hickory, Apple, Oak, Cherry, Olive, Pecan, and Mesquite.
Different types of woods have different signature flavors. During the smoking process, they will transfer their flavor to the meat. Everyone has a different preference when it comes to flavor. And that affects their choice of wood. So it is unfair to declare any wood as the winner among the others. Each kind has its unique advantages. You can also try using together woods that have nice flavor when combined.
To conclude, while choosing the wood, your decision should primarily depend on your personal preference for what is the best wood flavor for brisket. Other factors that should be taken into account are wood sizes and smoking instruments.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of wood is used for brisket?
Brisket is a large and hard piece of meat. It takes a long time to make it tender. For that, it has to undergo slow cooking for several hours. To keep the fire alive for several hours, you need to choose the appropriate kind of wood. Any kind of hardwood is the best wood for brisket. It will keep the fire alive and also produce ample smoke. Softwood is not used because it burns too quickly and does not provide enough smoke.
The size of the wood is important too. Chips tend to burn too quickly hence they are not suitable for large cuts. Chunks burn for a few hours and can be used for smoking a brisket. Logs are a good option too.
You can easily use different hardwoods such as Hickory, Apple, Oak, Cherry, Olive, Pecan, and Mesquite. These woods provide different flavor profiles to the brisket. You can choose one of them, or combine them, to achieve what you prefer as the best wood flavor for brisket.
What wood does Franklin use for brisket?
Aaron Franklin uses only Post Oak for his brisket. Those are his favorite wood for smoking brisket. Post Oaks are abundant in central Texas, where Franklin BBQ is located. So it’s readily available to him. He advises using the wood that you can get easily in your area.
Is Applewood good for brisket?
Yes, applewood is considered one of the best wood for brisket. Wood from all fruit-bearing trees is considered fit for brisket. You can either use applewood as the main source of heat for your brisket or as a smoking agent. It produces a lot of smoke which is fit for infusing the brisket with a lot of flavor and aroma.
Applewood has a unique flavor profile. It gives your brisket a subtle, fruity flavor with a little bit of sweetness. You can also combine it with other woods that have a strong flavor profile. Together they will provide a diluted, sweet, balanced out flavor and aroma.
Is pecan wood good for smoking brisket?
Pecan wood imparts a rich, sweet taste to the brisket. This unique flavor makes pecan wood one of the best wood for brisket.
It has a quite strong flavor and aroma. Some people love the flavor of pecan wood, while some consider it too sweet. It is better to use pecan wood in moderation. Do not use it as the main source of heat, it will make the brisket too sweet to eat. You can mix it with milder wood, like oak and maple.
How do you make brisket bark better?
The bark is the outer layer of The brisket, which is a little stiff than the rest of the parts. Its color can range from dark mahogany red to shiny black. The texture of the bark is interesting too. Bark forms due to varying reasons, like the dry rub and the smoke.
However, you have to take a little care to achieve a nice bark on your brisket. You should take care of the following points:
Choose a cut that has more surface area. The larger surface area provides more space to apply the dry rub on. The dry rub plays a crucial role in the bark creation process, hence try to maximize the dry rub area. It will give you more and better bark.
Trim the excess fat on your brisket. The excess fat will create unnecessary This moisture is not good for the bark creation process. The dry rub will not be able to reach the meat, it will get stuck in the excess fat and moisture caused due to it.
Use ground sugar in your dry rub. With the right temperature, the sugar will melt and bark a nice and crusty texture. It will also give the brisket a great flavor. Take care that you do not end up using too much It will make the brisket too sweet and will burn on the surface, resulting in an unpleasant charring. So use the sugar in moderation for achieving the perfect bark.
Grill the brisket directly on the grill rack. Do not use pans or trays. Grilling the meat directly will ensure that it gets smoked evenly, creating nice Pans and trays end up collecting the juices and fat. These things make the brisket soggy. If you want to catch the dripping juices, place a tray below the grilling rack. It will ensure that the brisket is not getting moist and will create an amazing bark.
Do not wrap the brisket in foil until it has formed a bark. As discussed above, the brisket should get even smoking on all sides and should stay out of extra moisture to develop a nice bark. Using foil to wrap your brisket prevents both of these actions. It keeps the brisket covered and unreachable from all the smoke. It also collects all the extra drip that will make the brisket soggy. So do not wrap your brisket until it forms a good You can wrap it later to prevent it from ending up too dry.
Keep the temperature in check. The temperature in the range of 200-250 degrees helps your brisket develop a good bark. If the temperature is too low, there will be no bark on your brisket. And if the temperature is too high there will be too thick and charred bark. It will also ruin the taste. Your brisket will have a burnt and bitter taste. So keep the temperature in a suitable range and you will get an amazing and tasty bark on the brisket.
Why did my smoked brisket turn out dry?
If your brisket is coming out as too dry, you might be making one of the following mistakes:
You might have skipped turning the brisket. It is very important to sear the brisket. Smoke it for good 10 minutes per side at the beginning of cooking. We know that brisket is a large cut and you may feel like skipping this step. But it is an important step and will help the brisket retain its juices.
The brisket might not be cooked for long enough. Undercooked brisket tends to be dry and tough. Brisket is a naturally tough cut of meat. You should give it a lot of time to cook. It gets tender as it cooks and releases its juices. Calculate the cooking time According to the size of the meat. The usual trick is to keep an hour and fifteen minutes per pound of meat.
The temperature might be too high. If you cook the brisket at a too high temperature, it will lose its juices more quickly and come out as a dry piece of meat. Keep the temperature in the range of 200-250 degrees for the best cooking.
You may have sliced the brisket right out of the grill. When the brisket comes out of the grill it is still hot and cooking. It has the potential to evaporate its juices. By cutting the pieces you are providing more surface area for the moisture to escape. The wise thing to do would be to let the brisket rest for a while. Be a little patient and let the brisket cool down, and then start slicing to get a juicy brisket.
How do you keep the smoked brisket moist?
There are several ways you can follow to keep the smoked brisket moist. The following are methods recommended by the pitmasters:
Keep a water pan in the smoker. The water will evaporate and maintain a fair level of moisture inside the smoker.
You can spritz the brisket with apple cider vinegar or hot sauce after the first couple of hours.
You can wrap the brisket in a foil after it hits the temperature of 160 degrees. Do not wrap too early, it will result in soggy brisket with a bad bark.
Keep the temperature in control. Too high temperatures result in evaporation of the juices from the brisket. It will give you a dry brisket.
Do not slice your brisket just after taking it out of the smoker. Let it cool down first, it will slow down the evaporation of the juices and help the brisket retain its moisture.
Should brisket be wrapped in foil?
You can cook a nice brisket with or without the foil. The key is to keep the processes in control. Thorough knowledge of the cooking process will help you in smoking a brisket with or without wrapping it in a foil.
Advantage: Foil helps the meat retain its moisture and keeps it from going dry. It will give you a juicy brisket. Wrapping the brisket can also accelerate the cooking process, reducing the overall cook time.
Disadvantage: Wrapping a brisket in foil prevents it from getting smoked evenly. It will lack the smokey flavor after it comes out of the smoker. Moreover, the foil collects the juices and fat that comes out of the brisket as it cooks. So by wrapping the brisket in foil, you are risking it getting soggy. Wrapping can also prevent the development of the bark.
To get the best results, wrap the brisket in foil only if it is necessary to do so. Only if you think the brisket is going too dry. Otherwise, it is better to leave it unwrapped. Also, check the temperature before wrapping, it should have hit the 160-degree mark. Make sure that the best wood for brisket has already formed a nice layer of bark, as wrapping can stop the formation of bark any further.