Making smoked brisket at home can be a long and complicated process, as there are so many variables that impact the end result.
You have to take care of so many things, starting from meat selection, smoker, fire, wood type etc.
When smoking brisket, everything should be considered and choosing the right type of wood is one of them.
For you to make the best choice, you should learn all the wood types, what flavor they have and what impact they have on the meat.
I am going to show you everything you need to know about choosing the best wood for smoking brisket at home.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is Brisket & Where is it Located?
- 2 Why You Should Use Wood for Smoking?
- 3 Best Wood Type for Brisket
- 4 Which is the Best Wood for Smoking Brisket?
- 5 What Wood Professional Pitmasters Use?
- 6 Best Wood Type for Electric Smokers
- 7 Best Wood Size for Smoking Brisket
- 8 Final Thoughts
What is Brisket & Where is it Located?
Brisket is a very popular beef cut, coming from the lower chest side of the cow. This area is considered a relatively tough area since it is made of two muscles that overlap each other. These muscles are called the Superficial and Deep Pectorals and they help support the animal's movement with up to 60% of the body weight.
Since they help the cow stand, push or run, the area is full of connective tissues. That makes the brisket a perfect option for the low and slow smoking method.
As I said, this cut is made of two muscles overlapping each other. They are known by everyone as the Point and the Flat sides.
The thickest part of the brisket is called 'The Point' and the thinner part is known as 'The Flat'. The point area is more heavily marbled and with more fat than the other side. This is also called the Fatty brisket cut and the flat side is also called 'Lean Brisket' from many BBQ restaurants.
The whole brisket is one of eight US Beef Primals, based on the USDA primals.
How to Choose the Best Brisket Cut
For the best results, you should also consider the brisket quality grades. Just like any beef cut, the quality grades are important and will directly impact the end results and cooking style.
I would suggest going for a Choice grade since it is the best quality to price ratio. The Select Grade beef is with low amount of marbling and the Prime grade is very expensive for most of the people.
With the Choice grade, you will get a decent amount of fat and marbling on the cut, increasing the tenderness and making it more flavorful.
- Also Read: Steak Doneness Chart & Selecting Grades
Why You Should Use Wood for Smoking?
One of the main reasons why it is recommended to use wood for smoking is that wood brings the key component of smoking meat, which is flavor. Different types of woods complement the meat with a unique flavor every time you use them.
Also, another benefit of using wood is that it creates the additional heat needed to cook anything you want. The temperature of wood-burning can often exceed the heat of other additional fuel sources, such as propane or charcoal.
Another benefit of smoking with wood is that it creates the perfect amount of smoke needed to smoke food and whole meat cuts, such as brisket.
Why Wood Is Better Than Other Fuel Sources?
While each fuel source has its own advantages and disadvantages, wood is one of the most recommended fuel sources when it comes to flavor. Also, since it creates the most smoke when used properly, it can often produce the best results.
You may think that you need to spend more money on wood that another alternative fuel source, but the results will be better at the end, especially regarding the smoke profile.
Also, a lot of people think that using propane is easier and quicker but cooking should be fun and using wood gives you additional pleasure as you are more connected with the smoking process and isn't just set and forget it.
- Also Read: Benefits of Wood Smoke (Wiki)
Best Wood Type for Brisket
When it comes to choosing the best wood type, you should have in mind that each type possesses a different flavor that will compliment the meat. Some woods are very subtle while others are very strong and pungent. Some types will burn more quickly and minimize the smoke profile while others create an opposite effect.
Fruitwood types like Apple and Cherry bring a sweet and lightly fruity smoke to the meat while nut-based types, like hickory, pecan, and walnut, have a more balanced level of smoke flavor and produce a good amount of smoke to cook almost anything.
Each wood type is suited best with different meat products like pork, bacon, ham, beef, etc.
Which is the Best Wood Flavor for Smoking Brisket?
Since different types of woods can give a different smoke profile to the meat, here is a better view of the most popular type of woods to use when smoking brisket and the main flavor they tend to produce.
Medium to Strong Flavor Wood Types
Here is a list with the recommended wood types for smoking brisket which produce medium to strong flavor:
Oak is one of the most recommended wood types for smoking brisket since it produces a smokey flavor that matches wonderfully with the cut. It has been one of the most popular wood choices since it is also one of the easiest ones to use on a smoker.
Another benefit of using Oak is that it has a relatively long burning time, meaning that you don't need to monitor it continuously, as you would do for other types of wood.
As for smoke profile, Oak if far more subtle than other kinds, like hickory or mesquite. This makes it a perfect match with other types of woods to produce a more fully rounded taste.
Hickory wood also is one of the most popular wood types for bbq and smoking meat. It has a unique nutty profile, which goes perfectly with the brisket.
It has an oak-like flavor, but not as strong as mesquite. You should be careful to not use too much of it as you may end up with bitter-taste meat. You can combine it with some applewood to tone down its intensity.
Also, one reason why I like this type of wood is that it is available almost everywhere, making it ideal for a quick cook or fallback option when you can't find anything else.
Overall, hickory is smokey, packing a more pungent flavor than oak. It is preferred by a lot of people but the smoke it emits isn't as clean as oak.
Mesquite is another very common type of wood that is used for smoking brisket. It is one of the most popular types, especially on Texas smoking style since it is a pungent wood that packs a very intense flavor.
One of the main drawbacks of this type is that it tends to burn down quite quickly, so you may need a little more than other types of woods, especially if you are cooking a large cut of brisket.
It is recommended to pair it with a little more softer wood type, such as applewood, to give it a softer edge without compromising the overall flavor.
Mild Flavors Wood Types
Here is a shortlist with the recommended wood types for brisket which produce mild flavors:
Maple is a great option for newbies. It is a mild log that produces a light smoke, with a sweet taste on the meat, without any overwhelming aromas.
It goes great with several types of meats, including brisket, poultry, and pork.
A lot of people don't like the sweet aromas pecan produces but, for many, the beautiful, sweet and rich flavor it produces, works great with brisket.
If you like to dial down its aromas a bit, you can combine it with some oak to even it out.
As you may suggest, applewood has a lovely fruity and sweet profile. It can be a great diluter to combine with other woods to even any strong flavor.
It goes very well with brisket but can produce great results for turkey, ham or chicken too.
Cherry, just like applewood, produces a fruity smoke. It is less mild than apple's but still, they are similar.
Cherry is paired nicely with other wood types, especially hickory, to give a little bit of sweetness and fruity taste to the smoke.
Olive is not the most popular wood to use when it comes to smoking meat but I think it should be considered.
It is a far more mild alternative than mesquite and features a fairly similar flavor to it but not as overpowering.
It goes well with brisket, poultry, and if you really know what you are doing, you can try it with fish too.
Which is the Best Wood for Smoking Brisket?
The most correct answer to this question would: It depends on your smoker, the size of the brisket and what you are trying to achieve.
I think that Hickory and Oak are the most popular ones and probably the most recommended woods for novice pitmaster.
Eventually, as you get more experience with brisket smoking, you can try other strong-flavored wood types, or combine them with a milder one to get a more deep smoke profile.
When choosing the best wood type for smoking, I think it depends a lot on personal taste and what flavor profile you like.
What Wood Professional Pitmasters Use?
If you analyze the wood types used by professional pitmasters in an article by Texas Monthly Magazine, you will notice that Oak and Hickory are overall the favorite wood type, followed by Mesquite, Apple, and Pecan.
Here's the list with specific preferences for the most famous pitmasters:
Best Wood Type for Electric Smokers
Since electric smokers use wood chips, it is hard to get a great smoke profile, especially when using mild wood like Oak, which will make it even harder.
The same issue is with people who use propane or pellet smokers. They will often struggle to get a strong smoke flavor and try additional options, such as injecting liquid smoke into the meat.
If you are using one of the upper-mentioned smoker types, then don't be afraid to add some hickory, pecan or even mesquite. They will complement the smoke flavor, often to the right levels.
Best Wood Size for Smoking Brisket
While it is important to know the profile of each wood type, it is also very important to know how different wood sizes have a different impact on your meat.
Here are the three most common wood sizes for smoking brisket:
So, in conclusion, when it comes to picking the best wood for smoking brisket, Oak and Hickory are the most recommended options.
If you want, you can add some milder-flavor woods to adjust the flavor based on your liking.
The size of the wood will also have an impact on your meat. Medium-to-big chunks are probably my personal favorite since you will get hours of smoke without needing to add woods again to your smoker.
We hope you found this article useful and helped to learn what smoking wood are the best for brisket. Let us know in the comments section below which is your go-to wood when smoking meat.