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Published Sep. 21, 2021

The best wood for grilling does more than just produce heat to cook your food. The smoke that results from burning will add mouth-watering flavor to your meat and fish. Different types of wood will produce different flavors and some are best suited for particular types of meat. Hardwoods are best for smoking, because softwoods have resin that causes thick, inconsistent smoke that adds an acrid taste. Fruit woods and nut woods are most popular. Some specific woods include apple, cherry, and peach, as well as more robust hickory and mesquite. Price varies too—grilling wood can cost anywhere from a few dollars for a bag of wood chips to more than $50 for a box of splits. But if you’ve invested in the best grill, best thermometer, and other grilling accessories, grilling wood is an excellent and affordable way to make your meals taste wonderful.

This guide will help you find the best wood for grilling the food you like to eat.

Best Wood for Grilling Steak: Weber Hickory Wood Chunks

Best Wood for Grilling Steak

Weber Hickory Wood Chunks Weber

3 Key Features 

  • Weight: 4 pounds
  • Wood Volume: 350 cubic inches
  • Type of Wood: Hickory

Why It Made The Cut

One of the most trusted names in grilling serves up big flavor at an affordable cost––even if the actual wood in the bags doesn’t always live up to the online pictures. 

Pros: 

  • Affordable price
  • Rich flavor

Cons: 

  • Chunks may be inconsistent sizes

The wood chunks may not all be of uniform sizes, but the quality of this hickory is excellent for grilling steak and other fatty meats. It provides a deep, smoky flavor that gives the meat extra flavor. This is some of the best wood for grilling steak and burgers that you can find.   

Best Wood for Grilling Chicken: Oklahoma Joe’s Apple Wood Smoker Chips

Best Wood for Grilling Chicken

Oklahoma Joe’s Apple Wood Smoker Chips
Oklahoma Joe’s

3 Key Features 

  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Wood Volume: 179 cubic inches
  • Type of Wood: Apple wood

Why It Made The Cut

These natural apple wood chips add a smoky-sweet note to poultry, and it’s very affordable.

Pros: 

  • Good price
  • Sweet flavor

Cons: 

  • May not be enough of a supply for frequent grillers

Fruit woods like applewood are the best wood for grilling chicken and other white meats because the sweet, tangy flavor mixes well, similar to how butter and lemon are always a dependable cooking base for these meats. 

Best Wood for Grilling Fish: Western Premium BBQ Products Post Oak BBQ Cooking Chunks

Best Wood for Grilling Fish

Western Premium BBQ Products Post Oak BBQ Cooking Chunks WESTERN

3 Key Features 

  • Weight: ~7 pounds
  • Wood Volume: 570 cubic inches 
  • Type of Wood: Post oak

Why It Made The Cut

Heat treated to prevent pests and decay, these oak chunks make for some of the best wood for grilling fish because the chunks are big and boast a long burn that will produce subtle but noteworthy flavor.

Pros: 

  • Burns hot and long
  • Subtle flavor
  • Large chunks

Cons: 

  • Wood size can be variable

Oak produces a relatively mild flavor that makes it some of the best wood for grilling fish because it won’t overwhelm the fish, and these sizable oak chunks will burn hot and long. The back of the bag contains helpful information, such as how to control the heat and how to use this wood for grilling with charcoal versus grilling with gas. That shows pride in the product .Peach wood is also some of the best wood for grilling seafood because it adds a delicate, sweet flavor, so if you’re a fish fan you may want to also consider this option from Western Premium BBQ

Best Wood for Slow Grilling: DiamondKing Smoker Smoking Wood Chunks

Best Wood for Slow Grilling

DiamondKing Smoker Smoking Wood Chunks DiamondKingSmoker

3 Key Features 

  • Weight: 7 pounds
  • Package dimensions: 12.4 x 12.28 x 6.65 inches 
  • Type of Wood: Post oak

Why It Made The Cut

DiamondKing’s drying process produces dependably fresh wood, and oak delivers a slow burn that makes it some of the best wood for grilling ribs and other dishes that need to cook a long time. 

Pros: 

  • Long burntime 
  • Detailed flavor
  • Even chunks

Cons: 

  • Expensive

If you’re looking for the best wood for grilling ribs, that means you like to cook low and slow, and oak delivers a consistent long-lasting heat that’s perfect for smoking. The 7-pound box will last 3 hours, so this wood isn’t a bargain. But it is right for slow cookers who want the just-right middle-of-the road, not-too-sweet flavor that oak provides.   

Best Wood for Grilling Pizza: Carolina Cookwood Backyard Pizza Oven Splits

Best Wood for Grilling Pizza

Carolina Cookwood Backyard Pizza Oven Splits Carolina Cookwood

3 Key Features 

  • Weight: 18–24 pounds
  • Wood Length: 12 inches
  • Wood volume: 1 cubic foot
  • Type of Wood: White oak 

Why It Made The Cut

A lengthy natural aging process helps ensure these splits are a cut above, emitting a clean smoke that delivers consistent flavor to your homemade pizza. 

Pros & Cons 

Pros: 

  • Consistently sized splits
  • Steady, clean burn
  • Naturally cured  

Cons: 

  • Expensive

Usually, the pizza’s toppings are most important, but if you’re making your own wood-fired pizzas at home, what’s underneath counts for just as much. White oak burns hot and steadily, giving you the control you need to make the perfect crust. Carolina Cookwood offers some of the best wood for grilling pizzas because their splits are consistent, and the wood is naturally cured to create a clean burn. It’s pricey, but an excellent product. 

Best Wood for Grilling on a Budget: Weber Pecan Wood Chips

Best Wood for Grilling on a Budget

Weber Pecan Wood Chips Weber

3 Key Features 

  • Item dimensions: 12 x 9.2 x 2.5 inches 
  • Wood Volume: 192 cubic inches
  • Type of Wood: Pecan chips 

Why It Made The Cut

The trusted brand’s pecan wood chips cost little for the amount that you’re getting, and it’s a versatile wood for smoking. 

Pros & Cons 

Pros: 

  • Affordable
  • Good for many types of meats

Cons: 

  • May not produce enough smoke for some grillers 

Whether you’re experimenting with smoking or a seasoned slow-cooker, this Weber Stephen wood is some of the best wood for grilling on a budget. The bag can last an entire season if you’re just using them in smoking boxes, and the rich and sweet flavor of the pecan wood will provide flavor that’s right for a variety of meals––these affordable wood chips just as easily make a run at being the best wood for grilling burgers as they do at being the best wood for grilling shrimp. If you want wood for grilling that can serve as your primary heat source, you’ll want to look for chunks or logs, but if you’re just hoping to add a bit of flavor in a smoking box, these chips bring it––and at a low cost. 

Methodology

To find the best wood for grilling, we considered offerings from top brands like Weber, Oklahoma Joe’s, and Kingsford, looking at hardwoods cultivated from fruit and nut trees. We noted the consistency of the wood size, how the wood was treated or cured, and the amount of wood for the current price.

Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Wood for Grilling

Here’s what to consider when shopping for the best wood for grilling:

What type of wood do you need?

Hardwoods are the best wood for grilling, because they produce a consistent milder smoke than softwoods like pine and cedar, while still giving plenty of flavor. Fruit and nut trees are popular. Fruit trees like apple, cherry, and peach produce a sweeter smoke that can work well for white meats and seafood, while hickory and mesquite have bolder flavors that work well for fattier meats. Oak tends to burn more slowly, which makes it a good option for slow-cooking. 

Do you want chips, chunks, or logs?

If you’re planning to use the wood as your direct heat source for cooking, you should buy splits or chunks (which can be used instead of charcoal briquettes). For brick ovens, larger splits are best, while chunks will fit better in outdoor kettle grills. If you’re hoping just to add flavorful smoke to your grilling, buy smaller wood chips that can easily fit into a smoker box.

FAQs

Q: What wood is best for grilling steaks?

Just as people prefer their steaks cooked in a variety of ways, there is no single wood that is best for grilling steaks. Hardwoods are best, but these can range from fruit woods like apple wood that provides sweetness, to nut trees like hickory that add zest. Generally, hickory and mesquite are common choices for steak, with the latter being the more zesty of the two.

Q: What is the best wood to smoke brisket with?

Brisket is best cooked low and slow, so post oak is a popular choice because it provides a steady, long-lasting and even heat. Cherry, hickory, pecan, and apple wood are other popular wood types for brisket. 

Q: What kind of wood should you not cook over?

You should not cook over softwoods like pine, redwood, fir, and cedar because the terpenes and sap produce an unpredictable, sooty, acrid smoke.

Final Thoughts

Food is getting more pricey, so always buy quality wood chips for smoking. It’s a worthwhile investment.

Also, note that if smoking food is new to you, always try suggested woods for whatever you’re cooking: hickory for steaks, burgers, and other fatty meats because it’s tangy; apple for chicken and poultry because it offers a versatile tangy sweetness; oak for fish because it’s mild; and pecan for all-around use. That will give you a good basis for experimenting by mixing woods. Err on the side of caution, because too much of one smoke flavor may make whatever you’re smoking unappealing.

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