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The Best Wood for Smoking Brisket

The Best Wood for Smoking Brisket

Brisket, when cooked perfectly, has that signature smoky odor that penetrates the meat deeply.

Each morsel of meat is saturated with flavor, while the meat is exceptionally tender with a texture that causes you to become addicted to brisket.

Let’s be honest; brisket is a tough cut of meat which means brisket is hard to smoke.

Brisket needs to be marinated and cooked slowly at low temperatures, so the collagen has ample time to break down. Additionally, you must also ensure the meat does not dry out while it’s cooking.

Achieving brisket’s signature smoky flavor is not as easy as simply tossing your brisket into the smoker along with any old wood chips.

The kind of wood you use to smoke your brisket radically affects the flavor.

Although brisket keeps a simple seasoning profile with seasonings such as salt, black pepper, garlic, onion powder, and celery salt, the seasonings build on the already existing flavor of the meat and help the bark develop on the outside of the meat.

Brisket has to smoke for hours before it’s ready. Therefore, wood chips play an essential part in the flavor of the brisket.

This is why you need to know which wood chips are best for smoking brisket.

What Is a Brisket?

Brisket is basically the pectoral muscle of the steer. The pectoral muscle is the main muscle that is used to support the animal’s weight.

This is the single contributing factor to the brisket’s toughness.

The entire brisket is made up of two main sections: the point and flat.

The point is the more marbled part of the brisket. This cut is used to make the popular BBQ staple burnt ends.

The flat is somewhat leaner than the point. Corned beef is fabricated from the flat.

It is important to note, most supermarkets oftentimes sell the flat, not the point. Even though the flat can be smoked, it loses flavor if it has been detached from the point before smoking.

It is best to purchase the whole brisket if you plan on smoking it.

Cost of Brisket 

The price of briskest is steadily increasing. While it used to be super affordable meat, thanks to BBQ states like Texas and Kansas, the cost of brisket has risen drastically.

If you don’t have the right wood chips for smoking, you may have just wasted your money. Hence the importance of selecting the right wood chips for smoking.

Are Wood Chips or Chunks Better for Smoking?

Wood chunks create more smoke. Hence, superior flavor. Both varieties are produced identical versions of hardwood trees.

Nevertheless, it is the common consensus among most pitmasters that wood chunks are better than wood chips. 

This is because wood chunks smolder for longer periods.

Wood Chips

Size of Wood for Smoking Brisket

Besides the wood, woods for smoking are produced in 3 primary sizes.

  • Wood chips are easily accessible in most stores and are marketed as wood shavings and scraps. The only drawback of using wood chips is they burn out rather quickly. For this reason, it is best to use smaller cuts of brisket when using chips.
  • Wood chunks demand more time to ignite. However, they can burn for many hours. Wood chips are compatible with heftier cuts of brisket or any meat you wish to smoke for an extended amount of time.
  • Logs and sticks are ideal for classic smokers, such as the offset smoker. Although they generate a large mass of smoke, they are more difficult to light.

Should I Soak Wood Chunks Before Smoking?

This is certainly an age-old debate in the brisket world. Some individuals are in favor of it while others are not.

The theory behind smoking wood chips is that it delays the combustion rate and creates an intensified smoky flavor that you would not get from dry wood.

The reality is soaking wood chips is not a necessary step. The process of soaking wood chips requires moisture from the liquid to permeate the wood.

The entire ordeal would more than 24 hours.

Furthermore, not only do soaked wood chips generate steam, but they also decrease the smoker’s temperature.

Therefore, you must remove the moisture from your soaked chips before they can create smoke.

To remove the moisture from the chips, the liquid on the wood chips will need to reach the boiling point of water, which is 212°F.

This is the only way to ensure the water evaporates.

This is not to say that soaking wood chips is not useful. Using a gas or charcoal grill, a combination of soaked and dry wood chips will allow you to devise a delayed timing system.

While the dry chips smoke, the soaked chips will begin to dry and smoke later.

When Should You Soak Wood Chips?

The only appropriate time to soak wood chips is if you are looking to add a different flavor to the brisket.

The wood chips will absorb the flavor molecules in the wood, and they will linger even after the wood chips have dried.

There are two major points you should keep in mind when soaking wood chips. Let the wood chips dry completely before placing them in your smoker.

This is the only way to make sure the flavor permeates the meat.

Select your soaking liquids according to what you are smoking. The trick is to pair a drink with the appropriate meat and use it as a soaking liquid.

Can You Soak Wood Chips in Beer?

Beer is one of the most widespread liquids to soak wood chips in.

However, to yield the best result, allow your wood chips to soak in beer for 30 minutes.

You can use your favorite beer, but if you want to level up the flavor, use craft beer. Craft beer has fruity, nutty tones and robust flavors.

Whether you choose your favorite beer or craft beer, give a taste for quality control purposes.

Do You Continue Adding Wood Chips When Smoking?

There is no standard rule to decide how frequently you should add wood chips to a smoker.

Most experts recommend changing your wood chips every 5-6 hours.

Additionally, some people add a cup or two of used wood chips while adding more chips to the smoker.

However, ensure you inspect wood chips that have been used four or more time successively for mold.

 Can I Have Too Much Smoke In A Smoker?

In short, yes. If you add too many wood chips, a cloud of white smoke develops.

White smoke is a signal that you should add wood chips to the smoker in slower intervals.

A little white smoke is not a big issue. The problem occurs when there are large quantities of it.

White smoke will ruin the flavor of the brisket.

What Is the Best Wood for Smoking Brisket?

Whether you are the owner of a pellet grill or use an offset stick smoker, you will need to know the best types of wood for smoking.

Here is a list of the best wood chips for smoking.


When hickory chips are activated by smoking, they release a robust aroma filling the meat with a deeply intense, bacon-like flavor.

While hickory is the undeniable pick for pork cuts, beef brisket pitmasters also enjoy using it.

If you plan to include sugar in your rub or serve with a sweet BBQ sauce, the hickory chips will compliment it perfectly.


Brisket connoisseurs that love Texas Style Brisket favor mesquite hardwood. Mesquite hardwood is known for its robust, slightly spicy flavor.

Central Texas Barbecue consists largely of beef protein. As a result, mesquite has is and always be the ideal choice for Texas BBQ.

Mesquite wood is also the perfect infuser if you choose to go with a simple salt and pepper rub. It will intensify the naturally occurring beef flavor of the brisket.


Pecan chips give the brisket a deliciously nutty flavor. To achieve a greater flavor, add spices such as smoked paprika or cayenne pepper to give it a kick of spice.


Oak wood chips are one of the most versatile types of hardwood on the market. Oak can be used to smoke several kinds of proteins and vegetables, including brisket.

Even though oak has a milder flavor, it smolders scorching. Thus, it is the perfect choice for smoking brisket at high temperatures ranging between 250°F-300°F.


As you can imagine, applewood creates a somewhat fruity sweet flavor. However, this wood is not only limited to brisket. You can use it to smoke a ham and other cuts of poultry.


Like pecan chips, olive chips have a milder flavor. Therefore, they are the perfect option you want an alternative to mesquite chips.

Though not as intense, olive wood close imparts the same flavor as mesquite. It also perfect if you want to get creative and add a Mediterranean flair to your brisket.

Final Thoughts

A brisket is only as good as the wood chips used to smoke it. So, make sure you use the very best wood to give your brisket the best flavor.

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