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Discover the best wood for smoking brisket, including different types for different grills and pitmaster tips for choosing the right flavor.

lump charcoal and pecan wood chunks next to drum smoker.

What wood flavor is best for smoking brisket?

Once you’ve completed the trimming, injecting, seasoning and resting stages, it’s time to get the smoker going.

Your fuel source will depend on your type of grill or smoker and will likely include charcoal briquetslump charcoal or wood pellets.

While the briquets, lump and pellets are made from wood and will carry their own flavor qualities, you can elevate the smoky flavor by adding wood chunks, chips or more pellets.

My favorite wood blend for smoking brisket is post oak, pecan wood and cherry wood. If you can’t find post oak, hickory is a nice alternative.

  • Post Oak: This is a type of wood that is commonly used to smoke brisket in Central Texas. It’s mild, slightly sweet and burns clean. If you can’t find post oak, you can also use white oak or red oak.
  • Pecan Wood: Pecan wood has a mild flavor profile with slightly sweet, nutty overtones. The nuttiness enhances the natural umami in the beef.
  • Cherry Wood: I use cherry wood because it imparts a great mahogany color to smoked meat. It’s a mild wood with a delicate, slightly sweet flavor.
  • Hickory Wood: Hickory has a stronger flavor than oak, so it should be used sparingly. It’s slightly sweet, but has deep, woody undertones.
PRO TIP: Personally, I don't use mesquite wood when I cook brisket. To me, it has a very strong, bitter flavor. 

Smoking beef brisket with wood logs

Smoking with just wood requires some finesse, because too much wood can be overpowering.

I only recommend using split logs for smoking if you have an offset smoker.

You can start the pit with charcoal briquets and then add 1-2 split logs every 45-60 minutes.

brisket smoking on a PK Grill.

How to add wood to a charcoal grill

If you’re using charcoal briquets or lump charcoal, I recommend adding 2-3 chunks of hardwood wood on top of the coals once they’re ashed over and ready.

If you’re using a ceramic cooker or drum cooker where it’s a little more difficult to access the charcoal basket, you can layer the wood chunks in the middle of the coals.

As the coals light, they’ll reach the wood and will emit great smoke flavor at just the right time.

How to add wood to a pellet grill

When smoking with a pellet grill, the pellets themselves are made of different wood varieties.

Look for a wood pellet blend that includes oak, pecan and cherry, or mix up different pellets to make your own blend.

If you like the flavor of charcoal (which I do), you can also find wood pellets that contain charcoal. I’m a fan of Cowboy Charcoal & Hickory Pellets for brisket.

If you want even more smoke flavor, consider adding more pellets to a smoker tube and placing that on the grill grate next to the brisket.

cookin with cowboy logo
Disclosure: I am a paid ambassador for Cowboy Charcoal.
A foil pouch full of wood pellets smoking on a gas grill.

How to add wood to a gas grill

Believe it or not, you can smoke brisket on a gas grill. They key is to set the grill up with an indirect heat zone.

Then, you can add dry wood chunks in a foil pouch. Don’t soak the wood chips, because that will create steam, not smoke.

What to look for when buying wood

For the best consistency and flavor, look for dry wood logs or chunks that are bark-free and even in size.

  • Green wood, or wood that isn’t dry, produces more creosote and a bitter flavor.
  • Bark can become bitter as it burns, so it’s best to keep it out of your pit.
  • Using evenly sized pieces helps ensure consistency with each cook. Smoke is a layer of flavor. You wouldn’t season your brisket with different amount of rub each time. The same holds true for smoke. Try to control this element if you can.

More FAQs about Brisket

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christie vanover standing against wood wall.

Hey BBQ Family

I’m Christie, the head cook and award-winning competitive pitmaster for Team Girls Can Grill. I have won multiple grand championships and top 10 category finishes. I’m an expert grill reviewer for BBQ Guys, and I have appeared on the Food Network and Ninja Woodfire Grill infomercials. I established this website in 2015 to share my BBQ tips and recipes.

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