The Best Type Of Wood To Use When Smoking Brisket

Many cooking methods seek to master brisket, but none finesse it quite like the pit. Given its long, slow, yet intense approach, smoking is just the right method to tenderize the tougher brisket. Unlike grilling, the slow burn of smoking breaks meat down gradually while infusing it with earthy flavor, and behind this process burns the best type of wood to see the job through, which is none other than hickory.

Using hickory wood is one of the best ways to add flavor to brisket. This hardwood has a potent yet pleasantly sweet aroma that emanates as it burns, which is by far hickory wood's best selling point. Its unique, bacon-like essence that so smoothly laces the meat ensures a flavorful brisket that is both rich and beefy after long hours of smoking, while nutty notes finish the meat with robust flavors you can't miss. Yet, hickory wood's strength extends beyond just whetting the appetite. 

Being a hardwood, hickory produces more heat than softwoods  and also lasts longer in the firepit. Brisket's tough and fatty nature requires such a hardwood ready to burn for hours on end with an intensity that will soften and penetrate it with lovely flavors, making hickory the ideal choice. As a bonus, hickory's durability as it burns means you can relax and not have to worry about adding more wood to the pit in brief intervals — which is great, so long as you don't forget about your smoking brisket.

Hickory produces intense flavor and smoke

Hickory's flavor is so strong that it's best used on larger, tougher cuts of meat such as brisket, pork, and various game meats. Tender proteins such as seafood are not recommended with hickory wood as its deep intensity can overpower them. Also, due to its strong flavor, you won't have to use as much hickory as you would, say, fruitwood like apple wood, so you're guaranteed the most bang for your buck with flavored meat when smoking with hickory.

And don't forget about the smoky essence that comes with hickory. As the wood burns, it produces lots of smoke, leaving your brisket with a bold, earthy aroma in addition to the imparted bacon fragrance. This ability to transform meat for the better in various ways explains hickory's favor among pitmasters as one of the best wood types for grilling and smoking, and our recommending it for a mostly lean cut like brisket. That said, hickory's intense smoke can turn meat bitter. Similar to what happens if you over-smoke beef ribs, your brisket can end up barely edible, so try and avoid a bitter outcome at all costs.