Much like dry rubs and wet marinades, the type of wood you use for smoking heavily contributes to the flavor of your pork.
Wood chips do more than just give different cuts of meat that distinctive smokey flavor.
For example, different types of fruity woods can provide a uniquely sweet flavor to the meat.
There’s a wide variety of flavored wood that exists. However, you still have to know which kinds of wood best matches the types of meat that you’re working with.
For example, there is some wood that is best suited to fish. But these probably wouldn’t provide the high intensity of smoke flavoring that’s required for beef.
Just like beef and fish, pork really works well with a few types of wood. I have listed my favorite flavor combo below!
Best Wood for Pulled Pork – My 6 Top Choices
The best type of wood can vary between the different cuts of meat. Hence, the best wood for smoking pulled pork can differ from the ones you should use for pork chops.
Don’t worry if you find this a little bit confusing, I did too when I really drove deep into pairing my wood with certain cuts. In this article, we’ll introduce to you the best woods for smoking pulled pork.
Pecan ( A good middle ground between strong and fruity)
Facing the dilemma of whether you should go with a fruity wood or one with a stronger flavor? Pecan wood is perfect.
While it’s not as hard-hitting as hickory, it does provide a stronger smoke flavor than the typical fruitwoods.
If you’re preparing pork, then pecan wood is always going to be my favorite choice. It never fails to impress, and it’s not just for smoking pulled pork. It can also be used for other cuts, such as pork ribs or tenderloin.
Maple (A Suprising Sweet Option)
Maple wood isn’t very conventionally used for smoking pork. However, I’ve tested it and it works remarkably well for smoking stuffed pork loin as well as pulled pork.
I was quite surprised with this result as maple is usually only paired with light meats like chicken. Maple wood is also great for other neutral types of foods like vegetables or several types of cheese.
The flavor of maple wood in your smoke is slightly sweet. And the light level of smoke flavor it gives off is pleasant and delicate.
If you’re new to smoking foods and want to keep the smoky flavor to a minimum, then maple wood’s mild flavor will be the most ideal. (It’s also perfect if you prefer a sweeter wood that doesn’t really have those fruity undertones.)
Cherry (My Pick for a Long Cook)
If you’re planning to smoke your pulled pork for a long period of time, then cherry wood is the way to go.
Cherry wood adds a naturally sweet and mildly smoky taste that pairs well with the flavor of pork.
Much like how many different kinds of meat pair well with some cherry sauce, the smoke from cherry wood compliments pulled pork nicely.
It does take a while to infuse in, and that’s why it’s great to use for slow smoking sessions.
Oak (If your looking for a slighty stronger wood)
Much like pecan wood, oak is one of the best types of wood to go with if you’re looking for a slightly stronger smoky flavor.
Of course, it lacks the fruity flavors that come with smoking cherry or applewood. But you should also know that it also gives off a stronger smoky flavor.
Let’s say you find yourself enjoying the sweetness and fruitiness of apple, cherry, and orange wood. But you wished that it provided more of a smoky flavor too.
Well, I have a suggestion. For the best of both worlds, you can always combine oak wood with fruitwoods
The perfect thing about using oak wood is that it’s light enough to not overpower the flavor of your pulled pork. But it’s strong enough to get shine through the ‘porky’ taste.
Applewood (For those looking for a sweeter flavor)
If you’re a fan of adding a quart of apple juice into your meat marinades, then why not step it up a notch and smoke the meat with applewood?
Apple wood is very similar to cherry wood, in the sense that they contribute a subtle smoky and sweet flavor to meats.
Applewood is perfect for slow cooking or slow smoking sessions. The long cooking times with low heat will allow its light fruity flavor to really penetrate the meat.
I would also suggest trying out both apple wood and cherry wood together at least once.
If you’re not into the fruity and sweet flavors, then we definitely suggest using hickory wood.
It’s often used when smoking beef, but you need to be careful as it is strong. It can overpower the taste of your pulled pork.
If you do decide to do with hickory,I would suggest starting off with a minimal amount of wood. It is, after all, a stronger type of wood compared to the others I’ve suggested so far.
Wood to Avoid When Cooking with Pork
We know how tempting it is to substitute certain types of wood chips for others. Especially for wood chips that are harder to get a hold of, like pecan wood.
So I thought it’d be important to warn you of certain types of woods that you should never use to smoke pulled pork.
Alder wood is absolutely perfect for smoking beef. However, it can be a bit too strong for smoking pork; especially pulled pork. The natural taste of pork is definitely not as strong or as ‘gamey’ when compared to beef meat.
It’s usually best to cook pork slowly on a low heat setting. Mesquite, on the other hand, is perfect for fast cooks that require high heat.
This also means that mesquite wood gives off a lot of smoke, which might make your pulled pork taste bitter.
The powerful burst of smoke it emits can also quickly dry out your pulled pork. And if there’s one thing you don’t want to happen with pulled pork, it’s for it to be too dry.
Experiment and Blend your Wood
Lastly, I want to remind you half the fun of smoking foods is to experiment with the different types of wood available. It’s always great to discover different combinations of woods. This is because they can bring out different flavors in the meat when mixed together.
We’ve already suggested mixing oak wood with others like apple, cherry, or orange wood.
Try out our combination for yourself, and tell us if you come up with other great combos!
Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking and getting out in nature with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork)
You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!
You can read more on our About Us page.
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