Best Wood For Smoking Pork: 5 Options For Finger-licking Pork

May 29, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Depending on the pork cut you plan to smoke, several wood flavors are sure to elevate your smoked pork. My go-to choice is pecan wood simply because I enjoy the nutty notes it imparts on pork.

As a pitmaster, I know that most people are partial to a deep smokey flavor in their pork. The key to nailing this flavor lies in picking the right wood flavor for your pork cut as well as sourcing high-quality meat. Based on your preferred flavor profile, there are several woods to choose from.

In this post, I will share my top 5 wood flavors for pork and why they make the cut. I will also tell you how to pick the right pork cut that will give you the best value for your buck. Let’s dive in.

best wood for smoking pork

Wood For Smoking Pork: Our Top 5 Picks

The best wood for smoking pork solely depends on which type of pork cuts you are grilling and what wood is easily available to you. My top choices are:

Pecan Wood

Pecan wood is the best wood for smoking pork because it adds irreplaceable depth and complexity to your dish with its rich nutty flavor. I also appreciate its incredible aroma that just screams bacon. It is commonly used on ham and bacon bits but it shines on pork ribs and pork chops.

Pecan and hickory woods have a similar flavor because the two species are related. However, I don’t recommend hickory for pork because it will easily overwhelm the meal. To get the same bacon hints and nutty flavor profile, pecan is the better option since it marries well with pork.

Pecan burns slowly and gives off a steady smoke. This makes it great for low and slow cooking methods including smoking and grilling that are required for tough meat cuts like pork butt and pork shoulder.

Additionally, pecan can be paired with a fruit wood to add a level of sweetness to your smoked pork. For these reasons, I like to use a mix of Weber Pecan Wood Chunks and apple or cherry chips for delicious smoked Boston butt and pulled pork recipes.

Apple Wood

Apple wood makes the cut because of its sweet, mild, fruity flavor that complements the taste of your pork without overpowering it. This makes it great for delicate cuts of meat like pork loin and pork chops.

Apple wood burns slowly, giving off a pleasant and inviting aroma. Other than smoking pork, this fruit wood is excellent for smoking vegetables and fruits. It enhances their natural sweetness without overdoing the flavors.

Applewood is also commonly paired with hickory and mesquite to dial down their mighty flavors in smoked pork dishes.

Over the years, I have fallen in love with Cowboy Apple Wood Chips. It always gives me that hint of sweetness and is comparatively more affordable.

Cherry Wood

You know that gorgeous reddish-brown color familiar with pork ribs? That’s cherry wood. It makes the bark all the more inviting and adds sweet cherry notes to your pork that are just to die for.

Cherry wood burns slowly, producing a mild smokiness that is very fruity. Its flavor is stronger than both apple and maple so if you go for cherry wood, don’t be tempted to use too much of it when smoking pork ribs.

If you like your pork hot, cherry wood pairs divinely with spicy meat rubs and marinades.

To get the flavors right, I suggest using a blend of Oklahoma Joe's Cherry Wood with stronger post oak to hit a balance of earthiness and fruit flavor.

Maple Wood

Maple wood is an excellent choice for smoking pork cuts. It has a milder flavor than cherry and apple. It imparts a subtle hint of sweetness to your meat.

This sweet smoky flavor is normally used alongside oak and hickory to achieve the perfect balance between fruity and smokey.

Because of its mild flavor, maple is most commonly used on veggies, cheese, and poultry. Similarly, I recommend using Fire & Flavor Maple Wood on smaller cuts of pork like ribs and pulled pork.

Orange Wood

Last on this list is orange wood. It is great for smoking all kinds of meat. It adds the complex flavor profile of citrus to the meat and pairs well with a spicy rub.

It is stronger than other fruit woods like apple, maple, and cherry which is why it can penetrate its flavor into bigger cuts of meat. This stronger flavor is perfect for smoking pork butt, pulled pork, and pork shoulder.

It can be blended with hickory and oak to merge the smoky earthy flavors with the citrus orange notes of Tropical Spark Orange Chips. To elevate the meal a notch higher, go in with a rich orange or lemon glaze to bring the dish together.

In General

By now you’ve probably noticed a pattern with the wood pairings. Generally, milder wood flavors pair better with smaller cuts of pork. They include chops, pork tenderloin, spare ribs, shank, trotter, and pork loin roast.

Similarly, stronger wood flavors are better suited to cuts that have a heavy pork flavor with more connective tissue. These include the shoulder, pork or Boston butt, and pork belly.

A strong smoky flavor will easily overwhelm small cuts of pork while mild flavors hardly penetrate thick meat cuts.

Should I Use Wood Chips or Wood Pellets?

This largely depends on the cooking time demanded by your recipe. Wood chips are your best friend when you want a quick burst of flavor because they burn quickly for a short period.

Wood pellets on the other hand burn slower for longer and thus are suited for longer smoking sessions familiar with larger cuts of pork.

Another factor to consider is your smoker. Wood pellets are specifically designed for pellet grills. As for other smokers like charcoal smokers, kettle grills, and gas grills wood chips are commonly to boost the flavor of the meat.

Man Holding Wood Chips Ready to Use as a Fuel

How to Pick the Right Piece of Pork?

When it comes to smoking meat, picking the right cut of pork is just as important as picking the right wood flavor. Here are a few pointers:

  • Go for fresh pork because its flavor will be more potent compared to meat that has been living in the freezer. Fresh pork has a pale pink color and is firm to the touch.
  • A good amount of fat goes a long way in the final taste of smoked meat including pork so look out for firm marbling that will render in the smoke and flavor your pork. It also ensures your meat remains moist and juicy.
  • If you are smoking for friends and family, the appealing look of a smoked bone-in shoulder is just what you need to kick off the meal.

What is Pulled Pork?

Pulled pork refers to pork shoulder that has been cooked low and slow either in the smoker or the slow cooker until it is fork tender. Pulled pork is then rested before being pulled apart into smaller pieces using a fork or meat claws thus the tag ‘pulled’.


1. What is the Best Wood for Smoking Pork on a Traeger Grill?

I am partial to pecan because of its nutty taste so Traeger Pecan Wood Pellets would be my go-to for smoked pork on a Traeger Pellet Grill.

2. Can I Use Peach Wood for Smoking Pork?

Yes. Peachwood can also be used to smoke pork. It adds a floral flavor to the meat that some people find scrumptious. I recommend pairing peach wood with oak or hickory.

3. Can I Use Pear Wood to Smoke Pork?

Yes, you can. Pear wood is also a great option when paired with stronger woods like oak and hickory.

To Recap

In a nutshell, I recommend pecan, cherry, apple, maple, and orange wood flavors for smoking pork. Other fruit woods include pear, peach, and guava for fruity notes.

However, I advise you to try out different blends of wood until you land on what works for you. That is what turns a regular Joe into a barbeque guru!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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