Here’s a descriptive briefing of the most popular smoking briskets. Most can be easily found online, at your local grocery, and depending on where you live, even around your home.
Medium to Strong Flavors
Mesquite is one most popular brisket choices, due to its natural ability to burn quickly and produce a strong, smoky flavor. Best for southern and Texas-style barbecue recipes.
Hickory is a lot like mesquite in the sense that it also has a very strong flavor that smokes quickly, no matter if on charcoals or burning alone. It tends to overpower the flavor of seasonings, so you should cook with it for too long.
A lot of grillers like hickory for pork. It has an aroma that’s almost similar to bacon in flavor but also adds a lot of depth to beef brisket.
A blend of smoking briskets is commonly used for pellet grills. Most professional grillers will recommend them for individual use, only after becoming familiarized with standalone hardwoods. It’s the best pellet flavor for brisket grilling if you want to go the safe route or find individual species to be too strong.
Here are some of the milder flavors:
Oak has gained lots of ground over the years, due in part to its magnificent burning time. Its mild flavor makes it suitable for slow-cooking meats of all kinds and can be smoked with no risk of impurities taking out the flavor of the meat.
Pecan’s flavor has a sweet and nutty flavor. It is not as bold as mesquite or hickory but packs enough flavor to know the taste when eating meat that’s cooked with it. Its sweetness is very mild, and not overbearing.
The flavor of smoked maple wood is very pleasant and sweet. There’s more emphasis on sweetness here and less woody texture. If you’ve tried woods like Hickory but dislike the conspicuous nature of its woody taste, this is a good alternative wood for you to try.
As far as taste, olive wood is identical to mesquite, but not as strong. Try it out if you like the mesquite flavor but dislike its bold aftertaste. It also pairs well with Hickory and the other mild woods shown in the list.
Cherry wood goes well as a blend with other bolder hardwoods, such as mesquite or hickory. You can use it as a standalone as well, but it won’t deliver the same punch that the other aforementioned woods can. Its flavor is a mix of sweet and fruity, with very mild notes of wood.
About Wood Size for Smoking Brisket
For most grills, wood sizes should be no larger than about the size of one’s fist, or a bit smaller. This type of cut is commonly known as a chunk. It’s the most versatile cut and is suggested for the average griller.
Unless they’re pre-cut, you can cut chunks until each size measures about three inches across. Whether or not you want to keep on the bark (if you see it) is up to you.
There’s no need to cut it off if you don’t want to. Some find that it adds a bit more depth to the meat when left intact, especially with milder woods.
It’s imperative that you not make the wood chunks too large. If you do, you’ll find that the pieces burn slower than what you will want.
Unless burning very mild woods, you want them to come to a burn rather quickly, without it smoldering in your grill.
Hickory and mesquite are particularly susceptible to smoldering when charring is extended for a longer time than suggested. If this occurs, the meat could end up tasting too bitter due to the impurities that such species contain.
There are also wood chips and logs. Chips are best for gas and electric grills and are easy to maintain constant heat. There’s less work that needs to be done to keep the wood chips at a constant temperature. Logs are suited when no charcoal is required during cooking.
Tips for Choosing Your Wood
When picking wood for the first time, there are a few key things to remember. The following is what you should always have in the back of your head before adding anything to your grill:
Seasoning of Wood
Regardless of the wood that you’re cooking with, make sure that it has been thoroughly dried, or seasoned. This can be done in several ways. If you’re getting the wood from a retailer, then it might be dry already.
However, some pieces could still retain a bit of moisture. Consider setting it out in the sun for a couple of days until it’s visibly free of all moisture. Wood doesn’t burn well when water is inside, no matter what flavor you’re working with.
How the Wood is Cut
Picking up from the previous section, wood is typically cut between two and four inches across. But there are some exceptions to this.
For example, you’ll want to cut in slivers when using cooking without charcoal.
This will allow for clean smoke that doesn’t burn out too slowly.
Grilling is something that takes time to perfect and never is the statement truer when said in the context of smoking a brisket.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Some find that a stronger, bolder flavor is their choice while others dislike all things bold and go for sweeter results. If in doubt, you can always make your own blend, or purchase them pre-mixed.
Although the best wood pellets for smoking brisket are commonly used, there are certainly ways to make whole chunks of wood useful in your cooking, no matter if you add charcoal or not. If there’s anything to remember, it’s that you do not stick to one wood.
Give them all a try until you find the flavor that you like more than the others. Mild and bold, sweet and (slightly bitter), there are lots of variances in cooking brisket. Perfecting your smoke will keep your neighbors coming back for more brisket by the aroma of the cuts alone!