Posted: March 7, 2024
Author: Ryan Kukuruzovic, Executive Chef and Culinary Manager

Ryan has 20-plus years of R&D and foodservice experience. His focus is on the design and implementation of diverse and innovative culinary visions with the highest standards of excellence.

When people ask me what’s the best type of wood to use when smoking meats, I realize they want a simple answer. And while I appreciate their desire, it’s not straightforward. Wood selection plays a vital role in determining the finished flavor profile when smoking meats or other foods. Each wood type possesses distinct characteristics that add varying flavor nuances to foods. Wood smoking not only imparts incredible flavor to dishes, but it also aids in their preservation. The slow and low smoking process tenderizes foods while allowing the wood flavors to infuse into them. 

As mentioned, the different wood types used for smoking have distinct profiles. Here’s a look at various commonly used woods and the flavors each imparts.


Widely recognized as the top choice among smoking woods, hickory is renowned for its strong and smoky flavor, which pairs exceptionally well with various meats, especially pork and beef. Hickory lends a distinctively rich and robust taste, making it a favorite among barbecue enthusiasts. Its dense nature ensures a consistent smoke, creating an appetizing aroma and flavor.


For those seeking a more intense flavor profile, mesquite boasts a highly aromatic quality and imparts a strong and smoky taste to foods. Its potency ideally complements beef and game meats, guaranteeing a powerful and distinctive flavor. However, due to its strength, it is advisable to use mesquite sparingly, as it can easily overwhelm more delicate ingredients.


If you prefer a mild and sweeter flavor, applewood is the perfect choice. It offers a subtle, fruity aroma that complements poultry and pork exceptionally well. Applewood creates a delicate smoke that doesn’t overpower the natural flavors of meats, resulting in a well-balanced taste experience. It’s also a popular option for smoking fish, as it imparts a gentle and slightly sweet flavor.


A versatile wood that can be used with almost any type of meat or fish, oak delivers a medium smoky flavor without being overpowering. Known for its reliability and consistency, oak ensures a dependable smoke that enhances the overall taste of foods. Whether smoking ribs, chicken, or salmon, oak can be relied upon to yield excellent results.


For those wanting to add a touch of sweetness to their smoked dishes, cherrywood is an excellent selection. It imparts a mild and slightly sweet flavor that pairs well with poultry, pork, and even vegetables. Cherrywood also adds a beautiful reddish hue to meats, enhancing both their appearance and taste. 

Captivating smoking flavors

As you’d expect, the rich, smoky taste of wood smoking is difficult to replicate with other cooking methods. That’s where our flavor expertise comes in. Our innovation and protein experts can help create unforgettable smoky flavor experiences for use in your applications. 

Selecting the right wood smoke flavor can elevate your culinary creations. Whether your application calls for the robustness of hickory, the intensity of mesquite, the delicacy of applewood, the versatility of oak, or the sweetness of cherrywood, we can create a smoked flavor to meet your expectations. Beyond meats and seafood, smoky flavors can add distinct flavor notes to sauces, dips, condiments, snacks and even beverages. If this has got you thinking about creating a new product, please reach out.   

Contact me at to discuss how you can use unique smoked flavors to create delectable flavor experiences that will keep your consumers coming back again and again.