Smoking is a great way to add flavor to meat and other foods. You can buy a dedicated smoker, or you can add a few smoking wood chips to your fire when grilling on a charcoal grill. Regardless of which approach you take, you will want to pay close attention to which type of wood chips you use. There are a lot of different woods that can be used for smoking, and each has its own characteristics.


Hickory is one of the most common woods used to make wood chips for smoking. It should be easy to find in stores. If a store only carries one type of wood chips, they're often hickory. The smoke tastes great with chicken, beef, and pork, but you do need to use it sparingly, especially for smaller cuts of meat. It can overpower other flavors if you use too much.


Maple wood has a more subtle flavor. If you don't like your food overly smoky, maple wood chips are a good choice. The smoke also has a slightly sweet flavor. It's generally considered a bit too mild and sweet for beef, but it pairs exceptionally well with pork, chicken, and fish.


Pecan wood chips also give a milder smokiness. The flavor is often described as nutty. It's less sweet than maple wood smoke but has a similarly mild and balanced character. Pecan smoke tends to pair well with beef, even thought it is mild, and it also goes well with chicken, especially if that chicken has been soaked in a milder, sweeter marinade.


Apple wood can lend a very sweet, balanced smoke flavor to meat, but it does take a long time to penetrate. So, you may want to save your apple wood chips for pork shoulders, briskets, and other large cuts rather than pork chops and chicken legs.


Mesquite is one of the stronger woods you can use for smoking. It's really hard, and so it burns slowly and generates a lot of smoke as it does. You'll want to use only a few mesquite wood chips if you're smoking a smaller cut of meat. Even for larger cuts, you may want to mix mesquite wood chips with a milder wood, like pecan.

Hopefully this guide has given you a better idea of which wood chips will best meet your needs. If you smoke often, you may want to keep a variety on-hand.