4 Best Woods for Smoking Lamb [Hickory, Apple, Oak & More]

By Ben Isham-Smith

Published:

The best woods for smoking lamb, from oak and hickory hardwoods to fruity applewood and strong mesquite. Find the right smoking wood flavor for your next barbecue smoked lamb today.

smoked lamb chops smoke ring
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There are few meats as special as smoked lamb. Its strong, almost-gamey flavor is brought to a new level by cooking it low and slow on the backyard smoker or grill. But the key to a successful smoke lies in your choice of wood.

Not all woods are created equal. Each type has its own aroma and flavor profile, and carries its level of intensity. Get it right and you’ll have something that elevates your smoked lamb beautifully. Get it wrong and you can have something bitter, and risk undoing all the good work you’ve done up to that point.

Whether you’re smoking chops, shank, or classic rack of lamb, these are the best woods for smoking lamb. Let’s get cooking!

Hickory

A staple of Southern barbecue, hickory smoking wood comes from the nutty hickory tree that’s found all over the United States. It’s a dense wood that can burn steadily over long periods of time, making it perfect for lamb cuts that need several hours on your smoker, such as lamb ribs or shank.

Hickory wood emits a strong, full-bodied aroma that imparts an unmistakable smokey, slightly nutty flavor to your barbecue lamb. Not only that, but it also features subtly sweet notes that can really cut through the more robust and almost-gamey flavor of lamb.

Unlike lighter woods like apple or oak, which can struggle to match lamb’s robust taste, hickory is strong enough to combine well with it. Hickory wood’s smoky aromas work well to mellow out the sometimes gamey undertones in lamb.

However, if you are cooking a leaner cut like lamb loin or chops, you might want to skip the hickory and opt for a softer hardwood, such as oak or apple.

Apple

Applewood provides a sweeter, milder smoke that complements the rich flavor of lamb. It’s ideal for BBQ fans who prefer a more subtle smoky flavor and works particularly well with leaner lamb cuts, like loin or chops.

Lamb has a strong and unique taste that can get hidden if you use a wood that gives off a really heavy smoke. But, applewood, which is a bit softer and sweeter, avoids this problem nicely. It can even work well to tone down the strong, gamey taste that some lamb cuts carry.

Mesquite

Mesquite provides an intense smoky flavor, which can be great for lamb. However, it should be used sparingly to prevent overpowering the meat’s natural flavors.

Mesquite wood is particularly popular in traditional Texas barbecue thanks to its distinctive earthy flavor and intense smoke plumes. If you want a strong smoky flavor, there’s no better place to start. Its strong, almost spicy, smoky taste can add something special to your lamb. Lamb already has a strong and rich flavor, and the intense smokiness from mesquite can give it an extra wow factor.

But be warned: Mesquite is easy to overdo. If you use too much, its flavor can take over and completely dwarf lamb’s natural flavors. So, remember to go easy. A little can go a long way.

Pro Tip: To temper the strength of mesquite, we recommend blending mesquite with a more mild hardwood, like oak or apple. This will help tame mesquite’s strong taste, giving you a cool mix of smoky flavors without overpowering the natural taste of the lamb.

Oak

oak smoking wood chunks

Oakwood is popular for barbecue thanks to its long smoke time and versatile flavor. It’s well-balanced and complements lamb nicely without overpowering it.

Known for delivering a smoke that is moderate in intensity, oak smoking wood strikes a great balance between the milder woods like apple and the stronger ones like hickory and mesquite.

When you smoke lamb with oak, you introduce a pleasing, middle-of-the-road smokiness to the meat. It’s a flavor that’s there but not too overpowering – a kind of smoky ‘Goldilocks zone’. The level of smoke is just right, it enhances the lamb’s natural flavors without overpowering them.

What makes oak a popular choice is not just its moderate smokiness but also its well-rounded flavor profile. The flavors that oak smoke imparts are balanced. It’s neither too sweet nor too strong, making it a great companion to the more robust flavors of lamb.

Moreover, oak is widely available and burns for a long time, making it a practical choice for long, slow smokes. You can be sure that with oak, your lamb will be smoked consistently, and the flavor will be evenly infused throughout the cooking process.

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.


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