5 Best Woods for Smoking Prime Rib


For the perfect barbecue rib roast, you need the right smoking wood. But which hardwood will give the right aromas and flavors for your beef cut? Cook the perfect smoked beef with our guide to the best woods for smoking prime rib.

best wood for smoking prime rib

When you want to smoke prime rib, you have to make certain considerations in mind. You can either go for hardwoods and fruitwoods depending on the ingredients and the desired taste that you would like to achieve. Hickory is the best type of wood for smoked prime rib, closely followed by oak and pecan. Below is a summary of every kind of wood that I consider the best for the prime smoking rib.


Hickory is a compelling type of wood that requires consistency and attention as it can make your rib bitter in a few minutes. Rich smoky flavors are produced when using hickory. If you are not sure about the best wood that you can use to smoke prime rib, hickory smoking wood can just be the perfect choice if you take the necessary steps to maintain its excellent way of smoking meat.

It is a rich and reliable type of wood that is good for prime smoking rib. It gives you a sweet flavor that is close to a bacon-like flavor. I classify it as heavy wood. You have to be careful when using the hickory as it makes a lot of smoke. I do not recommend beginners to use this kind of wood. It is for experienced smokers who can control the wood as well as the smoke.

The fact that ribs have less meat than other steak portions is a good reason enough to tell you that you should not let the rib get more heat from the hickory that it cannot withstand. A fair amount of wood will make a great job. As much as it is a strong type of wood, you should not get carried away by that can disturb the rib’s natural flavors. It is a versatile type of wood that can change your rib from great smoky flavors to a bitter taste if not handled well.


oak smoking wood chunks

Oak is best known as a hardwood that is good on beef. I recommend beginners get used to the wood before using woods that give a robust smokey result on your beef. When it comes to burning, it is faster. You do not have to put more wood when you are using oak. You have to add bit by bit to have a controlled heat and enough time to make the desired texture and flavor on your rib.

Oak smoking wood produces a medium to strong flavor that does not entirely change your prime beef’s original flavors. Of course, it is stronger than most fruit woods such as cherry. If you prefer a medium smoky flavor, this can be your perfect wood. If you prefer a stronger smoky flavor on your prime rib, Hickory can be the best wood for smoking. Excellent results can be a combination of the oak wood and complementary types of woods.

The idea of mixing needs particular attention, as you might make inappropriate decisions as you choose a combination that does not produce a great flavor. A light layer of smoke flavor is what you get from the oak wood. The thin layer of smoke is straightforward to control; that is why I recommend amateurs to use it. The chances are meager that you will mess up the rib. It does not demand a lot from you.


Pecan is a sweet type of wood that does not take a few minutes when in use. It does not produce smoke quickly so that you can quickly get done with smoking. Taking more time does not mean time wasted, but that gives the rib more time to absorb all the smoke and flavors. The flavors have to be well-balanced and the rib well done. You are not restricted from combining pecan with other types of wood just in case you want a different pecan flavor.

I can classify the pecan smoking wood as one of the sweet-tasting woods. It can work well as a combination with the hickory wood. The reason behind such a good combination is the balance that comes with rich, sweet and earthy smoke flavors. The flavors have a nutty taste that it gives. A beautiful smokey layer is added to the prime rib. As much as it brings a sweet flavour to the rib, it also has a special way of maintaining the original flavor.

Pecan wood consists of numerous flavors that include a nutty, sweet and rich flavor. As much as it is strong, it is not as powerful as hickory. It is also easy to control as it does not burn faster than hickory. It burns slowly, and I consider it the coolest type of wood you may use during your smoking time. The sweetness, however, needs a balance so it can be a bit much for some people.


As much as I have mentioned Pecan wood as sweet, applewood is sweeter. It can be the best type of wood for people who really love the sweet flavor in their rib that much. It makes a great combination with barbecue sauce. The flavor is almost the same as the original taste. The smoked prime rib becomes softer and has this pleasant aroma that makes you more curious to have a bite.

It takes more time for the applewood to make the prime rib absorb all the flavors and smoke. You need more patience when it comes to the applewood. You should not add more than enough chunks of wood so that you get done easily and quickly. That can ruin perfect smoking. The cooking time has to be more than the standard time needed with any other type of wood. Your temperature has to be kept low.


It is one of the best hardwood that has a very fresh smell of the earth. This gives a natural taste to your prime rib. The flavor is neither spicy nor sweet. This makes you enjoy a great taste that has not been exaggerated in any way. Natural flavors are kept for your enjoyment. Their smoke cannot be likened to any other, some produced by any type of wood. A powerful flavor is added to the prime rib that leaves you with an amazing taste that can make you keep smoking the rib time and again.

As much as the flavors produced when using mesquite wood remains earthy and sweet, you need to be careful when controlling the smoke. If you are not careful enough, you can just as well make a bitter rib that has a taste that overpowers the original taste. The wood is quite oily, and that makes it burn faster and easily. It appears to be very hot; hence extra-care is needed. You are free to experiment as you mix with other types of wood.

The Final Word

As much as the above types of wood can bring different flavors, they are all great for smoking prime rib. They have a special way of keeping the natural flavors as long as you do not take shortcuts during the process. Hickory is the best of all wood, but you can combine it with some of the above mentioned for a great texture and flavor.

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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