7 Best Woods for Smoking Steak [Oak, Hickory, Cherry & More]


Best woods for smoking beef steak, from oak and hickory hardwoods to fruit cherry and maple. Find the right smoking wood flavor for your next barbecue smoke today.

barbecue smoking wood chips for beef steak

Steak is a classic cut of meat to serve up for date night, the 4th of July, or any other time when you want to feed people a meal that feels special. Smoking steak adds an extra dimension of flavor that just tossing it on the grill or in the skillet does not produce.

Steak is not the most affordable cut of meat, so you want to make sure that you smoke it right using the right woods. The best woods for smoking steak are alder or fruit woods such as apple or cherry. You can also use more durable hardwoods such as oak.

Here is your guide to the best woods for smoking steak.

sliced barbecue smoked beef flank steak


Alder is a delicate wood that comes from the alder tree, members of the birch family that grow throughout North America but are densely located in the Pacific Northwest. All timber used for smoking is hardwood, but alder is one of the softest hardwood species. It has a mild, sweet taste.

Alder wood is good for a delicate smoke that won’t overpower your steak. However, if you want more flavor, try a more robust wood.


Cherry wood comes from the cherry tree, a fruit tree native to Eurasia but now grows all over North America. Cherry wood has a distinctive red-brown color and sweet smoke, although its fruity flavor is less overpowering than other fruitwoods.

If you want a mild, sweet flavor for your steak, then cherry wood is a great choice. Cherry is very versatile, so if you’re going to reuse your supply for another meal later on, it is a good wood to have on hand. Cherry wood takes a while to build up enough smoke, so it is best if you like your steak well done as your meat will spend a lot of time on the smoker if you’re working with cherry.


Pecan is a durable hardwood from the pecan tree, a nut tree native to the southern United States. Pecan wood is used for many types of barbecue thanks to its rich, nutty flavor. Out of the nut trees, it has the most assertive flavor.

Pecan wood is a great choice if you want to add a flavorful, sweet dimension to the smoke on your steak. However, it does not burn as long or as steady as oak or hickory, making it a better choice for rare or medium-rare steaks when you want a quick sear.


Maple wood comes from the maple tree, a sweet sap-producing tree widespread across the northern United States. Maple has a sweet flavor, which is expected since the trunks contain the sweet sap that makes maple syrup, but its smoke is actually not as sweet as some of the fruit trees on this list.

Maple wood is a good choice if you are looking for a subtle way to add some sweet flavor to your steak. However, it is harder to find in shops than other types of wood.


Hickory is one of the hardest types of wood native to the United States, coming from the nutty hickory tree that grows all over the United States. Hickory smoking wood is a staple of Carolina barbecue.

Hickory is a dense wood that burns steadily for a long time, making it a good choice if you want to smoke your steaks for longer without fussing with your smoker. It has a nutty, smoky flavor that is more earthy than the mild flavors of the other fruit and nut trees on this list.


oak smoking wood chunks

Oak is one of the most durable types of wood out there, coming from the sturdy oak tree. It is popular for barbecuing thanks to its durability (oak wood produces a steady supply of smoke that lasts a long time) and its versatile flavor.

Although oak has an assertive smoky flavor, it is not overpowering like some other woods. It is perfect if you want to complement the flavors of your steak but are worried about overpowering it. The slow and steady plumes emitting from oak smoking wood also make it an ideal choice for all methods of preparing steak, from rare to well-done.


Mesquite wood comes from a tree native to the arid Southwest and is a popular wood choice in traditional Texas barbecue. It produces a distinctive type of wood smoke thanks to its smokiness and intense earthy flavor.

Mesquite works well with steak because steak has an assertive flavor of its own, and mesquite will work with that flavor instead of overpowering it. If you want to give your steak a very distinctive smoky flavor, then mesquite is your best bet. Mesquite burns slowly and produces more smoke than many other types of wood, so it is a bit more difficult to work with than other types of wood for beginners. 

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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