In my experience, fruit woods pair best with pulled pork. My favorite fruit wood to use for pulled pork is apple because of its light and delicate flavors. Stronger woods like oak and hickory also complement pulled pork, but I tend to prefer the mildly sweet flavor of fruit woods.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with various wood types when smoking pulled pork, observing the distinct characteristics and nuances each brings. Each type of wood imparts its unique signature, altering the sensory experience of the dish.
Read on to delve into the insights I’ve gathered, aiding you in selecting the perfect wood for your next barbecue.
Best Wood for Smoking Pulled Pork
Let’s look at seven of the best wood types you can use when smoking pulled pork.
Applewood and pork go together particularly well, and pulled pork is no exception. This wood has a light, sweet, and fruity flavor. Additionally, it is incredibly adaptable, so it will go wonderfully with any cut of pork you use to make pulled pork.
But keep in mind that apple wood has a mild flavor, so it can take some time for it to permeate the pork. Therefore, apple wood is perfect if you intend to smoke pulled pork for several hours at a low temperature, but if you want to shorten the cooking time, you might want to consider another option.
Pecan wood complements all kinds of pork excellently whether it’s pulled pork, bacon, or ribs. What distinguishes pecan wood chunks from apple is that it has a much richer and nuttier flavor.
Since pecan wood has a more subtle smoke flavor and is not as strong as conventional woods like hickory or oak, it is ideal for those who prefer more delicate tastes. A pro tip for enhancing the smoke flavor of your wood chunks is to blend it with another fruit wood, such as apple and peach wood. To achieve a more earthy flavor, try mixing it with hickory.
Peach wood is another fruit wood with a distinct citrus undertone. Peachwood offers a floral undertone and far less acidity than orange or apple wood.
Peach pairs nicely with more light varieties of pork, like ham, because it is considerably more flavorful and delicate. However, it’s also fantastic with pulled pork, and your subsequent batch of pork will undoubtedly wow your guests.
You’ve been paying attention if you see a trend here. Another sweet, fruity wood that pairs well with pulled pork is maple. It can be a little trickier to acquire maple wood chips in stores, but the extra work is well worth it. It is very tasty with a sweet smoky flavor.
We’re moving into some rare wood options, but if you ever get the chance, I advise looking for orange wood to smoke pork. It will give your next smoking session a unique twist and give off a tinge of citrus without becoming overpowering. You can also use hickory to help ground it and give it a more woodsy flavor.
Hickory wood is known to give pulled pork a strong bacon flavor. Even though not everyone likes it, pulled pork benefits from the rich, smoky flavor that hickory wood imparts. You’ll have to use the hickory in moderate amounts, so the smokiness won’t overpower the pork flavor.
Additionally, hickory gives pork a deep brown tint that looks delicious. Keep in mind that using hickory may require some work for beginners. Figuring out the right quantity of wood to use can take some time, but once you learn it, you’ll be good to go.
Oak is excellent for giving pork a moderately strong, but not overpowering, smokey taste. Pork can be smoked using any type of oak, so don’t think too much about which type to choose.
Oak wood gives the pork a gorgeous brown hue, which makes the meat appear crisp and mouthwatering. Additionally, smoking pork butt with oak doesn’t take very long. In general, oak is a reliable option, especially if you’re short on time and want delicious pulled pork with minimal effort.
Woods to Avoid
It’s important to note that not all woods go well with pulled pork. Here are two kinds of wood you should never use when smoking pulled pork:
Mesquite is too heavy to be used with most pork cuts. It works nicely with pork ribs, but it’s simply too overpowering for cuts that need low and slow cooking. Due to its intense earthy flavor, it is much better used in smaller amounts or with meat that is high in fat.
Alder is excellent for beef and other meats with stronger flavors. This is because of the intense smoke flavor of the wood. However, the smokiness of alder can overpower meat that is more delicate and subtle, like pork. Moreover, its natural oil content makes it particularly prone to burning and resulting in flare-ups, which can be harmful to low and slow smoking methods.
Best Wood Blend for Pulled Pork
It’s always fun to learn about new wood pairings. This is because, when combined, these woods can bring out various flavors in the meat. Here are a couple of my favorite wood combinations:
Hickory and Fruit Woods
Many pitmasters regularly use this blend to smoke meat. Sweet fruit woods like cherry or apple can balance out the intensity of hickory.
In my experience, apple, cherry, and peach are the best fruit woods that you can use with hickory. I’ve also tried using orange wood when smoking meat on some occasions. I found that orange wood adds a zesty flavor that completely alters the smoke profile. Only use this wood if your guests are open to exploring new flavors.
Maple and Oak Wood
I like using this blend with pork shoulder. Maple has a very light and delicate smoke profile, while oak has a very strong one. When combined, these woods give off a balanced yet complex smoke flavor. You can obtain a complex flavor profile that complements not just the pork butt but the entire meal.
Different Types of Wood for Pulled Pork
Smoking woods come in different sizes and types. Here is a guide to help you choose the right kind of wood for your smoker.
Wood logs are the largest pieces of smoking wood and are designed for use in smoking pits and large offset smokers.
Wood chunks are smaller than logs. Wood chunks can be used in smaller barrel smokers, offset smokers, and ceramic grills. Simply lay a few wood chunks directly on top of your prepared bed of charcoal after lighting them.
For a quick and simple smoke, you can throw wood chips over the charcoal in your smoker. Wood chips are ideal for using in smoker boxes or wrapping in foil packs for smoking on gas grills because of how easily they light up.
Wood pellets, such as those used in Traeger grills, are generally made of compressed hardwood powder and shavings. These pellets can also be put in smoker boxes to be used on a gas grill.
Sawdust is available as fuel for handheld smokers and smoker guns. In addition, some people use sawdust in electric smokers. Sawdust works well to quickly add smoke to grilled meats, but you shouldn’t use it for long smoking sessions.
Choosing the right wood for your smoking sessions is a vital way to add a unique flavor to your pulled pork. Ultimately, selecting the best wood for smoking pork will come down to personal preference. That said, some woods are easier to work with than others. Some have a delicate yet delicious fruit flavor, while others can be overbearing.
Fortunately, you have several wood options to choose from for a unique cooking experience. So, decide whether you want a strong, sweet, smokey, fruity, or a blend of such flavors. Once you’ve decided, go out and purchase your wood and start preparing a delicious slab of pulled pork.