Best Meats to Smoke with Hickory Wood

This article considers some of the best meats to smoke with hickory, and what hickory wood tastes like and pairs well with.

As you are probably aware when it comes to smoking foods, hickory is one of the most popular and well known choices. You have likely seen plenty of packs of bacon at the store which have been smoked over hickory wood, and realised that hickory is often associated with bacon and pork in general.

While this may be the most obvious pairing, hickory is a versatile wood which can pair well with a number of other meats too – from chicken and turkey to beef and lamb and beyond. They are some of the best meats to smoke with hickory.

Best Meats to Smoke with Hickory Wood
Best Meats to Smoke with Hickory Wood

Best Meats to Smoke with Hickory Wood

Hickory has a sweet, ‘bacony,’ taste and its smoke profile and smell are pretty robust. It pairs well with pretty much any meat provided you are happy with the strong taste of hickory wood.

It is particularly popular with pork and pork ribs, but works well for chicken, turkey, lamb or beef as well. It’s probably best avoided for delicate meats such as certain fish (salmon is bold enough not to be overpowered by it) and shellfish however, where a milder smoke taste such as alder is best.

What to Smoke with Hickory Wood

Hickory is one of the most versatile woods for smoking and there are plenty of options for what to smoke with hickory wood. It’s particularly good with pork shoulder for pulled pork, ribs, bacon as well as any pork cut but hickory also goes well with poultry such as turkey and chicken. Hickory is also a popular choice for beef brisket and other smoked beef dishes.

As long as you are happy with a robust smoke taste to your food hickory is a great choice for smoking.

Best Wood For Smoking

The best wood for smoking will always come down to what is the best fit for your context and preference. While you should never smoke food over soft woods such as pine (they give off a bitter smoke taste), you have plenty of choices for smoking with hard woods.

Mesquite and hickory are the strongest smoke profiles and aren’t always the best choices for more delicate meats (especially fish) as they can overpower the flavour. Mesquite in particular can become a little acrid at times although the bolder flavours of beef can stand up well to it. Hickory pairs well with poultry and red meats in particular but you need to consider whether you might prefer a milder smoke taste.

If you like a sweet, mild and fruity smoke taste in your food then apple or cherry might be the best wood for smoking for you. Apple is a classic pairing for pork, but it also works well with poultry and red meats in general.

Maple and pecan wood are also worth smoking with and impart a sweet, nutty flavour that won’t overpower your food. Alder is a great choice for fish as it has a mild and pleasant taste that doesn’t take over too much.

Smoking with different woods can be fun and rewarding and you should definitely experiment to discover what works best for you. Setting up a smoke using half fruit wood and half stronger wood (e.g. mesquite or hickory) can give you a good all round balance too.

Best Wood for Smoking Pork

Hickory is often considered the best wood for smoking pork, and is a popular choice for pork ribs, pork shoulder for pulled pork, pork tenderloin and other pork cuts.

Due to its sweet, bacon-like taste it pairs well with pork.

Apple is another classic pairing with pork and is well worth considering, especially if you prefer a fruitier, milder smoke taste.

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