Best Wood for Smoking Baby Back Ribs at Home

best wood for smoking baby back ribs

Preparing to host a weekend barbeque sometime soon? You’ll need a stunning cut of baby back ribs, a hot grill, drinks, friends and family, and of course, the best smoking wood for a delicious flavor! But do you know what is the best wood to smoke baby back ribs with

We’re here to help with exactly that. Take a look at the below list of the best smoking woods for ribs and decide what suits your taste buds. 

Best Woods To Make Finger-Licking Delicious Ribs

A wide variety of woods compliment the taste and spiciness of grilled ribs. Here are some that go best with the meat:

Hardwoods for a Punchy, Intense Flavor


Hickory is one of the most flavourful woods used for grilling ribs. Any grillmaster worth their salt knows what a great taste it lends to ribs. 

It has a perfect balance of sweet and slightly spicy notes. The smokey flavor adapts well to a sweet and savory barbeque sauce. Its strong aroma adds bold flavors to smoked meat. When you’re cooking your ribs using hickory, be extra careful not to over-smoke them though.


Another hardwood with bold and robust flavors that goes well with ribs is mesquite. Mesquite produces spicy notes but can get overpowering in terms of the amount of smoke it produces on the grill. 

Mesquite lends an earthy flavor to ribs. And just a tiny amount of it is enough for grilling large batches of ribs. 


Although oak is a hardwood, it is far milder than mesquite or hickory. It doesn’t have a distinct flavor, nor does it produce too much smoke. 

Because of the above properties, oak is very versatile. If you want the rub or sauces of the baby back ribs to do the talking, choosing oak is a great idea. 

Fruitwoods for a Light and Sweet Flavor

Apple Wood

Apple and pork go hand in hand, and that’s an age-old truth. In the same way, apple wood works excellently with baby back ribs. It has a fruity and sweet flavor that compliments the savory notes of the meat. 

Remember, since apple is a lighter wood, it takes time to create the smoky effect entirely. So you have to be patient and cook your ribs for a few hours to get the complex flavor profile right. 

Pecan Wood

If you’ve experimented with smoking your ribs over hickory before but are looking for something milder, containing similar flavors, pecan is your guy. This wood belongs to the hickory family and is just as nutty. It also has some sweet notes that go well with southern-style ribs. 

Pecan is easier to manage because it doesn’t produce too much smoke right off the bat. So it’s great for beginners too.

Cherry Wood

Looking for a chef-like finish on your baby back ribs? You should go with cherry wood. The defining quality of this wood is that it lends a deep red or brownish color to the meat, making it look like something out of a food magazine. 

What is the best wood to smoke baby back ribs with

Cherry wood is sweet yet tart. Instead of overpowering the taste of ribs, it adds a flavor of its own to the meat. It goes well with different kinds of sauces too. 

Maple Wood

Maple is an excellent option for those looking for a lighter wood without fruitiness. It doesn’t produce too much smoke either. 

Since maple is hard to find and sometimes expensive, it’s suitable for those just starting to smoke meats but have the budget. This is because lesser available quantities make controlling the amount you put in the smoker easier. 

Peach Wood

Peach is another sweet wood that pairs excellently with baby back ribs. Its smoke is light and complements spicier sauces pretty well. 

Finding peach wood can be tricky if you don’t live in the south. It might even be expensive in some regions of the country. But considering the layered flavor it delivers, trying it is worth every penny. 

Can I Mix Different Types of Woods to Smoke Ribs?

Yes, you can combine one or more varieties of woods to achieve a good balance of smokiness in your baby back ribs. As a rule of thumb, do not mix two intense hardwoods or you will end up with overpowering flavors. One or more fruitwoods can be combined with hardwoods. 

Here are some recommendations on mixing different types of woods:

  • Pair cherry wood up with stronger ones like hickory or mesquite. This also helps control smoke and flavor. 
  • You can pair applewood with stronger hardwoods like mesquite or oak to achieve the perfect blend of intensity. 
  • Use hickory and pecan together to get the nuttiness of the former and the mild sweetness of the latter on your ribs.

Never Use These Woods to Smoke Your Baby Back Ribs – You’ll Regret It!

Now that you know what woods go well with baby back ribs, you might be tempted to try some that aren’t on this list. That’s absolutely fine, but there are some woods that you should always stay away from. These can be toxic, and their smoke can lead to illness:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Fir
  • Cedar
  • Pine
  • Redwood
  • Cypress
  • Elm
  • Sycamore

Should I Use Wood Chips, Chunks, Pellets, or Sawdust to Smoke Ribs?

You should use wood chips or sawdust if you’re using an electric smoker for your baby back ribs. Pellets work best with pellet smokers, whereas chunks go well with traditional smokers. Wood chunks are also suitable for charcoal grills. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Hickory or Mesquite Better for Ribs?

Since both are intense hardwoods, the answer lies in your preferences. 

Hickory is great for long and slow cooking. It does deliver a strong flavor but burns clean and for long. Mesquite, on the other hand, is oily and quickly combusts. So if you want a punchy flavor quickly, mesquite could be a good choice. Also, hickory has a nutty flavor, while mesquite is more earthy. Depending on what you’re in the mood for, you can choose the right one.

Is Apple Wood Good for Ribs?

Yes, Applewood is good for smoking ribs. As mentioned above, it delivers a fruity flavor that goes well with pork. Because of this, it even complements most sauces pretty well. Applewood is also suitable as a blending wood to reduce the intensity of mesquite, pecan, or hickory. 

What Happens if I Over Smoke Ribs?

Over smoking ribs is a common mistake and often happens when you’re unfamiliar with wood types, the method of grilling, or the right quantity of wood. Over smoked ribs taste incredibly bitter and are almost inedible. They’re also chewy and often overcooked. Moreover, the taste of the meat gets lost when you end up over-smoking it.

That’s a Wrap!

Choosing the best wood for smoking baby back ribs from the list mentioned above the next time you’re planning to grill out is essential. Trust us; you’ll have guests licking every last bit off their plates. And who knows, your friends and family might even ask you to share your mouthwatering recipe for ribs.