Smoking is a cooking method that offers low and slow cooking, making the meat more tender and tastier. This is a method that is best used for Pulled Pork. However, just simply smoking pulled pork will not magically make it flavorful.
Aside from using a proper technique like controlling heat, choosing the right type of wood is also vital. The right wood will bring out the best flavor of your pulled pork. But use the wrong kind of wood, and it would seem like your efforts went down to the drain.
But don’t worry, because below, we’ve enumerated the six best kinds of wood chips that you can use when smoking pulled pork:
Applewood is one of the most versatile types of wood you can use for smoking. It can be used for any type of meat, whether poultry, beef, lamb, seafood, or pork, because of its mild, fruity, and subtly sweet flavor. Therefore, it will work really well with pulled pork.
As mentioned above, applewood has a very mild and subtle flavor and will take hours before it can really give the meat a distinct flavor. This is why it’s ideal because pulled pork needs hours to cook so you can get that tenderness, too.
Applewood also goes really well with BBQ sauce or dry rubs if you’re planning to put some of that in your pork. It really helps enhance the flavor.
Cherry wood is another versatile type of wood that you can use. It is almost similar to apple wood with its mild, sweet, and fruity flavor and works well on any kind of meat – poultry, beef, seafood, lamb, and pork.
It offers an outstanding balance of smoke flavor to the pork. And because the smokiness is mild, it’s perfect with pulled pork that takes hours to cook. Therefore, there is really time for the flavor to seep in.
On top of that, if you’re planning to use a BBQ sauce on your pulled pork, cherry wood will help enhance that flavor, too. You can even combine it with oak or hickory wood to add an extra flavor.
Do note that cherries can darken the colors of meat, so if you think your pulled pork has darkened, that’s normal. But you will never get wrong with the flavor.
Hickory wood is also an all-around wood you can use on any type of meat, especially pork meat. It has a sweet and strong bacony-flavor and can smell bad. If you’re looking for something stronger than fruit-based woods, this is for you.
As this has a strong flavor, adding wood chunks to your smoker should be done in moderation. This is especially for pulled pork as it requires you extended time to cook it. Or, you can opt to condense your cooking time.
You can also combine it with sweeter woods to make the flavor more balanced. Apple and cherry would be perfect for this wood.
Pecan Wood works with all types of pork meat. It has a stronger flavor than apple and maple wood chips but milder than hickory wood chips. It’s perfect for you if you’re looking for that good balance between two flavors.
It’s rich, complex, and you’ll also get these nutty flavors. If you want to get more of that flavor from the pecan wood, it’s highly recommended to combine it with citrusy fruit woods like orange or cherry.
Maple wood can also add that sweet, fruity flavor to your pulled pork. It’s commonly used for poultry meat but not that common for pork meat. However, that doesn’t mean that it won’t complement well with pulled pork.
One of the reasons why it’s not commonly used is that maple wood can be hard to find. It’s not readily available in most supermarkets. It also has a very light sweet flavor that may not work well for those who prefer a not too mild but not too strong smoky flavor.
Last but not least, the peach wood, another fruitwood that will complement well to your pulled pork. It adds a bit of citrus flavor like orange wood but is lighter and more delicate. It is commonly used for ham, poultry, and small game birds.
What to avoid
As you might have observed, wood with a sweet and fruity flavor would work well with pulled pork. However, it’s also important that the flavor is light so that you won’t oversmoke the pork even if you’d have to cook for long hours.
But, we’ve also noted above that as much as the right wood can bring out the most flavor to your pulled pork, the wrong wood type can also mess it up. And there’s one particular wood that you shouldn’t use – Mesquite Wood.
Mesquite Wood is considered one of the hottest burning woods. This is the strongest flavored wood, and when used for smoking pulled pork, your efforts will just go to waste.
This wood is best suitable for beef and pork if you’re looking for that strong, earthy flavor. Therefore, it’s not recommended for long hours of smoking and can only be used in grilling and must only be for fast and high cooking to not expose the meat to that smoke longer.
Don’t Be Afraid to Blend
If you feel like mixing flavors, don’t be afraid to do so. After all, everything depends on your personal taste. If you think cherry is too mild and you want to give it a little punch, add some hickory with it. You can also pair hickory with apple or even pecan.
You’re free to choose what type of blend you want. And while you’re at it, you can experiment on what sauce or dry rub would nicely pair to the smoke wood you choose. By that time, surely you’ll figure out the perfect recipe for your smoked pulled pork.
Smoking pulled pork is one the best experiences you can have when smoking. And hopefully, this guide has helped you get the best flavors in it by using the right type of wood. It might take you a few tries to get the perfect recipe, but that’s okay.
Smoking, in general, is definitely challenging. There are lots of things you should master, including how to use smoke wood effectively. So, it’s very important always to plan things ahead.
Knowing how to pull pork, how long you’d have to smoke it, what type of smoke wood to use, and whether you’re going to use wood chunks, wood chips, or wood pellets are a few things you should take note of.
If you haven’t already make sure to check out our write up on the best smoker grills combos of 2021.