Best Wood for Smoking Ham

Best Wood for Smoking Ham

Best Wood for Smoking Ham

Barbecuing is a cooking pastime that many enjoy. For those that enjoy smoking ham, they may be curious about how to do so properly. To get the best flavor out of a ham, it needs to be smoked with certain types of wood. So what is the best wood for smoking a ham exactly?

Among all the woods available for smoking ham, oak wood is the best for a strong and reliable flavor, although Apple wood is another viable option. There are other types of wood that can be used to smoke a ham. Some wood is better than others depending on the preferred flavor of the ham. 

Knowing which wood is best for you depends on the flavor you are trying to achieve. Other factors such as cook time and setting also matter here. There are even instances where using different woods together can create a unique flavor and cooking experience. If you are curious to know which wood works best for smoking ham, then read on to learn more.

Oak Wood to Smoke Ham

Oak Wood to Smoke Ham

Oak wood is the perfect wood for those new to smoking ham. Oak is a hardy wood that brings many benefits and is fairly easy to use during the smoking process. Keep the following in mind when using oak wood to smoke a ham:

  • Oak wood will not leave a strong flavor onto the ham when being smoked, therefore it will not cover up the original flavor
  • Oak wood does not need to burn too long in order to smoke the ham properly, making it good for impatient cooks
  • Oak wood does not need to be monitored closely and adds only a mild smokiness to the ham when finished smoking

There is a catch when using oak wood, however; pay attention to the type of oak wood you are using. There are wide varieties of oak wood on the market. Different types of oak wood will add different flavors to a ham while smoking. 

The most popular forms of oak wood for smoking are red oak and white oak. Red oak is considered stronger in flavor than white oak, while it is also more hardy overall. Be sure to carefully research the oak wood you are using when smoking a ham. Any small variance in type can affect the flavor you are trying to achieve with your ham.

Oak Wood Flavor

Oak Wood Flavor

One of the reasons oak is a great choice for beginners for smoking ham is that the flavor is one that many people are familiar with. While some expert ham smokers may choose woods such as cherry or olive that have more distinctive but uncommon flavors, someone barbequing with oak can easily produce a result that satisfies the craving for smoked meat. Oak and hickory have somewhat similar flavor profiles. 

Because the flavor of oak is so strong, it is great to use for many types of meat, even gamey ones. That means that if you use it to cook ham but end up having wood chips left over, you can save them and use them for the next barbecue to switch it up with a different kind of meat, such as hamburger or even deer. The strong smoky taste of the wood will mask the gaminess of many animals. 

Buying Oak Wood to Smoke

If you are planning to smoke your next ham with oak wood, you have some options to consider before purchasing the wood. Most excitingly, you can choose to purchase chips, pellets, or logs of oak for your fire. Which you choose will depend on the type of fire you will be creating. 

If you are using the oak wood to light a campfire, it would be best to have large logs that will be able to burn for an extended period of time. Adding other types of logs to the fire would taint the flavor.

Chips and pellets can usually work somewhat interchangeably. Wood pellets are compressed sawdust so they burn slowly because of their density. This helps maintain a steady level of heat. Wood chips are smaller chips of logs of wood, so they are less dense than pellets because they have never been compressed.

Wood pellets are able to produce a steady smoked flavor throughout the meat because they will burn so evenly. Chips, however, are likely to produce strong and sometimes even bitter bursts of flavor. Which you use is based on your preferences. 

There are different types of smokers that are meant to use pellets or chips. When you are getting ready to smoke, you should ensure that you purchase the type of wood that is meant to be used with your device. Otherwise, you could end up damaging your cooker and maybe even the meat you are trying to cook. 

Apple Wood to Smoke Ham

Apple wood is among the most popular wood used to smoke whole hams. Apple wood adds a unique set of twists and flavors that many ham enthusiasts have come to enjoy. Apple wood is considered a good wood to smoke ham due to the following:

  • Apple is a mild wood, so it will not leave too strong of a flavor residue after smoking
  • Apple wood leaves a fruity flavor on the ham that blends sweet with smoky
  • Apple wood’s mild flavor with added sweetness makes it a good wood to use for those new at smoking ham

One thing to keep in mind is that apple wood may take some time to smoke. If you are not a patient cook, it is not recommended to use apple wood. Apple wood can take up to a few hours to smoke and get its flavor into the ham (or other items) you are cooking. 

The temperature of the smoker also needs to be monitored carefully when using apple wood. When using apple wood, the temperature of a smoker should always be set to low. This is to prevent your ham from burning before the flavor of the wood has soaked into it.

Deterrents of Smoking with Apple Wood

One of the main reasons that apple wood is less ideal than oak wood to smoke with is because its flavor is very distinctive. Oftentimes when smoking meats, and especially ham, there is a distinctively smoky flavor that is desired as a result. The sweetness and lightness of applewood is far from that craving. In fact, sometimes the smokiness is so light that it almost seems as though the meat was not smoked at all. 

Another reason to be dissuaded from smoking with apple wood is that it can take much longer to cook with than a traditional wood. Many people are happy to plan days and events around barbecuing events so this may not be a problem, but if you are on a tight schedule and are hoping to smoke your ham quickly and then get on with your day, you may be especially inclined to use another wood type such as oak or even hickory. 


There are many options of wood for smoking ham. If you are not sure what type of flavor you would like to achieve, you may want to choose a reliable favorite. Oak wood and apple wood are great options. Smoked woods provide the versatility and flavor profile for smoking hams. 

Each wood offers different flavor profiles. It is important to know what you are trying to achieve flavor-wise when choosing a wood to smoke a ham. Each wood will affect the flavor and cook-time of your ham, so it is wise to choose carefully.

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