The Best Wood For Smoking Prime Rib

smoke coming out of a Smoker grill for smoker accessories article and best wood for smoking prime rib article.

What is the best wood for smoking prime rib? Choosing the right wood is crucial as it can greatly influence the taste of this rich and flavorful meat. Unlike poultry, prime rib is a robust and fatty meat, which allows for a broader range of wood choices.

When picking your wood of choice, remember the goal is to let the natural beefy flavors and inherent savory qualities shine. Three quick things to remember when selecting the best wood for smoking prime rib:

  • Choose hardwoods that are well-seasoned, avoiding softwoods and any woods that have been chemically treated. This prevents unwanted chemical contamination that might affect the taste of your food. which can impart a bitter, unpleasant flavor to the meat and potentially be harmful.
  • Experimenting with various combinations of woods can be an enjoyable way to develop a unique and personalized flavor profile for your smoked prime rib with prime rib rub.
  • Consider who’s eating the prime rib roast. If you’re serving kids or adults new to “smoked meats” it’s best to stick to lighter woods as a heavy hit may be too overwhelming.
Smoked Prime Rib Recipe on a black cutting board.

For more tips, read this list of “25 Pitmaster Tips For Smoking Prime Rib“. Also download this printable Temperature Chart For Prime Rib for easy reference.

Best Overall Wood

Here are the best “overall” wood options when smoking prime rib, accordingly to pitmasters. What do I mean when I say “overall”? I mean wood options that would satisfy the masses. The smoke flavor isn’t too domineering and should satisfy most palate.


Oak is a classic choice for smoking beef, including prime rib. It imparts a medium smoky flavor that is not too overpowering. Oak is excellent for a long, slow smoke, giving the meat a beautiful smoky aroma while maintaining its natural flavors.

Oak burns at a medium-high temperature, it does require a bit of attention, while cooking, to ensure a low and steady heat.


Pecan is another excellent choice for prime rib. It offers a rich, nutty flavor that is not as intense as hickory but more pronounced than fruitwoods. Pecan is great for adding a touch of sweetness and depth to the meat.

Peacan wood burns consistently and at a moderate temperature, providing a steady source of heat which is key when smoking large cuts of beef like prime rib or smoked chuck roast.


Maple wood imparts a subtle, sweet “honey-like” flavor, which complements the rich taste of prime rib without overpowering it. It also has a low resin content therefore produces clean smoke. This mildness is ideal for those who prefer a less intense smoky flavor. When cooking for a large group, this is my wood of choice.

Maple wood burns at a moderate rate and maintains a consistent temperature which allows prime rib to cook evenly, ensuring tenderness and juiciness.

Smoked prime rib on a grill.


Cherry wood adds a mild and fruity smoke flavor that complements beef wonderfully. It also imparts a rich mahogany color to the prime rib, enhancing its visual appeal. Cherry is often mixed with milder woods like oak or almond to balance its sweetness.

Cherry wood burns consistently and at a moderate rate, providing a steady amount of smoke, which makes it a great choice for smoked prime rib.


Similar to cherry, apple wood provides a mild and slightly sweet smoke. It’s less common for beef but can create a unique flavor profile for prime rib, especially when mixed with stronger woods like hickory or oak.

Apple wood burns slowly and steadily, providing a consistent smoking experience, which makes smoking prime rib easier.


Alder wood imparts a gentle, subtly sweet, and slightly fruity flavor. This mildness complements the rich flavor of prime rib without overpowering it. It’s particularly suitable for meats where you don’t want a strong smoky taste to dominate.

Alder wood burns evenly and consistently, providing a great smoking environment for prime rib and other large beef roasts.

Sliced prime rib steak for smoking a prime rib article.

Best For A Strong Smoke Flavor

Here are the best woods for smoked prime rib for those looking for an intense hit of smokey flavor when making smoked prime rib.


Mesquite wood imparts a bold and intense earthy flavor which is particularly well-suited to the rich taste of prime rib. This intense flavor can be a great complement to the natural flavors of the beef.

Mesquite wood, known for its high heat and rapid burning properties, poses difficulties in sustaining the low and consistent temperatures essential for smoking prime rib. This often results in unevenly cooked meat and a texture that may not meet expectations.


Known for its strong, hearty flavor, hickory is a popular choice for smoking meats. It pairs exceptionally well with beef, lending an aggressively robust, bacon-like taste to the prime rib. However, it’s important to use hickory sparingly to prevent the smoke from overpowering the meat’s natural flavors.

Hickory wood is dense therefore burns at a high temperature, which can result in the outside of the prime rib cooking before the inside.

Standing Rib Roast on a grill.

More Smoked Beef Recipes

In addition to prime rib with horseradish sauce, the below cuts of beef would also work with the recommended wood varietals above:

TIP – did you know you can smoke Sous Vide Prime Rib? Once pulled from the Sous Vide water bath you’ll transfer to the smoker. Find specific instructions on the Anova website.

When buying wood, keep the below in mind as to know how much wood to purchase and type. Here are the ‘must have’ Smoker Accessories you may need as well.

Prime rib in a white dish on the stove.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long To Smoke Prime Rib

Anticipate it taking 40 minutes per pound when cooking at 225°F.

Best Smoker For Prime Rib

You can use a pellet smoker, charcoal or even wood-fire grill to smoke prime rib. Here’s the form of wood you want to purchase:

Pellet Grill – Wood Pellets
Charcoal Grill – Wood Chunks
Electric Grill – Wood Chips

The Best Wood For Smoking Prime Rib

The ideal wood for smoking prime rib largely depends on individual taste preferences and the specific flavor profile desired. TIP – Play around with less expensive beef roasts and experiment with the different wood flavors before trying on an expensive slab of beef.

Cut prime rib roast on a black cutting board.

Additional Cooking Guides

Here are a few more helpful links to help you successfully cook this large, expensive roast.

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