There are many types of wood that you can use to smoke your venison, but pairing the right wood with your venison is like pairing the right wine with your meal.
However, you don’t need to be a sommelier to choose the best wood for your venison. I’ve done the testing for you.
If I were only able to pick one type for smoking venison, I would choose post oak.
Best woods For Smoking Venison
There are numerous types of wood for smoking meat, and while not all are suitable for smoking venison, many are perfectly adequate.
However, we’re not looking for adequate. A lot of work goes into harvesting a deer, and you will wait a whole year to get another opportunity, so you want the best.
Here are my top 8 picks; this should give you choices, and you can find at least one of these types of wood in your area.
Post oak is a type of white oak that flies under the radar of most pitmasters.
The ones that know about this mild smoking wood normally have it at hand for any type of meat they are smoking.
For venison, you will be hard-pressed to find a more balanced wood than post oak.
The mild to sometimes medium smokey flavor is not overpowering, allowing the sweet taste of the venison to come through.
Another great benefit of the post oak is the long burning time. Venison is often tougher than beef, so it needs a little longer to become tender.
Sadly though, post oak can be hard to come by in certain parts. If you’re fortunate enough to have it in your area, it’s worth trying.
Hickory is a classic smoking wood that is often used in commercial smoking settings.
Hickory imparts a stronger flavor than oak, but this flavor pairs well with venison.
Hickory is often described as having a rich sweet flavor. If you want a strong smokey flavor that pairs well with venison, it doesn’t get much better than this.
If using hickory, it’s important not to overdo it as it can become bitter.
Maple is relatively mild and is often used on white meats.
It’s rare to see maple used on red meats, let alone game meat, but it does work.
If you’re like me, you like the taste of venison and are looking to complement it with a similar smoke flavor.
The smoke is used to complement the flavor and not smother it.
For this reason, maple works exceptionally well.
Similar to other types of wood on the list, maple imparts a mild sweet flavor.
Maple sits somewhere in the middle of the spectrum; it’s mild but not too mild, and it’s sweet but not too sweet.
You can taste the smoke on milder meats like chicken or fish, but for venison, it blends right in.
This wood is not for everyone.
Mesquite is a very strong flavored wood. I put this on the list because not everyone looks for mild, sweet, or nutty smoke. And some of my readers are from Texas.
Mesquite pairs well with red meat, especially game meat.
It can be overbearing for some people, so it should be used in small quantities.
Apple is another classic wood that I use for smoking venison. This wood is so mild I also use it for smoking fish.
It has a sweet fruity flavor but is often too mild as a standalone wood.
For best results, I recommend mixing apple wood with post oak.
Using apple alone may be too weak to add much flavor to venison. It will add notes of sweetness but not a lot of smoke flavor.
If you are lucky enough to have pecan in your area, you have one of the best woods for smoking venison.
It’s almost as if pecan and venison were made to be together.
The two flavors complement each other so well.
Pecan has a sweet, nutty flavor akin to that of venison.
The flavor is mild but is more than capable of being a standalone wood.
However, the burn time on pecan is short, so it’s best used for short cooks. Another option is to pair it with some live oak to lengthen the cooking time.
Alder is another wood that we don’t hear much about in the barbecue world, which is a pity as it is another great wood for venison.
Alder is another mild wood that is typically used more with fish and poultry due to its subtleness.
However, if used for venison, it will add a very mild smoke flavor. It lacks the sweetness of apple, the depth of post oak, and the nuttiness of pecan, but you can pair it with all of them.
On its own, it’s mild yet well-balanced with a somewhat earthy tone. One of the greatest things about alder is its abundance.
Alder can be found almost everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere.
Rusty enjoys connecting food and nature and has done so since a child. He was fortunate enough to explore cuisine worldwide and work at great European restaurants. He now enjoys thinking up new recipes that he can find around him in nature in North America.