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What is the Best Wood for Smoking Chicken?

What is the Best Wood for Smoking Chicken?

While everyone may be a master or well-versed in smoking a beef brisket and other beef cuts, most people shy away from smoking chicken for several reasons. Chief among them being the thin line between a properly smoked chicken and a smoke-tasting piece of rubber.

Unlike beef, which is particularly hard to ruin, chicken smoking requires a certain level of finesse. Additionally, chicken’s flavor absorbing ability makes it tricky to figure out which type of wood is best, depending on the flavor profile you want.  

These are the Top 5 best wood options for smoking chicken;

Hickory

This is the king of BBQ woods and is commonly used to smoke beef, turkey, lamb, chicken, and pork. It is also the ideal wood for an amateur meat smoker as messing up is low.

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Flavor profile: – it has a strong flavor that is somewhat intense and imparts a bacon-like taste. It also has a nutty flavor note.

Burning power: – it burns hot and slow, which results in lesser refills and faster smoking.

Recommended option: – Weber Hickory Wood Chunks

These wood chunks impart a subtly sweet flavor that is perfect for smoked chicken. They are mixed with applewood to reduce the pungency aspect of the smoke.

Peach

Best suited for light smoke flavor lovers. This wood is best used fresh as it loses its peach aroma when it dries up completely.

Flavor profile: – imparts a smoky flavor without masking the taste of the meat. It has a light, fruity taste with a tang.

Burning power: – it burns hot and long.

Recommended option: – Peach Wood Smoker Chunks 4-5lb Smoking BBQ Chunks/Chips/Splits

Cut to order from a farm in Southern Indiana for maximum freshness. They are also 100% natural and additive-free.

Apple

This is the best wood for smoking poultry. Its mild smoke makes it a given win as chances of over smoking your chicken are next to zero.

Flavor profile: – it has a mild smoky flavor with a fruity note. To increase smokiness intensity, you need to smoke the meat for a long time. It is best used with a barbeque rub for perfectly smoked chicken

Burning power: –  unlike other woods, it takes forever to ignite and is harder to keep burning, but it also burns slow, making it perfect for a more extended smoking period

Recommended option: – Western Premium BBQ Products Apple BBQ Cooking Chunks, 549 cu in (Pack of 1)

this is natural applewood that has been heat-treated to kill pests and prevent molding and rot. The chunks can be used in charcoal, gas, or electric grills. As well as large or small smokers. It produces a mild but delicate smoky flavor with a hint of fruity sweetness.

Maple

This is one of the most popular wood for smoking and BBQ and with good reason.

Flavor profile: – it infuses your meat with a maple syrup flavor that is slightly sweet. It imparts a more robust flavor than apple wood but lighter than cherry wood.

Burning power: – being a hardwood, you will be able to go for more extended periods without refilling your smoker.

Recommended option: – Camerons Smoking Wood Chips (Maple) Coarse Kiln Dried BBQ Chips

These wood chips are 100% natural and free of chemicals and additives. They can be used on gas grills, charcoal grills, and smoker boxes. They are also kiln dried to ensure they combust properly without releasing any steam. This also makes it ignite faster.

Cherry

If a sweet, smoky flavor is your cup of tea, then cherry wood is your best bet. It is the favorite option for people who like a mild smoky flavor.

Flavor profile: – imbues your chicken with a sweet and fruity flavor. Pro smokers usually mix cherry wood with hickory wood for a contrasting taste that is sweet and smokier. It also tends to leave smoked meat with a reddish bark.  

Burning power: – it burns hot for extended periods.

Recommended option: – Traeger Grills PEL309 Cherry 100% All-Natural Hardwood Pellets Grill

These wood chips are manufactured by one of the best smoker manufacturers in the market. The wood is 100% natural and additive-free. They also contain a doctored amount of moisture content, which results in a clean smoke.

Worst woods to use for smoking chicken

Avoid woods with a strong flavor as they can overwhelm the chicken, such as oak, mesquite, and cedar. You should also avoid woods that contain toxins as they will contaminate your meat and make it unfit for consumption. These include; poisonous walnut, mangrove, sassafras, yew, oleander, tambootie, and laburnum.

It goes without saying that you should not use lumbar scraps as they could be chemically treated, thus making them toxic. The same goes for chemical-treated wood planks. Also, avoid woods that have mold or rot. Lastly, painted and stained wood is also a no-go zone.

How to Smoke Chicken

If you are new to smoking, then consider this a cheat sheet for smoking chicken to perfection.

Prepping the chicken

This entails marinating or brining the chicken for more flavorful chicken. While there are different schools of thought when it comes to brining chicken before smoking it, you should definitely do it if you want soft, moist chicken that is full of flavor.

For best results, brine your chicken for four hours before smoking it, then apply dry rub before smoking it. Pat your chicken dry before placing it in the smoker as the wet skin will prevent the smoke from adhering to the skin resulting in crispy skin.

 If you prefer a more natural taste, you can simply salt your chicken and smoke it. Alternatively, you can marinate the chicken for a couple of hours before smoking it. For better flavor, marinate the chicken overnight.

How to smoke a whole chicken

  • Smoke the chicken until the chicken breast reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, while the thighs should be 170-175 degrees.
  • The recommended temperature for smoking a whole chicken is 225 degrees.
  • The average smoking time for a whole chicken is 3 ½ to 4 hours.
  • Baste the chicken with barbecue sauce every thirty minutes
  • Bump the temperature to 400 degrees for the last 10-minutes to make the skin crispy
  • For added flavor, stuff the chicken cavity with herbs and spices.

How to smoke chicken breast

  • Smoker temperature should be 225 degrees.
  • Brine the chicken breast to prevent overdrying
  • You should also coat the chicken breast in olive oil before seasoning to help the seasoning adhere to the chicken breast.
  • Once the chicken breast reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, remove them from the smoker.

How to smoke chicken wings

  • The smoking procedure is similar to a chicken breast.

How to smoke chicken thighs

  • The ideal smoker temperature is 250 degrees.
  • The ideal smoking time is 2 ½ – 3 hours.
  • They are ready when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  • Brush barbecue sauce and grill for an additional 10 minutes

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How to smoke chicken quarters

  • The ideal smoking temperature is 275 degrees.
  • The ideal smoking time is 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  • Recommended internal temperature is 165 degrees

Extra tips for perfectly smoked chicken

  • Season your chicken lightly to avoid overly seasoned chicken
  • Tie the legs and wings for even cooking
  • Avoid opening the smoker to peek at the chicken, as this lets all the smoke and heat escape.
  • For crispier chicken skin, turn the smoker up to 325 degrees for the last half-hour.
  • Apply your barbecue chicken sauce on the skin after it has crisped up to avoid having soggy chicken skin
  • It is okay to take the chicken out when it is a few degrees from 165 degrees as the chicken will continue cooking even when it is out of the smoker.
  • When smoking in a gas or electric smoker, use chips instead of chunks
  • Lastly, the level of smoke exposure determines the level of smoke flavor.
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