Smoking a chicken can create some of the most desirable, succulent flavors that other cooking methods can’t compete with. But if you’re new to the world of smoking chicken, it is imperative to choose the best wood. That said, which wood is the best for smoking chicken?
Many wood flavors work well with smoking chicken. If you want robust flavors, hickory and oak are ideal. Maple is enchantingly sweet like wood such as applewood, peachwood, and cherrywood have sweet and fruity undertones that are highly desirable.
Get ready to smoke chicken, unlike ever before. Below, you will discover the best wood for smoking chicken and how to smoke chicken like a pro.
Best Wood for Smoking Chicken
When it comes to smoking a chicken, it all starts with charcoal. Charcoal is an essential component for smoking, but your materials shouldn’t end there. The charcoal will create a fiery taste and crispy edges, but it will not enhance the flavor. In fact, charcoal alone can cook chicken that has little to no flavor.
That’s where wood chips come into play.
Wood chips are the main component for flavoring the chicken while it smokes. Choosing the right wood flavor is key to success, though. Keep in mind that you can always mix and match wood chips to create a succulent flavor bursting with an exotic flavor profile.
Here are some of the best wood flavors for smoking chicken.
Hickory is one of the favorite options when it comes to smoking a chicken. That’s because it has the perfect combination of sweet and strong flavors, giving you that ultimate BBQ result. However, hickory can be fairly overbearing if you use too much. If you’re smoking a smaller bird, go easy on the hickory to avoid a bitter aftertaste.
Are you looking for an earthy flavor? Oak is a top-notch solution. Oakwood chips will create a robust flavor for your chicken. You can pair it with sweeter choices, like apple or cherry, for a combination that hits just right.
If you’re looking for wood chips with an overload of sweetness, maple is the option for you. Maple is undeniably sweet and will give your chicken a delightful flavor.
As you may assume, applewood has a fruity flavor with apple undertones. While this flavor is highly desirable, it can be somewhat mild and difficult to permeate the chicken. When using subtle applewood, make sure you have several hours to bring the flavors to life.
Another fruity and subtle option is peachwood. Peach has a delightfully fresh flavor that will take your chicken to new heights. The key with peachwood is to make sure you’re using fresh peachwood chips. Peachwood chips tend to lose their flavor quickly, so using older peachwood will not enhance the flavor of your chicken.
Another subtle yet delightful option is cherrywood. Just as regular cherries have a somewhat intriguing and exotic flavor, so do cherry wood chips. Cherry wood chips have the potential to give your chicken a slightly sweet and slightly exotic undertone that is highly enjoyable.
If you’re someone that prefers sweetness paired with nutty undertones, then pecan is an excellent option. Pecan has the perfect combination of sweet and robust flavors, giving the chicken a thrilling flavor.
Use the Right Technique
Don’t forget about technique. While you can use the best wood combination for smoking chicken, it won’t turn out right if you’re not smoking it properly.
- Brine the chicken. Have you ever heard anyone mention the importance of brining meat before cooking it? It’s not just fiction; it’s a fact. It is imperative to brine your chicken in a bucket of saltwater. This will ensure the chicken stays juicy during the smoking process.
- Pat the chicken dry before smoking. Trying to smoke a wet chicken is going to be disastrous. A dry chicken will allow perfectly crisp edges to form, creating a delicious bite to sink your teeth into.
- Don’t forget to season the chicken beforehand. A spice rub will be just as important when it comes to smoking as it is any other cooking method. But you don’t need to go overboard with the spices. A quick rub with salt, pepper, and garlic is all you need, but you can use whichever combination you prefer.
- Always make sure that your chicken has enough exposure to the smoke from the wood chips to accept the flavor. To do this, you can use an electric or gas smoker.
- Smoking is all about going low and slow. Don’t rush the process and never let the temperature exceed 280F.
- Don’t peek! As much as you may be tempted to, don’t peek at your smoking chicken. This will release some of the smoke, increase the overall cooking time, and discourage the smoke from permeating the chicken and enhancing the flavor.
- Don’t overcook. Overcooked chicken is going to be tough and unpleasant. Once your chicken reaches 165F, it’s ready to be removed, sauced, and served. Use a meat thermometer for accurate readings.
Is hickory wood good for smoking chicken?
Hickory wood is an excellent option for smoking chicken as well as other meats. It’s great for beginners and novice smokers alike. This is because hickory is easy to work with, and a little bit goes a long way, not to mention it’s delicious. Pair it with any other type of wood flavor, and you will be satisfied with your chicken’s flavor.
Is pecan wood good for smoking chicken?
Pecan is definitely high on the list for flavors when it comes to the best wood for smoking chicken. That’s because of the sweet and nutty combo, which plays well with delicate poultry. Since it can be somewhat subtle, it’s not the best option for tougher and thicker meats like steak.
Do you flip chicken when smoking?
Do not flip your chicken! Although most other cooking methods will require you to flip your chicken at some point during the cooking process, the same isn’t true for smoking. Flipping your chicken while it’s smoking can render a lot of negative effects like increased cooking time and uneven internal temperatures.
How do you keep chicken moist when smoking?
The best thing to do is to brine the chicken for up to 24 hours before it’s smoked. A brine can consist of water and salt. You can also add other liquids and seasonings, such as wine and garlic, and onion powder. Which type of brine is up to you, but the longer you let the chicken soak, the better. Avoid overcooking and let the meat rest before slicing to enhance juiciness.
How long does it take to smoke chicken breasts?
Really, it comes down to how big of a bird you’re smoking. However, a regular-sized chicken (between six and eight ounces) will take around 60 to 90 minutes. Remember not to peek at the chicken while it’s cooking for the best results. Trust in the smoking process.
If you’re dealing with a smaller batch of chicken (less than six ounces), reduce the time to 50 to 60 minutes. Larger chickens (over six ounces) should be cooked for at least 90 minutes or longer.
Smoked chicken tastes great, but that’s only if you’re using the right wood flavor. There are plenty of options to suit your needs and taste palette, from strong hickory to relaxed, sweet, and fruity applewood. You can mix and match flavors until you’re satisfied. Ensure not to let the smoker go above 280F and brine and season before smoking the chicken for best results.