Chicken is already low in fat. But when you cook it with a smoker, the final product is practically fat-free. Thus, smoked chicken is both healthy and, if you cook it right, amazingly delicious!
However, the taste of smoked chicken doesn’t only depend on the marinade or the sauce that you use. Choosing the right wood is essential. If you know what to look for, your smoked chicken will be an absolute hit.
The right wood will enhance the flavor and texture of the meat. Keep in mind that different woods carry different aromatic elements and create unique flavors.
To help you get the result that you want for your end product, I’ll discuss the best types of wood for smoking chicken.
The Best Wood for Smoking Chicken
Trust me, you can do in-depth research about the best wood for smoking chicken, and applewood will always top the list. Personally, I think this is because apple imparts a subtle, sweet, and fruity flavor to the meat.
The flavor it produces is a bit more mellow than some other fruit-based smoking woods like cherry, pecan, or maple. A delicious BBQ run is a perfect match with the delicate flavors that applewood brings forth.
Although a popular wood for smoking chicken, applewood may not be appealing for some who are looking for a strong, smoky flavor. To even out the sweetness it imparts to the meat, you can opt to add a hardwood like hickory to the smoker.
If you want your smoked chicken to taste and look delicious, cherry is the perfect wood to use. When it comes right down to it, cherry gives off a similar amount of sweetness to the chicken just like other fruitwoods. What makes it unique, however, is the beautiful color it paints the meat.
A few hours of smoking with cherrywood will help your chicken develop a dark red color. Trust me: if cooked right, the chicken will look as though it came out of a high-end restaurant.
Moreover, cherry is excellent when mixed with deeper, earthy types of hardwood. I recommend throwing in cherrywood with a hardwood like hickory to add a touch of smokiness to your chicken.
Many people use maple when smoking pork, but this type of wood also goes well with poultry. I love using maple for smoking turkey, chicken, duck, and even quail. Sometimes, I also use it when smoking cheese and vegetables.
If you’re looking for a slightly stronger sweet taste than an applewood, maple is a great wood to use for smoking chicken. This wood produces a layer of sweetness without overwhelming the natural flavors of the chicken. If anything, it adds to the flavor and enhances the meat’s taste.
Of all fruitwoods, pecan is probably the strongest. However, this strong wood is still a milder alternative to a hardwood like hickory.
I recommend pecan if you like your sweet flavors a bit richer than normal. What makes pecan wood unique is its remarkable nutty flavor that sits beneath the sweetness. This means that you won’t taste the nutty flavor until you’ve bitten deep into the chicken.
What I also love about pecan wood is its versatility. It can provide added flavor and zest to all other kinds of meat aside from poultry. Just be mindful of using pecan too much: The taste can turn overpowering and bitter.
Some people like adding hickory or oak to some fruitwoods to give the chicken a bit more of an earthy quality. However, I strongly don’t recommend this when using pecan.
Keep in mind that pecan has a much more pronounced flavor than other fruitwoods. If you combine it with strong, earthy woods, you will end up with an unpleasant taste.
Combining hickory with pecan wood is a no-no. Hickory is best when used on its own. If you want to steer clear of sweet flavors, an old traditional wood like hickory is perfect to use. It produces a nutty yet smoky flavor that gives the chicken a unique taste.
This type of wood has been one of the BBQ world’s most trusted smoking woods since time immemorial. This is because it’s widely available. In fact, hickory is quite famous in the Midwest meat smoking industry.
To boot, its popularity can be largely attributed to its ease of usage. Hickory burns hot and stays burning for a long time. You won’t have to check your smoker very much, which makes hickory an excellent starter wood if you’re a newbie pitmaster.
If this is your first time smoking chicken with hickory, I recommend using the wood in moderation. Although hickory is not as strong as mesquite, it can still overpower other flavors if you use too much. Your chicken will end up tasting bitter if you use it excessively.
Although it’s good to use on its own, I still prefer combining hickory with other woods like cherry. This creates a layer of subtle sweetness in the chicken.