Smoked chicken, along with other types of poultry, can be difficult to master on the smoker. Finding the right time and temperature is enough to worry about, you shouldn’t have to worry about what wood to use too. That is why we took a deep-dive into the best woods for smoking chicken.
What is the best wood for smoking chicken?
When selecting wood for smoking chicken, you can go a couple of different directions. You can pick a more “traditional” wood, such as Alder, Oak, Pecan or Hickory – or – you can go with a fruity wood such as Apple or Cherry. Generally, we recommend Apple as the best wood for smoking chicken due to its overall flavor profile pairing with chicken.
Smoking Chicken with Traditional Woods
Your traditional woods are going to give your smoked chicken more of a classic wood smoke flavor, with more bite than their fruity counterparts. For this reason, alder, oak, pecan, or hickory might be the best for smoking chicken if you are looking for the type of wood that will allow you to introduce rubs and sauces, while still being able to taste the smoking wood.
You standard woods such as oak wood (post oak) or pecan wood can also make a great base for blends with other types of woods – get creative!
Best Fruit Wood for Smoking Chicken
If you opt for a fruit wood, you can expect your chicken to come out of the smoker with a more nuanced smoke flavor, less acridity, and a subtle sweetness. The two most commonly recommended fruit woods for smoking chicken are apple wood (applewood) and cherry wood.
Both apple wood and cherry wood pair well with any type of chicken, and can provide the perfect amount of light fruit flavor. This works well if you want a light, sweet, BBQ flavor.
Other Considerations for Smoking Chicken
The type of chicken that you are smoking is also important as thighs smoke differently than wings, which smoke differently than breasts, etc. How you prepare the chicken will also influence how well it is able to pick up the flavors of the wood.
Also, if you are brining chicken prior to smoking, this will also impact the smoking and cooking characteristics of the chicken.
Best Wood for Smoking Chicken Wings
While you can use all of the standard woods for smoking chicken wings, some prefer to use the wood to introduce different flavor to their chicken wings (rather than relying exclusively on the sauce). For this, we recommend people try smoking chicken wings with Mesquite or Hickory woods. Be careful, particularly with smaller cuts of chicken, as it is easy to oversmoke with the strong smoke flavor or Mesquite and Hickory. Both of these woods will introduce a very strong, smoky flavor to the wings. There will be no mistaking that they are smoked wings, that’s for sure.
Although smoked chicken and other smoked poultry can be difficult to master on a smoker, smoking it over the perfect wood selection can make it taste amazing. Be sure to experiment with your wood blends a little bit- such as trying a 75/25 mix of cherry to hickory. You might just find something you love.
Smoking other meats? Check out some of our other posts for the best wood for smoking brisket and the best wood for smoking ribs.