When it comes to smoking chicken, you need to pick the best wood for the task. Chicken can easily be overpowered by the wrong type of wood. It can lose flavor, it can lose moisture, and it can lose purpose. You don’t want this to happen.
Thankfully, it’s easily avoidable. If you do your research and pick the best wood. Tick all of these boxes and you will end up with smoked chicken that tastes divine.
This article will help you find the wood you didn’t know you were looking for. We’re going to look at five different types of wood that are perfect for smoking chicken. After, it’s up to you to decide which suits you best!
There are five different types of wood that really suit smoking chicken. These are applewood, Maplewood, cherrywood, hickory, and pecan.
All of these woods are sweet and, or, fruity. Sweet, fruity wood gives the chicken the best flavor end result when smoked. There is something about the flavors that just compliment the chicken perfectly. They don’t overpower it, and they don’t dry it out.
Remember, different types of wood complement different parts of the chicken. What works for chicken breast might not work for chicken thighs and so on.
Below, we will look at some examples of the most popular products on offer and what they in turn can offer you. Smoking chicken can be an art form with the right type of wood in your grill.
OUR TOP PICK
Applewood is one of the most highly recommended types of wood to par with chicken. They just seem to click. The flavors synchronize in a pleasing way and the applewood smokes just right to create the perfect smoked chicken dish.
This product feature is applewood pellets by Traeger Grills. A popular choice to say the least.
- Subtle flavor: The key thing about Traeger Grills applewood wood pellets is the flavor. It’s not too much but it’s not too little. It’s just right. The slow burn will infuse the chicken with the apple flavored smoke and create a nuance of pleasant flavors.
- Pellets: This wood comes in pellet form. They are small but mighty. They burn slowly and can reach great temperatures for smoking chicken.
- Less Ash - The pellets produce less ash while they burn - less to clean up!
- Longer Burn Time - A long burn time means you can cook uninterrupted.
- Small - Wood pellets are the smallest type of smoker wood. They are meant for small grills, not large parties.
The first thing comes to mind when you hear the word maple? Sweet. That’s exactly what Maplewood tastes like. It’s sweet, but not in an overpowering way.
In fact, maplewood provides just the right level of sweetness to complement smoking chicken and make it taste delicious. Western Premium maplewood chips are our product of choice.
- Chips: These are maplewood chips. They are still on the small size but can cater to medium sized grills and burners. They can handle larger bits of meat quite well.
- Treated - Treated just means that this product has been protected from pests such as insects and mold and rotting. So, you know the product that you’re getting in the bag is going to be of a certain high quality that has been treated for longevity.
- Good Size - The bags themselves are of a decent size and weight. Inside the bag, the wood chips are a good cut. Sometimes, with other products, the wood chips will resemble pellets in size and stature, but not these. They are definitely chip sized and ready for smoking.
- Short Lasting - These chips don’t have a very long smoke time. To be precise, they only last between 20-30 minutes. So you will need multiple bags if you’re needing to cook longer than this.
Cherrywood, as the name suggests, give off a cherry flavor. Though cherry itself is quite distinctive, the wood smoke doesn’t mask the original flavor.
What it will do is turn your chicken cherry colored. Which is fun and tasty. This product is from Camerons and is wood chunks.
- Chunks: This product is wood chunks. Chunks are great for all sized grills. They cook longer and reach the right temperatures with little effort.
- Flavorful: Cherry is a taste you don’t forget. It’s a staple for many dishes all over the world. It goes great with chicken and the flavor really comes through in the wood smoke. If you’re looking for something different, cherry is the one to get.
- Tastes great - We’ve already seen that fruity wood goes great with chicken flavor. The cherry really complements barbecue rubs and other tangy flavors. This is definitely one for the flavor hunters.
- Lasts longer - Wood chunks tend to burn over a longer period. This means if you’re cooking a whole chicken, you get better value and it’s less maintenance overall while smoking.
- Distinctive - Cherry might not be to everyone’s tastes. Though the wood chunks don’t completely take away from the original flavor, the cherry definitely comes through. This is not as subtle as other woods.
Pecan wood is stronger tasting than other woods on the list. It is nutty, rich while still managing to taste sweet all at the same time.
Its flavor comes through more in the wood smoke into the chicken than other types of wood. The smoked chicken will lose more of that chicken flavor and give way to the pecan wood. This product is from Camerons and is pecan wood chunks.
- Sweet: Pecan wood has a sweeter flavor. It is not fruity at all, more subtly nutty. It gives the chicken a nice texture and is good at keeping it moist.
- Chunks: These are pecan wood chunks. They are essentially offcuts of logs. They last a long time, don’t need frequent replenishing and can serve a range of different sized grills and burners.
- Fast - Wood chunks reach the right heat rapidly. It takes next to no time at all to reach the optimum cooking levels. Alongside being quick to action, it also lasts a long time and can cook bigger pieces of chicken more thoroughly.
- Different - This is a different flavor from the other smoking woods on the list. It is sweet, but also slightly nutty. It is the sweetness of the wood that makes it a good match for smoking chicken.
- Allergies - Though the risk is fairly low, there is still a chance that people with severe nut allergies may suffer a reaction from this particular product.
Hickory wood is versatile. It is earthy, nutty, rich, and strong. It has a more powerful flavor that is noticeable in smoked chicken. However, it matches really well.
It is a popular choice for the taste of barbecue. This product is Camerons hickory large wood chunks.
- Chunks: These are wood chunks, on the large side. They have longevity and can accommodate cooking a whole chicken easily.
- Strong: Hickory is not subtle. The smoke is powerful and definitely dictates the taste of the chicken.
- Tasty - Though it isn’t fruity, hickory wood still tastes great when smoking chicken. It is strong and bold, but a good choice if you’re fancying a more ambitious end result. -
- Popular - Hickory wood is a popular choice for barbecue flavors. It smokes well and comes through quite strong tasting.
- Strong - Smoking chicken with hickory will make the chicken taste change. The end result may not be to everyone’s taste and liking.
Best Woods for Smoking Chicken Buying Guide
Different Types Of Wood
There are a few different types of wood used to smoke chicken. What you buy depends on what sized grill you have.
Most places sell the different sized varieties as standard in most flavors. Just to clear up any confusion, there’s a handy list here of the different varieties.
Pellets are small pellets of wood. Pellets are used in smaller grills, barbecues, and burners. They get hot quickly and burn for an average length of time.
You may need a larger amount to cook with. You can get pellets in all the different types and flavors.
Wood chunks are more shards of wood. They are smaller than logs, bigger than pellets and chips. They burn for a bit longer and heat up to a good cooking temperature in a decent amount of time. You use wood chunks in average sized grills, barbecues, and burners.
Logs of wood are generally for larger burners and grills. They burn brighter and longer, and you can cook a bigger amount of food with them. They won’t fit in smaller burners.
Chips of wood are bigger than pellets, smaller than chunks. A middle ground between the two. They are used in smaller burners, grills and barbecues, and medium sized ones. They last for a longer time than pellets and get a hotter temperature too.
Getting The Right Temperature
When you’re cooking chicken, it’s common knowledge that it has to be cooked through. It’s so easy to get sick from undercooked meat. And, when it comes to smoking chicken, you want the process to be thorough.
That means, making sure that you know what the optimal temperature for smoking chicken is. Chicken smokes best when the grill hits around 250F. It will cook slightly under this but burn instead of smoke if it gets much hotter.
The chicken itself needs to be around 190F. If the chicken gets much hotter than this i.e. you leave it on the grill too long, then you’re only outcome will be dry chicken.
How To Keep The Moisture In The Chicken
There’s nothing worse than laboring over a grill and waiting in anticipation for the meat to be ready. Then, when you finally get to eat it, it’s dried out.
Chicken is no exception. The chicken will taste best when it retains its moisture. Thankfully, smoking chicken with wood can achieve this nicely.
- Get the temperature right.
- Find a wood to cook with that infuses moisture.
- Use aluminum foil to keep moisture in.
- Baste, baste, baste!
Frequently Asked Questions
Does The Wood Affect The Flavor Of The Chicken?
Yes. When you cook chicken with wood and smoke it, it will get some of the smoke taste in the chicken. This is why the chicken is cooked in this way. To achieve that smokey flavor.
It definitely makes it stand out taste wise from more traditional cooking methods. It’s best to match up the type of wood you use to the chicken to create the best flavor.
A wood that has a strong smoke, for example, hickory, will dominate too much and take away from the chicken taste.
Which Wood Is The Best Flavor For Smoking Chicken?
Of course, with any dish, this is down to personal preference. However, the general consensus is that with chicken, fruit based flavors complement it best.
For example, apple or cherry wood chips and pellets taste nice against the chicken. The fruity flavor comes through in the smoke and adds to the dish.
How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Chicken?
A whole chicken will take up to three hours.
Chicken breasts take around one hour.
Chicken thighs take around two and a half hours.