Chicken thighs consist of the upper part of a leg, which connects it to the main body. Chicken thighs are an excellent source of lean protein. It provides the same array of benefits that we get from a chicken breast. They cook up quite moist and tender all the time. Thighs don’t tend to end up dry and tasteless, thanks to their slightly increased fat content.
They’re perfectly fitting for braising and roasting, making them ideal for smoking and feeding crowds. It often acts as the main ingredient during social gatherings with family and friends. Nowadays, many markets are starting to sell skinless and boneless chicken thighs that cook quickly in grill and sauté pans.
Why Wood Choice Matters
As an avid barbecue person, you’ll know the importance of wood in smoking your meat. Yes, the heat source will eventually depend on the type of smoker that you’re utilizing. However, wood is always the primary source of heat. Different chicken parts tend to possess varying compositions, fat content, and also meat density. It means that the wood type complementing them will vary from cut to cut.
Barbecued chicken tastes best when you smoke with the correct wood chips. It enhances your chicken thighs’ flavor profile. Many people prefer wood from trees of sweet fruits, while the rest swing in a different direction. In this guide, I will be laying out some of the best wood for smoking chicken thighs.
Best Wood for Smoking Chicken Thighs
Before we get into it, I want you to know that your choice will naturally change as you go along with it. I honestly think it’s best to try all the woods separately or as a mixture for extracting the best flavors. You can expect a 3-4 try before you locate the wood formula that best complements your chicken thighs. But without any further ado, here are the best wood for smoking chicken thighs:
A Maplewood is quite similar to hickory because it burns long and at a slower pace. It possesses a sweeter taste compared to most heavy woods. Its sweet nature makes it a perfect candidate for smoking chicken. This wood is a favorite for most BBQ lovers on the lookout for something that tastes sweeter than applewood but not as heavy as cherry and pecan.
It helps in adding a sweet and lightweight aroma to your chicken. The wood doesn’t overpower the natural flavors and taste of your chicken at all.
Pecan stands out for its robust flavor and its ability to offer heavy nutty aromas. These rich flavors are eagerly sitting behind its sweet profile to pop out at any moment. If you’re someone that deals with richer smoking woods, then pecan might be the one for you. We are all aware of its excellent pairing with turkey; however, I have personally used it on my smoked chicken, and the outcome is exceptionally delicious.
I once held a BBQ party on Christmas eve, and the pecan smoked chicken thighs ended up being the star of the show. They go exceptionally well with a cup of cold beer, accompanied by some delicious tomato relish on the side.
Applewood is undoubtedly one of the most common wood chip types for cooking smoked chicken thighs. This wood is well-sought because of its fruity and subtly sweet flavors. It differs from other fruit-based wood types like pecan, cherry, and maple with its mellower taste.
However, its subtle taste may be too delicate for some pitmasters interested in tasting something more substantial. You might want to try out the excellent chicken BBQ rub recipe if you’re using this wood.
Hickory is one of the leading trusted OGs when it comes to smoking woods for BBQ. This old traditional wood is perfectly suitable for people that don’t favor sweetness much. The reason behinds its excellent compatibility with chicken thighs and other meat is its nutty flavor. Hickory can be found just about anywhere and is fitting for smoking beginners. Yes, it isn’t as strong as the other earthy wood types, such as mesquite.
However, it will overpower your chicken thighs with excess usage. You’ll end up with a thick layer of bitter smoke on your thighs, which is a resounding NO! because the last thing you would want is to poison your guests. I highly advise you to begin with 1-2 chunks of the wood. You can proceed with more in the future if there is an undershooting of flavor.
Cherrywood obtains the same amount of sweetness as the other fruity wood types on the list. However, one feature separates it from the rest: its ability to color your chicken thighs. After a few hours of cooking over cherrywood, your chicken thighs will end up with a pretty deep red finishing.
This wood is super delicious when you combine it with a deeper and richer hardwood type. I recommend you mix it with some hickory to add a touch of extra smokiness to your chicken thighs. Whenever I work with cherrywood and chicken, I feel like I am plating a professional five-star restaurant entrée.
Peach is all about bringing the old Southern style to life again. This wood features a beautiful fruity and light taste, which gives your chicken thighs a strong Southern tang. Peach tends to burn for more extended periods and is quite hot compared to other woods. But if you’re planning to use this wood, then make sure to utilize it when it is fresh. Why? Well, because after some time, the flavor tends to fade away, giving you a bland taste quickly.
If you have reached this section of the article, you’re well-equipped to choose which wood to choose. You can pick your wood or combine them depending on your preference and convenience. A reminder for the second time that the wood choice or combination in the future will depend on your taste and experience. Also, remember that the flavors tend to vary with different meats and cuts. The majority of these woods work just fine for chicken, but you can also combine and try them for your pork loin recipe.