Smoking chicken is one of the best ways of getting the full flavors out of your poultry meat. For best results, you’ll need to consider a few things first.
Why Wood choice matters
The right type and quantity of wood are necessary to achieve that ideal, smoky flavor in your chicken. It makes a massive difference because smoked chicken can be prepared in a whole new way. However, if you are a beginner, you may not need to worry too much about your chicken’s exact wood combination.
Fruitwoods and hardwoods range from mild to robust. If the wrong wood is used in the wood tray, it can produce confusing results, so it is vital to use the correct wood. It is also essential to use the correct amount of wood. There are some differences in the types and quantities of wood depending on the kind of smoker you're using. As you use your smoker more and more, you'll slowly develop a better understanding of what works best.
However, whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pitmaster, there’s value in understanding the wood types better. This way, you can refine the taste and flavor of any chicken dish you take up.
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Best wood for smoking Chicken
Apple is an excellent choice for smoking poultry meat. The main reason here is that it’s a mild flavor. Of course, too mild, and you won’t have much flavor. But the right wood will focus the fruity notes nicely.
If you’re using Applewood, remember that it takes several hours before the flavors can permeate the meat properly. So, you’re in for a low-and-slow cooking session. But if you’re patient enough, you’ll taste smoked flavors that are as good as any other meat.
No listing of smoking woods is complete without this classic. It’s an all-time favorite for most barbeque-enthusiasts because hickory complements any meat.
One thing to remember here is that hickory can overpower other subtle flavors sometimes. You can’t blame the wood because that’s what makes it great for smoking. What you can do is use it sparingly or in moderation.
I don’t mind going for a trial and error approach with hickory. The ideal balance is usually a subjective experience when it comes to wood. And you’re the best person to figure out what tastes the best for you.
- Maple wood
This wood is one of the few that reconciles the extremes between apple and hickory. It is a hardwood but not as strong as hickory in flavor. It burns slow but is not as meek as apple in burn rate.
One advantage with maple is that you don’t have to worry too much about the final flavor. It gives a pretty balanced smoky taste to the chicken. If you have a distinct flavor in mind, you might have to go for other flavors. But as far as a smoking chicken goes, the maple gives a tremendous smoky balance.
- Cherry wood
With foods like chicken, cherry complements almost every smoking method. Its universal appeals to almost every meat, which is why the wood is widely used for smoking.
As a beginner, it’s easiest to start with something mild, fruity, like cherry. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can move on to more powerful flavors like hickory.
Peachwood is ideal for smoking chicken or other poultry. It’ll also work well for smoking game birds since it’s a fruitwood, as well. Furthermore, peach is more robust than most fruitwoods on this list. However, it is not as dominant as hardwoods such as hickory. Therefore, you do not have to moderate the quantity.
Peach is a straightforward wood. Assuming you’re using charcoal, gas, or electricity as the heating source, peach wood is enough for smoking.
Final tips and conclusion
For smoking chicken, we usually recommend getting dry wood. That advice is equally valid for any smoking plan. Freshly cut wood usually contains more moisture and water. This means they’ll steam as much as they smoke. And with all the organic matter still there, you can end up with different flavors.
As far as the size goes, smoking chicken is better with chunks. They burn for more extended periods and provide a steady supply of heat and smoke. However, if you’re using a pellet smoker or you prefer wooden shavings, go for it!
On the whole, we feel that milder woods go better with smoking chicken. The sweet and fruity edge usually complements the white meat of poultry, especially chicken. This is not to say that more robust flavors don’t work. Hickory and maple will work just as well as milder fruitwoods. The only difference will be in the profile of the flavors you get. Ultimately it comes down to your choice and preference. Check this out for other important info on chicken-smoking