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What’s The Best Wood For Smoking Chicken?

A perfectly smoked chicken is one of the most delicious meals on Earth. Chicken’s delicate and mild flavor makes it ideal for smoking, but you need to choose the right wood to avoid overpowering it. So check out this guide on the best wood for smoking chicken.

If you want to learn which are the best woods for smoking chicken, you’ve come to the right place. In this article we’ll give you our top picks and we’ll also share some best practices and some amazing smoked chicken recipes gathered from experts across the Internet.

If you’ve never tried smoking a whole chicken before, don’t sweat it. It’s not that complicated and it cooks pretty quickly too. Plus your friends and family will think you’ve suddenly become a Master Chef!

Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with tossing some marinated boneless chicken breast or chicken parts with barbecue sauce on the grill and calling it a day.

But if you really want to take things up a notch, smoked chicken is in a league of its own.

Chicken really is one of the best meats to smoke because it’s easy, inexpensive, and packed with flavor when cooked right.

Choosing The Right Wood To Smoke Chicken

Have you ever tasted a chicken breast that was cooked plain, meaning no marinade, rub, seasoning, or sauce?

It tasted pretty bland right?

Chicken has a very mild flavor by itself and that’s not a bad thing. Chicken is extremely versatile and can be cooked using many methods and with all sorts of seasonings and flavors (including from wood smoke).

Of course, if you’re not careful you can also completely overpower the natural taste of chicken by using the wrong wood to smoke with.

For example, I don’t recommend using mesquite to smoke a chicken. While mesquite will give an amazing flavor to a pork loin or brisket, it will completely overwhelm chicken.

What’s The Best Wood For Smoking Chicken?

The best types of wood for smoking chicken provide a delicate, smoky flavor that enhances the natural chicken’s natural flavors without overpowering them. Here’s our top 5 picks:

Wood

Beef

Pork

Poultry

Seafood

Vegetables

Alder


X

X

Apple

X

X

X

X

X

Apricot

X

X

Cherry

X

X

X

X

Hickory

X

X

X

X

Maple

X

X

X

X

Mesquite

X

X

Oak

X

X

X

Orange

X

X

X

X

X

Peach

X

X

X

Pecan

X

X

X

Whiskey Barrel Chips

X

X

X

Apple

Apple wood imparts a subtle, sweet, and fruity flavor that goes perfectly with any kind of poultry. It’s a great option for those who are new to smoking meats because the mild flavor leaves plenty of room for error.

Apple wood is one of my go-to woods for smoking chicken.

Pecan

Pecan is one of the most popular woods for smoking chicken. Pecans gives a beautifully rich, sweet, and nutty flavor that is often used when smoking turkey, but I think its amazing with chicken as well.

Maple

Maple wood is most often used for smoking pork (especially bacon) but I think it gives chicken an amazing flavor too. Maple provides a sweet smokiness that’s stronger than apple wood but not as strong as hickory.

Here’s a suggestion: smoke up some boneless chicken breasts using maple wood and then serve on top of waffles with a drizzle of maple syrup or white gravy. That’s some amazing chicken and waffles right there!

Peach

Peach wood is mild and won’t overpower the taste of the chicken. It will impart a sweet fruitiness similar to apple wood, but unique in its own way. I’m starting to drool just thinking about it.

Hickory

Hickory is a great option for smoking chicken but you have to be careful because it has a stronger flavor than fruitwoods and it can easily overpower the taste of the chicken.

If you’re using hickory wood to smoke a chicken you’ll want to go easy on the amount of wood you add so you get a nice amount of smoke but still taste the chicken itself.

Can You Mix Woods When Smoking Chicken?

Absolutely! By mixing and matching different varieties of wood you can achieve all sorts of unique flavors.

Be creative and play around with different combinations until you find one you like best. Personally, one of my favorites is a mix of apple and hickory because you get the sweetness of apple with a slightly stronger smokiness from the hickory.

Wood Chips, Chunks, Or Pellets – Does It Matter?

You can smoke a delicious chicken using any size piece of wood, it really depends on what kind of smoker you’re using.

A pellet smoker obviously requires wood pellets. If you’re trying to smoke on a propane grill, you can use wood chips in a smoker box.

I cook on a Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker, so I use either wood chunks, wood chips, or a mixture along with charcoal as a heat source.

Wood chips are smaller than chunks and they’ll burn quickly. Chunks take a bit longer to get going but they’ll burn for a much longer time.

And don’t bother soaking wood chips before smoking as it’s a complete waste of time.

Tips For Smoking Chicken

  • Brining your chicken for a few hours or overnight before smoking will add additional flavors and help keep your meat moist
  • For perfectly crispy skin, pat dry your chicken and let it air-dry before putting it on the smoker.
  • Use your favorite dry rub to add even more flavor and get that deliciously crispy and blackened skin
  • Be sure to get some seasoning on the inside of the bird so the flavor can penetrate from the underside
  • Spatchcock your chicken to help it cook faster and more evenly
  • Don’t go by time or guess when you chicken is fully cooked. Insert an electronic probe thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh and remove the chicken from the smoker when it reaches 165° F.
  • Mad Scientist BBQ recommends smoking your chicken at 225° F until it reaches an internal temperature of 145° F and then crank the heat up to 325° to finish it off and ensure super crispy skin

Here’s a video showing his method of smoking a whole chicken…

Delicious Smoked Chicken Recipes

To make this a top resource on the best wood for smoking chicken, I checked in with a few experts to see their favorite woods for smoking chicken. Here’s a quick breakdown of their suggestions with a link to their full recipe.

The master of barbecue and star of Project Smoke went with pecan for his smoke-roasted chicken with horseradish dip. I’m not a big fan of horseradish but his chicken looks amazing.

Susie Bulloch from Hey Grill Hey recommends cherry, apple, or maple in her spatchcock smoked chicken recipe. She also sells her own rubs and sauces so you can get everything you need in one spot.

Sara from Dinner at the Zoo likes to use apple wood chips for smoking chicken because they impart a sweet and mild smoke that perfectly compliments the bird.

The Patrick and Gina Neely from Down Home With The Neely’s also vote for apple wood when they make their apple wood smoked chicken.

Jenna Passaro of Sip Bite Go makes a mean smoked chicken on her Traeger pellet smoker. She uses either apple pellets or Traeger’s Signature Blend which is a mix of different woods including hickory, cherry, and maple.

Woot!