When you ask five BBQ masters, you’ll probably get five different answers. My personal experience in chicken smoking and grilling has proven that pecan is the best wood for smoking chicken.
Why do I think so? It’s a light hardwood that burns without overpowering the bird’s flavor. It’s got a nutty aroma behind its sweet taste profile too. If you’re open to experimenting, I advise you to try different woods and see which works best. After all, our taste profiles are not the same.
I can make your search easier. In this article, I’ll tell you how the most commonly used woods taste on your chicken BBQ.
While there are different opinions out there on the best wood for smoking chicken, I think pecan takes the cake.
Pecan has a unique smokey flavor that pairs really well with other woods for smoking chicken. It also burns slowly and consistently. So your chicken will come out perfectly smoked every time.
Pecan is a hardwood; this is why its heat is consistent and doesn’t char quickly. When I had just started smoking meat, I found this was a good choice, and I haven’t found anything better since.
Light and Nutty Flavor
Slightly Sweet and Fruity Flavor
Strong Smoky Flavor
Medium Smoky Flavor
Sweet and Slightly Fruity Flavor
Mild and Slightly Sweet Smoke Flavor
Depending on the type of wood you choose, you can expect different flavors.
Here are more details on the best woods for smoking chicken including their flavors and burning characteristics:
The light and nutty flavor of pecan make it one of my favorite wood for smoking chicken. This wood adds a subtle smokiness to the meat and is excellent for achieving golden-brown chicken skin. Plus, it goes particularly well with poultry meats. So it’s an easy recommendation for smoking chicken.
As you would expect, fruit woods like apple wood have a slightly sweet flavor with hints of subtle fruitiness. It goes well with lighter meats like pork ribs, poultry, and fish, giving them a nice smokey taste without overpowering the natural flavor.
Hickory wood has a strong smoky flavor that works well with poultry dishes. However, too much wood smoke can kill the taste in your dish. So be sure to use hickory wood in moderation!
Another classic option is oakwood. It has a mild flavor that doesn’t overpower the chicken goodness as hickory does. It adds just enough of a smoky taste for a boost of flavor to your meal.
Like other fruit woods, cherry wood has a sweet, fruity flavor that can complement the taste of chicken. It is a relatively soft wood, which means that it burns quickly, and you may need to add wood more often during the smoking process. However, cherry wood produces a thin, light-colored smoke that can add a reddish hue to the chicken and give it a subtle depth of flavor.
Maple wood chips produce a similar smoke color that typical cherry smoke. It has a mild, sweet smoke flavor that enhances the taste of the chicken. Maple wood is a relatively dense wood. This means it burns slowly, and you may not need to add wood chunks more often during the smoking process.
Just like you would with cherry wood and other smoking woods, you’ll want to soak pecans in water for 15 to 30 minutes before you start smoking. This prolongs the burn time and gets you more smoke.
Next, preheat your grill to about 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Then place the soaked wood chips in the smoker box, smoker’s wood chip tray, or on the burning charcoal embers on the heated grill.
If you have an electric smoker, wood pellets are what you’ll be using. And where should you add them? That’s right, in the hopper.
To prepare pecan for smoking chicken, follow these steps:
You will need pecan wood, a charcoal grill or gas grill, and, of course, the chicken. You will also need some basic smoking tools, such as a water pan, a thermometer, and a drip pan.
Although it’s optional, to get a good lasting smoke, I suggest soaking the pecan wood in water for around 30 minutes before you start smoking.
This will help prevent the wood chunks from burning too quickly. It will also add moisture to the smoke, which will help keep the chicken moist as it cooks.
Preheat and maintain your grill at 225-300 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a suitable temperature for smoking chicken, as it will allow the meat to cook slowly and evenly without drying out.
After soaking the pecan chunks, place them on top of the coal. I also love to wrap the wood chunks in foil and place it on the grill grates.
You may need to adjust the temperature of the grill as the chicken cooks to maintain a consistent temperature.
That’s it. You can start smoking your chicken.
No matter which wood chunks you choose, the key to the perfect smoked chicken is all in the details.
Here are a few tips that will help you get the most out of your experience:
Here is a delicious recipe to smoke chicken using pecan:
Preheat your grill to the recommended temperature for smoking chicken (225-300°F).
Rinse the chicken and pat it dry with paper towels.
Tuck the chicken wings. Then rub the chicken all over with the olive oil.
Next, sprinkle the BBQ rub evenly over the chicken, making sure to coat it well.
Add the wood chips to the smoke box or wood tray. Ensure the chunks are pre-soaked.
Place the chicken on the grill grates, making sure there is space between the bird and the heat source.
Close the lid of the grill and let the chicken smoke for about 3-4 hours or until it reaches the recommended internal temperature.
I recommend using a meat thermometer to check the cooking temperature.
Remove the chicken from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy!
When smoking chicken, you want the result to be a succulent, juicy bird packed full of flavor. The best way to achieve that is by using the right smoking wood chips.
The six types of wood discussed in the article are all good choices for smoking chicken. However, pecan is my personal favorite. It imparts a delicate, slightly sweet flavor that enhances the natural flavors of the bird.
Would you like to explore and find which suits your palate? Then maple wood, cherry wood, oak wood, hickory, and apple wood chunks are other options for a delicious smoky chicken dish.