The Best Wood for Smoking Chicken: Tried and Tested Varieties

best wood for smoking chicken

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Smoking chicken can be a delicious treat if you choose the appropriate wood, which is essential to acquiring that ideal smoky flavor. As an enthusiast of experimenting with various woods, smoking, and grilling techniques, I am familiar with how significantly the type of wood utilized affects the taste, aroma, and texture of this delicacy.

Are you a cook who is eager to master the art of smoking chicken perfectly? Perhaps, you’ve already tried your hand at pitmastering, but are looking for ways to elevate it further. 

If so, in this article, you will learn about:

  • Which one is the best wood for smoking chicken?
  • The best woods for smoking chicken breast in a smoker
  • The best wood for smoking chicken wings
  • And more!

Best Wood for Smoking Chicken

If you’re smoking chicken, the type of wood used will have a massive impact on the flavor and texture. To ensure your dish is as delicious as possible, here are some of the best wood choices for smoking poultry:

best woods for smoking chicken


Hickory wood is a classic option for smoking chicken, offering an intense smoky flavor that perfectly complements the poultry. It has an average to longer smoke time and works with any cut of chicken.


Applewood is one of the most popular choices and also one of the best woods for smoking chicken, and this is due to its remarkable properties. This wood type has a light fruity flavor, providing an enjoyable taste that enhances any piece of poultry. Furthermore, it offers medium smoke duration, which complements succulent chicken wings perfectly, but more into that in a later section.


If you want to add a deliciously sweet and fruity flavor to your smoked chicken, cherry wood is an ideal choice. It also has a medium smoking duration that perfectly complements chicken for smoking in no time.


This is the one if you’re looking for a smoking wood that yields a nutty, slightly sweet flavor and can smoke chicken breasts or thighs! Its medium-length smoking duration adds just the right amount of smokiness to your meats.


Maple wood offers a delectable mild sweetness that pairs well with subtle smoky tones. It’s perfect for those who crave an intermediate smoking duration and is commonly used to smoke delicious chicken breasts.


Mesquite wood is a strong and daring choice to impart your chicken with its unmistakable smoky flavor. However, you’ll want to use it in moderation due to its short smoking duration!


Oakwood offers a robust smoky taste that pairs marvelously with chicken. Its medium to long smoking duration makes it an excellent choice for infusing succulent flavor into the juiciest smoked chicken thighs.


Peachwood imparts a delightful, fruity flavor that pairs perfectly with chicken. Its smoking duration is neither too short nor too long – making it an ideal choice when preparing smoked chicken wings.

smoking chicken in a smoker

If you want to take your smoked chicken dishes up a notch, you’ll need the right wood. Consider flavor profile and smoking duration when selecting the best type of wood for your needs – it’s all about experimentation!

Trying out different types will let you discover the perfect taste level that makes your dishes stand out from everyone else’s. Plus, don’t forget to think about which part of the chicken you’re smoking; each requires its own unique brand of smoky goodness.


Best Wood for Smoking Chicken Wings

If you want to try something new with chicken wings, smoking them is a great way to add a smoky flavor to the dish. Depending on which wood you use, you can create different tastes. Here are some good wood options for smoking chicken wings.

smoked chicken wings
  • Apple: As previously mentioned, chicken wings have a great flavor when paired with apple wood. This type of wood has a gentle, fruity taste that complements chicken wings very well. Additionally, its moderate smoking time allows for a subtle infusion of flavor without dominating the chicken’s taste.
  • Cherry: Cherry wood is an excellent choice for smoking chicken wings as it has a sweet and fruity flavor. It offers a medium smoking duration not to mention that it creates a great balance of smoky and sweet flavors.
  • Hickory: Hickory is a traditional wood choice known for its potent smoky flavor that complements the taste of chicken wings. Its smoking duration is medium to long, enabling a more profound infusion of flavor.
  • Mesquite: When smoking chicken wings, using Mesquite wood will give them a strong and smoky flavor. Just keep in mind that Mesquite wood doesn’t last long when smoking, and its flavor is very intense, so use it in moderation.

To smoke chicken wings, use wood that enhances the chicken’s natural taste but doesn’t overpower it. Try different wood options to find the level of smoky flavor that suits your taste preferences.

Best Wood for Smoking Chicken Breast

smoked chicken breast

Chicken breast is a lean protein that can benefit from adding a smoky flavor when smoked. The wood you use can infuse it with a unique taste while adding to the overall texture and moistness of the dish.

  • Cherry: Cherry wood is a good choice for smoking chicken breast because it has a sweet and fruity flavor. The medium smoking time ensures that the chicken absorbs a delicate smoky flavor that enhances its natural taste.
  • Pecan: The nutty and slightly sweet flavor of pecan wood is an ideal match for chicken breast. Its moderate smoking duration enhances the natural taste of the chicken with a mellow smoky flavor.
  • Maple: The mild and sweet flavor of maple wood is a great match for chicken breast. Its medium smoking time allows for a subtle hint of smokiness that complements the chicken’s natural taste without being too overwhelming.
  • Alder: The flavor of chicken breast is enhanced by Alder wood’s delicate and slightly sweet taste. The light infusion of smoky flavor, due to its medium smoking duration, further complements the natural taste of the chicken.

To smoke chicken breast, try using different types of wood until you find the one that best suits your taste preferences, but be careful not to overpower the chicken’s natural flavor. Using a combination of woods can also create an interesting flavor profile. Experiment and have fun in the process!

Best Wood for Smoking Chicken Thighs

Choosing the right wood for smoking is crucial to add a smoky flavor to the tasty and succulent chicken thighs. Some woods can enhance its delicious taste, while others may be too overwhelming. Check out these top wood options for smoking chicken thighs:

smoking chicken thighs
  • Hickory: Hickory is a classic wood choice for smoking chicken thighs because it provides a strong smoky flavor that complements the dish. It has a medium to long smoking duration, allowing the chicken to absorb a deeper flavor without becoming too overpowering.
  • Pecan: The nutty and slightly sweet flavor of pecan wood matches the rich taste of chicken thighs. With a medium smoking duration, it infuses the chicken with a moderate amount of smoky flavor that complements its natural taste.
  • Apple: For a delicious taste that complements the richness of chicken thighs, try using apple wood. It has a gentle, fruity flavor and a medium smoking duration, allowing for a subtle flavor infusion.

Tips and Tricks for Beginners: How to Get Started with Smoking Chicken?

When you’re just starting out with smoking chicken, there are a few key tips and tricks to keep in mind. First, be sure to use wood chunks or wood pellets that are appropriate for your smoker and desired flavor profile.

Additionally, make sure to season your whole chicken liberally with your favorite dry rub or marinade, and consider injecting it with a little bit of liquid for added moisture and flavor. Keep an eye on the cooking time, as smoking can take longer than traditional grilling or baking. Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment with different wood smoke and seasoning combinations until you find the perfect flavor for your next BBQ.

For those who are new to smoking chicken, there are some helpful tips and tricks to guarantee a successful smoking process. Don’t be intimidated by the task – smoking chicken is simpler than it seems. Here are some important points to remember:

  • Choose the right wood: To add a gentle fruity taste to your chicken, try using fruit woods like applewood. Depending on your type of smoker (grill, charcoal, electric smoker, or barbecue), you can use wood chips, chunks, or pellets.
  • Season and brine the chicken: To enhance the taste and tenderness of the chicken, apply dry rub or spices to it and, optionally, marinate it in brine before smoking it.
  • Use a thermometer: To ensure your chicken is safe to eat, use a meat thermometer to periodically check that it has reached an internal temperature of 165°F while smoking.
  • Experiment with different hardwoods: You may want to experiment with various hardwoods like oak or hickory to enhance the richness and intricacy of the smoke flavor.
  • Allow the chicken to rest: Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes after smoking to allow the juices to redistribute and the flavors to settle.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section aims to provide answers to common questions about smoking chicken. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an experienced smoker; having a better understanding of the process is always useful. So, let’s explore some of the most frequently asked questions about smoking chicken.

Is apple or cherry wood better for chicken?

To smoke chicken, apple, and cherry wood are both good choices. Your preference will determine which one is better for you. Applewood has a gentle, fruity taste that complements the chicken’s natural flavor, while cherry wood tastes somewhat sweet and mild. For some pitmasters, applewood is one of the best wood for smoking chicken. You have the final decision on which wood flavor you like better for your smoked chicken recipes.

Is hickory or mesquite better for chicken?

If you are considering smoking chicken, it is advisable to use hickory instead of mesquite because mesquite has a strong and intense flavor that can overpower the natural taste of chicken. Hickory, on the other hand, provides a rich and smoky flavor that enhances the natural flavor of chicken without dominating it. Nevertheless, individual preferences and experiments with different types of wood are essential in determining the ideal flavor for your taste.

What’s the best wood to smoke chicken with or ribs?

When it comes to smoking chicken or ribs, the ideal wood to use differs based on what flavors you like and the kind of taste you want to create. Some top choices for smoking these meats are fruitwoods, such as apple or cherry, which offer a sweet and gentle flavor. You could also use hardwoods like hickory or oak for a more intense and powerful taste. By trying out various wood flavors and combinations, you can find the one that suits your liking the best.

What is the best wood for smoking pork and chicken?

Choosing the best wood for smoking pork and chicken is based on personal preference and the type of meat being smoked. Common wood choices for both include fruitwoods such as apple and cherry and hardwoods like hickory and oak. Trying out different wood flavors and combinations can help you find the ideal taste for your smoked meats.


When smoking chicken, the type of wood used can make a huge difference in terms of flavor and texture. Different woods impart different flavors, so choosing the right one for your dish is important. To find the best wood for smoking chicken that suits your preferences, experiment with different woods until you find the one that best suits your taste. Have fun in the process, and enjoy the smoky flavors of your delicious chicken!


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Tom Wilmer

Tom Wilmer

I'm Tom Wilmer, an award-winning pitmaster and BBQ judge. I share my passion for barbecue through my blog, BBQ Soldiers, offering recipes, tips, and smoker reviews. Let's grill together!

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