The Best Wood for Smoking Chicken – Unlocking Deliciousness

January 21, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

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.

Best Wood for Smoking Chicken

What Type of Wood is Best for Smoking Chicken?

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.

6 Best Woods for Smoking Chicken & Their Flavors

Wood Type



Light and Nutty Flavor

Apple Wood

Slightly Sweet and Fruity Flavor


Strong Smoky Flavor


Medium Smoky Flavor

Cherry Wood

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: 

1. Pecan

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.

2. Apple Wood

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.

3. Hickory Wood

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!

4. Oak Wood

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.

5. Cherry Wood

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.

6. Maple Wood

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.

Preparing Pecan Wood for Smoking Chicken

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:

1. Start by Gathering Your Supplies

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.

2. Soak the Wood Chips

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.

3. Preheat Your Grill

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.

4. Add the Smoking Woods

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.

Tips to Get the Perfect Smoked 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:

  1. Start with good quality chicken. Spending a little extra for a bird that has been raised humanely and free of additives is always well worth it.
  2. Brine the chicken before smoking. This helps to keep the meat moist and flavorful.
  3. Consider adding subtly sweet wood chips from fruit trees to the charcoal embers to add natural flavor.
  4. Monitor the temperature of your smoker. To ensure that your chicken cooks evenly and doesn’t dry out, maintain a temperature between 225 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the smoking process.
  5. Don’t overcook the chicken. Smoking chicken at a lower temperature for a longer period helps to keep the meat tender and moist.
  6. Always use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness when cooking poultry meat. The internal temperature should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit before taking your chicken off the smoker.
  7. Let it rest before eating. Allowing your meat to rest for at least 10 minutes will allow it to absorb all of its juices and keep it moist and flavorful when served.
Grilled Chicken Leg and Thigh

Delicious Smoked Chicken Recipe Using Pecan Wood Chips

Here is a delicious recipe to smoke chicken using pecan:


  • 1 whole chicken (about 4-5 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of your favorite BBQ rubs
  • Pecan wood chips, soaked in water for a minimum of an hour


Step 1

Preheat your grill to the recommended temperature for smoking chicken (225-300°F).

Step 2

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.

Step 3

Add the wood chips to the smoke box or wood tray. Ensure the chunks are pre-soaked.

Step 4

Place the chicken on the grill grates, making sure there is space between the bird and the heat source.

Step 5

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.

Step 6

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.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. Pitmaster Central is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon (.com,, .ca etc) and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Keep Reading
Copyright 2024 Pitmaster Central, all rights reserved.