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Sep 10, 2007 03:47 PM

varieties of wood chips? oh, and smoked chicken


How dramatic is the flavor of different wood chips when smoking meat--this might be a really stupid question and maybe it has everything to do with the end flavor. I'm thinking of using mesquite this weekend for pork butt, chicken and fish and am thinking there probably should be be some variety of wood chips--any suggestions for each meat? Hickory or cherry or something more subtle for more delicate meats? Thanks so much, I appreciate all your wonderful help!

The last time I smoked poultry, the skin of the duck and chicken sort of ballooned out and looked unappetizing and squishy. Should I start them in a high heat oven to crisp the outside and then place in the smoker for a couple of hours? Should I not use a steam bath of any sort with the poultry and fish? tia.

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  1. I rarely use mesquite, and only in situations where the cook time will be low - it can get very bitter, very quickly.

    Hickory is the obvious choice, due to the pork butt, but having chicken and fish involved makes me think pecan might be the best way to go - it's a delicate smoke that should add good flavor to all of the meats.

    1. The choice of wood you use will have a huge impact on the flavor of the meat. I never use mesquite - it produces an intense bitter smoke. Oak would be good for all the meats you mentioned. Apple, cherry, pecan and alder would also be good - nice mellow flavor. Hickory would be a bit too strong for fish...

      It's possible your poultry came out "squishy" because the heat wasn't high enough. Ideal smoking temps range from 225-275 degrees. If you're in that ballpark, you won't need to crisp the bird in the oven.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Moose

        Thanks about the wood chips! We're using a cheap electric smoker, and the temperature is set at 200 degrees and isn't variable. I wonder if this type of smoker doesn't temper the flavor of the wood chips enough so that mesquite and hickory turn out milder than they normally would.

        1. re: ketchupgirl

          Are you using an extension cord? This can sometimes cause cheaper electric elements to not get hot enough. My electric smoker manual recommends against using an extension cord and also give specifications on the type of extension cord to use if it cannot be avoided.

          1. re: jzerocsk

            Yes, we use an extension cord, but the cord for the smoker is very short--only a couple of feet--shouldn't we keep it farther from the house than that? Thanks for the suggestion!

            1. re: ketchupgirl

              Of course you don't want to burn the house down :-)

              The manual for my smoker (Brinkmann Gourmet) recommends 5' clearance from combustible structures. I imagine the cord is consequently 5' long, but I haven't measured.

              It goes on to say "Do not use an extension cord unless absolutely necessary. If you must use one, the following care should be exercised: Use the shortest length possible. User a 12/3 or 14/3 grounded extension cord with a rating of at least 15 amps. The cord should be marked with suffix letter "W-A" with a tag stating "Suitable for Use with Outdoor Appliances."

              THen it includes the usual warnings about keeping the cord out of walking paths and water.

              I've seen some posts elsewhere about electric smokers not getting hot enough and eliminating (or using shorter) extension cords was reported to help. I guess you basically want a fat cord that is long enough to get you safely away from your house but not longer than necessary.

              Good luck!

          2. re: ketchupgirl

            a primer from the chigger creek wood chip company of missouri:


        2. Your temperature is too low for the chicken to get a crispy skin. What I would recommend is starting the chicken in the smoker since meat absorbs the most smoke when it is raw. Pull it out after a half an hour and finish it in a hot (400 or so) oven to finish it. So I'm basically suggesting the opposite order contained in your idea.

          2 Replies
          1. re: diva360

            Thank you! I'll try it and see how it goes.

            1. re: ketchupgirl

              Call me odd but I use applewood for my chiken and grapevine for my fish. I think the grapevine gives a nice subtle flavor to the fish, esp if you are smoking trout or other light fish.

          2. Pork butt is a very subjective cut when smoking. Probably the best and most popular chips are Hickory & Oak in major parts of the south. We use a lot of Maple here. I have a 10 lb bone in butt (which are on sale here at 99 cents a pound) smoking in my Weber as I write this.Started at 6 AM this morning and I add charcoal and chips every few hours. Will cook for at least 12 hours..
            Alder is without a doubt, my choice for any fish. We do a lot of fish here in Michigan.
            Chicken does really well using Fruitwood.We use a lot of Apple and Cherry from the orchards near Traverse City. When smoking; Use indirect heat and try to keep your heat at somewhere around 225 degrees.