Chicken is delicate meat yet you can turn it into various recipes. You can pan roast it, cook it in the oven, braise it, and grill it to create an awesome meal.
However, one of the tastiest ways to have nicely cooked jerk chicken for your backyard parties is to smoke a whole chicken.
The procedure is a little involved and you certainly need to understand a few important points before you begin getting really good at it. Jerk chicken can stand up well to strong, robust flavors while still maintaining its own natural flavor.
To obtain the best results from making an authentic jerk chicken, the first thing you need to get right is your type of wood. With the proper wood, the cooking temperature, and the best cook-time, your jerk chicken can come out of your smoker juicy, flavorful, and enhanced with the flavor of wood smoke.
The process begins with pieces of chicken that are infused overnight in a densely seasoned marinade flavored with fiery Scotch bonnet peppers and allspice.
You’ll also need long, thick stalks of fresh pimento wood that are absorbed and placed in a parallel pattern above a charcoal fire. Finally, the marinated chicken is placed directly on top of the greenwood and encased up with a metal lid.
It ends up cooking via a mixture of smoking and steaming. The vapors coming off the pimento wood keep flavorful compounds on its surface before it starts to smolder slightly, adding a layer of smokiness. Not only that, but it draws flavorful oils from the wood through its direct contact during the process.
The whole procedure takes over an hour from start to finish.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the wood chips you can use for creating your jerk chicken.
Hickory is probably the all-time favorite when it comes to smoking various kinds of meat. It possesses a strong, robust natural flavor that is savory and resembles bacon.
While it depicts the signature taste of Southern BBQ when smoking red meat, you can achieve excellent results by joining hickory with chicken.
Some people believe that the hickory is the best wood for smoking chicken wings as it compliments most of the chicken wing seasonings. Unlike other common choices, like oak or mesquite, hickory is less likely to overcome the natural flavor of the chicken or interject unpleasant components to the taste. When applied correctly, it can help produce layers of complex flavors over the natural flavor contour of the chicken and make a self-sufficient chicken dish your friends can enjoy.
For beginners, it is prescribed to start off with smaller amounts and slowly arrive at the appropriate balance of temperature and cooking time. You have to begin somewhere!
Fruitwoods are very popular when it gets to smoking chicken. These possess mild, sweet, fruity flavors that do not flood the natural flavors of the chicken while adding the appropriate mild smokiness and sweetness that can really make the bird-rich.
Applewood is a famous example of this. It is a lot more genial than most other fruitwoods and can be the ideal foil for your whole chicken or jointed chicken pieces. The refined nature of the smoke flavor also presents itself perfectly to applying a marinade or dry rub for your chicken and finishing it with a rich glaze or sauce.
Since the flavor is mild, this is also an excellent alternative for BBQ beginners.
Maple is frequently paired with pork cuts. It can also obtain excellent results for smoking chicken. The key here is the rich, sweet kick that can penetrate your chicken and the right golden color that can make your bird ready for elevated presentation.
If you are intending to pair your chicken with sweet sauces and sides, smoking with maple can be a great choice.
Maple is also quite lenient when it gets to temperature and cooking times. However, since the flavor is more powerful than something like an apple, you need to be a little cautious.
Smoking with cherry wood can be an excellent way to cook your chicken, particularly if you are looking for that excellent balance between great taste, a powerful aroma, and a pleasing aesthetic finish. Cherry wood presents a lovely dark red finish to your chicken making it spontaneously ready for presentation.
The flavor is evocative of the fruit itself—deep, rich, and luxuriously sweet while being very mild. So, it surely won’t overpower the chicken.
If you are intending to smoke your chicken over cherry wood, it can be a remarkable idea to brine it thoroughly first, making it ready to absorb and assimilate all that smoke for the best results.
If you want a strong, assertive flavor profile that can flawlessly complement the true flavor of the chicken, look no further than pecan wood. Pecan wood presents a unique savory, nutty flavor to the meat that can be the excellent foil for chicken.
Pecan is also an excellent way to start your journey towards producing your own signature flavor. You can combine one or more fruitwoods with a pecan to produce a unique, layered flavor profile that you can call your own.
How to Choose the Right Type of Wood
Smoking meat is an enjoyable activity that can supplement a lot of great flavors to achieve the most out of your meat. It can be viewed as an art form and science all coiled into one tasty gourmet meal.
Obtaining the best wood for smoking creates a difference in the smells, tastes, and flavors of your meat. Different wood gives different outcomes and attaining the right match for you and your tastes is necessary. Knowing the correct type of wood for smoking and understanding how that will influence the burn and smokiness of your meat is crucial.
It is all fun and games until what you craved, turns out to be the exact opposite of what you achieve. Hopefully, these insights will help you determine what types of wood offer distinct values.
Pellets, Chips, Chunks, or Logs
There are 4 main varieties of wood shapes. These different shapes offer lots of variety in your smoking activity.
The first variety we will delve deeper into is pellets. Pellet wood is available in an assortment of different kinds and qualities and is quick to light and smoke. In terms of their shape, they seem small, almost like dog food. They are in the form of tiny cylindrical pellets that can smoke instantly and are convenient to handle.
Pellets need pellet smokers, which are particular to taking care of how pellets burn.
The second variety is the chips. Chips are much thicker than pellets and present around ¼ inch thick to about 1-inch-thick in width and length. This indicates they are more square rather than round compared to the pellets. Chips are easy to find and store and much like the pellets, they generate heat quickly.
Chunks are the third variety of wood. Averaging to about the size of a fist, chunks can be applied in smaller offset smokers, water smokers as well as gas grills and charcoal grills. Chunks are comparable to chips and pellets, where they can provide smoke quickly and don’t need long burn times.
Lastly, the biggest one of them all is the logs. Many of you are probably accustomed to logs in a fire pit and sitting around them. Well, they can be utilized for smoking too. However, logs are most compatible with bigger commercial settings when attempting to smoke mass amounts of meat at once. Logs are the largest smoking wood of them all averaging anywhere from 12 to 18 inches.
Cherry, Apple, Hickory, Maple, or Oak
These aromas accompany several of the different shapes we talked about above. The wood applied for smoking has a flavor that transpires from the wood onto the meat.
Deciding on a specific type of “flavor” is necessary for your desired smoking outcome.
Cherry gives a hint of sweetness with buzzes of wild fruit flavoring. Cherry pairs excellently with poultry; like chicken and duck, as well as pork.
Apple has a more profound flavor than cherry. It gives a thicker flavor with a hint of sweetness to it. This pairs favorably with beef, chicken, pork, and duck.
Hickory compliments a variety of meats and poultry, as well as cheese. This aroma gives deep pungent flavors with hints of meatiness to it in the character itself. You can also use hickory with your homemade smoked mac and cheese.
Maple is mild and gives a dash of sweet aroma. It pairs perfectly with poultry. Cheeses make an awesome duo with maple as well.
Oak is similar to hickory, and gives the palate a more robust genuine smoky flavor but isn’t quite as pungent as hickory. It is a flavor that mingles flawlessly with many different varieties of other flavors and can improve them for a more elaborate taste. You can also use oak with your smoked brisket.
Besides, out of these five main flavors, there are surely several more out there. They get even more exciting the more you pair together. Understanding which type of flavor suits your meat and which flavors combine well together can help you smoke the ultimate creation.
The Best Wood Chip for Jerk Chicken
Jerk chicken is probably the very well-known Jamaican dish to have been exported from the island. Moist parts of poultry that are full of soaked-up marinated flavor, with burnished skin and crispy, darkened parts of meat courtesy of the grill the bird is cooked on.
But if you’ve never had the opportunity to visit the small nation that jerk chicken hails from, then you’ve never genuinely had the authentic dish. That’s because the wood from the pimento tree, which is local to the Caribbean, provides another very great jerk chicken ingredient. These are allspice berries that you can add to your marinade.
There’s also sweetwood, the Jamaican title for the laurel tree.
In Jamaica, the wood of these trees is necessary to the jerk process. To prepare the chicken (or the pork), it all begins with the wood. It comes in the form of charcoal, placed under huge metal grates, and constantly stoked to stay roaring hot.
Then, big pieces of pimento wood or allspice wood are placed on top of the grates. The meat is set directly on top of the greenwood, then closed with big sheets of metal.
As the chicken cooks, it consumes oils straight from the surface of the wood and also gets tinged with the fragrant steam and smoke created by the greenwood and the charcoal underneath. Once the chicken is heated it’s lifted from the grill, shredded from the bone, and chopped up
Take note that it takes about two hours per side for a butterflied chicken. And it is best served with fiery-hot Scotch bonnet sauce.
Pimento Wood Chips are used to smoke jerk chicken, fish, pork, or shrimp during grilling. The pimento chips can be set in a smoker, smoker box, or you can even create a tinfoil pouch and punch small holes in it to form a smoking station for your foods.
During the first steps of the cooking or grilling method, it is essential to cook the meats with smoke and this can easily be done with the pimento wood chips. If you have never had authentic Jamaican Jerk before this is a feast that will leave your friends and family pleading with you to make it over and over again.
Pimento wood is what provides true jerk BBQ its unparalleled flavor. Pimento wood is the actual wood that Jamaicans apply to jerk chicken. The pimento wood tree also provides us pimento berries, which is also known as allspice, pimento wood for smoking, sticks to create a grill, and leaves to add extra smoky aroma to jerk cooking.
Jerk captures its flavor from pimento wood. The chicken grills on a row of wet pimento leaves and sticks. The smoking wood cooks the meat, to the bone, with a strong flavor. Aromatic with deep citrus and smoky tones, the wood creates all the difference in the world.
Substitutes for Pimento Wood
Allspice is one of Jamaica’s trademark flavors. It is a homegrown spice that’s broadly used in jerk seasoning and other traditional dishes.
Interestingly, the allspice tree, also known as pimento wood, is also an essential flavoring ingredient.
Jamaican chefs cut the wood into chips and spread moistened pieces over the charcoal in their grill. The chips present a distinct flavor to authentic Jamaican jerked meats, one that has no primary substitute.
Necessity of Substitution
Most of the world’s allspice trees originate in Jamaica, though several other Caribbean countries have decent plots.
As stated by the researchers at the University of the West Indies, attempts to grow allspice trees on other continents failed due to low potency. That geographic scarcity, combined with the trees’ high market value, means the wood is in short supply outside of its homeland.
If you reside in an area with a large Caribbean community you might see it in ethnic shops. Otherwise, you’ll be required to improvise.
Fruit Wood Chips
The best alternatives to pimento wood are frequently fruit woods, which are similarly light but pungent. Applewood chips are an easy substitute. They’re affordable and readily obtainable in most parts of the country.
Feel free to explore with other fruitwood chips, to discover if there’s an option that works exceptionally well with your personal jerk seasoning. Pear, peach, cherry, and other fruit woods all give subtle, savory flavors.
Pecan Wood Chips
Pecan chips also make an excellent option, when pimento wood isn’t available.
Pecan serves to be somewhat more expensive than fruit woods since it also grows in a restricted geographic range like the pimento wood. If you reside in the South, you might have the indulgence of reaping pecan wood from your own backyard or local groves. But pecan chips are also available everywhere through barbecue-oriented retailers.
Pecan supplements a slightly nuttier flavor than most fruitwoods, carrying the brighter tones in your jerk seasoning.
If you don’t have pecan or fruit woods, try to look for chips of mellow-flavored woods like alder or birch.
Some of the most traditional woods for smoking, including hickory, oak, and mesquite, are far too sour to use with jerk chicken or other authentic recipes. They’ll overwhelm the spicy flavors, even when combined with less potent woods.
Rather than apply these heavyweights, skip the wood chips completely. Your dish will taste much better with sheer charcoal smoking than with any of these added.
If you are trying to smoke a whole chicken or chicken cuts, applying one or more of the woods mentioned above, the effects will be impressive. The trick is to keep in mind that chicken cooks quite fast. So, find the balance between your temperature and cooking time to prevent the meat from getting dry. This can result in a deliciously smoky and tasty chicken that remains moist and juicy.