Last Updated on: 23rd October 2022, 12:51 am
Smoking chicken is a tedious process that requires perfection in every aspect. But there is various misinformation that can lead beginner backyarders to various pitfalls.
One topic that has a lot of misinformation is that at what temperature does chicken stop smoking?
When starting out, I even found myself confused over this topic because different pitmasters have different opinions on this and there is no authorized platform for clearing up such misunderstandings.
But over time, I have researched a lot on this topic and experimented with it myself to tear apart the misinformation and know the reality.
In this blog post we are going to explain this briefly, and after reading this, you will be able to smoke chicken more effectively.
There is no simple answer to this question, but chicken usually stops taking smoke after it reaches around 150 °F, because the pores of the chicken meat close at this temperature, reducing the amount of smoke penetration.
However, even if the smoke penetration stops at 150 °F, the smoke will continue to deposit on the chicken’s outer surface (bark).
there is no way that a chicken will stop taking smoke without external influence.
The only way that chicken or turkey can stop absorbing smoke while being placed inside the smoker is when it is wrapped in foil.
In that case, smoke will not come into direct contact with the chicken, and the chicken will be cooked only through heat.
These confusions about smoke absorption arise due to various misunderstandings about the basics of smoking.
One of these misunderstandings is that most of the pitmasters tend to relate the smoke ring to the flavor of chicken.
But in reality, the smoke ring has nothing to do with the flavor of chicken and can’t determine the flavor of chicken in any way.
Myoglobin protein is present due to different chemical reactions between myoglobin protein present in chicken and the gases of smoke. It will be explained in more detail later in this article.
Does cooking method affect smoke absorption?
Yes, the smoking method can definitely affect the smoke absorption of chicken.
There are two types of cooking methods in terms of heat: low and slow (smoking) and hot or direct heat method (grilling). Both of these have different levels of smoke absorption.
When you are cooking chicken low and slow, it will take a longer time for the smoker to reach 76 °C and stop the development of a smoke ring.
After that, the rub components will heat up, which results in the development of bark.
After the development of bark, the smoke will deposit on the bark rather than on the chicken.
Low and slow cooking will allow chicken to absorb more than enough smoke to give a delicious smoky flavor before the development of bark.
While in the case of high-temperature cooking, the rub will be heated quickly and form a crispy structure on the surface of the chicken.
Due to this, the inner side of the chicken will not be able to absorb much smoke and will have a less smoked flavor.
Although low and slow cooking allows us to smoke chicken for a longer time, you should keep this in mind to avoid over-smoking it.
Over-smoking chicken is as dangerous as under-smoking it. Over-smoking can usually result in the bitter flavor of the chicken.
The chicken will keep absorbing smoke as long as it’s placed inside the smoker. But you should consider being careful about the time given for smoking and the composition of smoke.
To get a good smokey flavor, half of the smoking time is usually set aside for smoke absorption.
In our opinion, the smoke absorption by a chicken placed inside a smoker can be divided into two main types.
The smoke absorbed by the internal side of the chicken and the smoke absorbed by the external surface of the chicken while placed in the smoker
How long does internal side of a chicken absorb smoke?
By the internal side of the chicken, we mean the deep part of the chicken or simply the part below the bark.
It is our core part, and it should absorb enough smoke to give a universal flavor throughout the chicken chunk. It absorbs smoke until the development of bark.
After the development of the bark, it will not be exposed to smoke and thus will not be able to absorb smoke any further.
So, to maximize the absorption of smoke by the internal side of the chicken, you should consider smoking at a low temperature.
By smoking at a low temperature, the bark will develop later after the chicken has absorbed enough smoke to taste better.
Furthermore, low and slow cooking also helps in getting a good smoke ring. So it’s a win-win situation.
How long external side of the chicken will absorb smoke?
By the external side of the chicken, we actually mean the bark rather than the chicken surface.
Bark can absorb chicken throughout the smoking process as long as the chicken is placed within the smoker. But you should consider being careful about over-smoking it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that bark will not absorb the smoke, but rather the smoke particles will adsorb to the surface of the bark.
Which means they will not penetrate deeper and just attach to the surface of the bark.
We have limited time to smoke the internal side, but the external surface of the chicken can be smoked for a longer time to get your desired flavor.
However, you should keep in mind not to over-smoke it while smoking it for an extended period of time.
How long does chicken absorb smoke for?
The black and white answer to this question is that the chicken can absorb smoke throughout the smoking process while being placed inside the smoker.
Even when it will not penetrate deeper, it will still continue to deposit on the surface of the chicken.
But to ensure that the chicken is smoked perfectly without over-smoking or under-smoking it, you should consider smoking it for the proper amount of time.
The smoke absorption time can usually range from 6–8 hours depending on the texture of the chicken.
It is a common misconception that chickens will stop absorbing smoke after 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s incorrect because the smoke ring will stop expanding after 170°F rather than 140°F, but the chicken will still keep absorbing smoke.
To achieve the perfect smoky flavor, half of the smoking process time is usually dedicated to smoke absorption.
After that, the chicken is usually wrapped in foil to avoid over-smoking it and is then cooked by heat.
The smoke absorption time can vary from chicken to chicken depending on the texture of the chicken.
Lean and soft chicken can be smoked for 2–8 hours, while hard chicken like brisket can take more than 20 hours to be smoked properly.
Is smoke ring a determinant of smokey flavor?
Because smoke ring and smoky flavor are two completely different phenomena, the simple and straightforward answer to this question will always be “no”.
A chunk of chicken without a smoke ring can taste better than a chunk with a smoke ring.
The reason behind this is that smoke rings develop from the reaction of gases present in smoke with the protein myoglobin present in chicken.
Myoglobin content differs from chicken to chicken and, thus, a chicken with higher myoglobin content can have a smoke ring with the least exposure to smoke.
Smoke contains different gases like CO and NO which react with heme present within the myoglobin.
This reaction gives a pink color to the chicken, known as the smoke ring. Myoglobin breaks down at 76 °C (170 °F) and the smoke ring stops expanding.
Red chicken, like beef, has a higher myoglobin content than white chicken, like chicken.
So beef chicken can develop a smoke ring quicker than chicken chicken despite being exposed to smoke for the same amount of time. So we can’t judge a chicken’s flavor by its smoke ring.
While the flavor of chicken comes from its exposure to smoke, The longer a chicken is exposed to smoke, the stronger the smokey flavor.
So a chicken chunk can be exposed to smoke for a longer time to produce a smokey flavor even without the development of a smoke ring.
A smokey flavor develops from the gases present within the smoke. So it is affected by the wood being used.
So it’s better to choose the appropriate type of wood and use wood with mild smoke after some time to avoid the bitter taste.
A common misunderstanding is that determining smokey flavor from smoke ring is a common misunderstanding that arises due to a correlation between smoke ring and smoky flavor.
The reason is that if a chicken chunk has a good smoke ring, then it means it took a lot of time to reach 76 °C for the breakdown of myoglobin.
which also means that the chicken should have been exposed to smoke for a longer time. So smoke ring is related to flavor to some extent, but it’s not the best determinant of smoky flavor.
You should consider smoking at a low temperature to get both a smoky flavor and a smoke ring at the same time.
Does cold chicken absorb more smoke
There is no black and white answer to this question, but we can say that cold chicken absorbs more smoke than chicken at room temperature because cold chicken will take longer time to heat up and will absorb more smoke due to the prolonged process.
Sometimes, smoke deposits on the surface of a cold chicken in the form of bubbles. But usually, cold chicken and room temperature chicken have the same flavor if smoked for the same amount of time.
Although smoking cold chicken can result in a good smoke ring,
Tips for getting a good smoky flavor
Smoking is a longer process that can take hours or even days to complete, but you should consider following best practices to make sure to get a mouth-watering flavor.
Here are some tips that you should consider following to increase your chances of getting a good flavor.
- First of all, you should consider smoking low and slow. It is really helpful whether you are trying to get a smoke ring or a smoky flavor. It will give the chicken more time to be exposed to smoke and absorb enough smoke to taste better.
- Secondly, you should consider wrapping your chicken in aluminum foil after some time. It should help you avoid over-smoking it while allowing it to be cooked to perfection. Over-smoking chicken is as hazardous as under-smoking.
- Furthermore, you should consider sprinkling your chicken with water or any other liquid to keep its internal temperature low. If the internal temperature of the chicken is increased, then the smoke ring will stop and the chicken will be overcooked on the outside while undercooked on the inside.
- Additionally, you should consider using appropriate wood for smoking your chicken. Wood type is the most crucial determinant of the smoky flavor of chicken. If you smoke with low quality wood, then it will have a bad impact on your chicken flavor.
- Finally, you should consider using a wood type with mild smoke after a while to avoid over-smoking it. You can use intense smoked wood at the start, but if the smoke is not monitored carefully, then it can result in a bitter taste.
The Final Verdict
According to our research and experience, chicken takes less smoke after 150°F because the pores of meat like chicken or brisket are closed and smoke keeps depositing on the surface of the meat rather than penetrating deeper into the meat.
Usually the chicken is smoked for half of the smoking process. The chicken smoking time can vary from chicken to chicken depending on its texture.
We hope that this blog post helps you clearing all the misconceptions related to when chicken stops absorbing smoke during a smoking process.
if you are interested in learning more, than make sure to read our guide on When does pork stop absorbing smoke?
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