Instantly Upgrade Your Chicken Salad By Smoking Your Meat

smoked chicken with seasoning on a cutting board
smoked chicken with seasoning on a cutting board - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

While chicken salad has a lot of devoted fans who genuinely love the hearty and wholesome dish, some people find it sorely lacking in the flavor department. If you fall into the latter camp, remember that adding certain ingredients to chicken salad will have a major impact on the flavor profile of the recipe. Along with choosing tasty seasonings, consider smoking the chicken prior to adding it to the dish. Smoking infuses chicken salad with an unexpected flavor that's a touch more complex than conventional recipes.

For the uninitiated, smoking entails exposing meat, in this case chicken, to burning wood to permeate it with a delectable smoky flavor. This can be accomplished in a special device called a smoker, or it can take place on a grill. Along with flavor, smoking also enhances chicken in other ways. You can expect a moist and toothsome texture after smoking thanks to the low temperatures and extended cooking times. This texture is key to a delightful chicken salad recipe, as it ensures that the chicken is soft but not mushy. As for the flavor profile of smoked chicken, it can vary according to the type of wood you use.

Read more: 15 Tricks For Making The Most Crispy Chicken Thighs Ever

Best Practices When Smoking Chicken

smoking chimney starter on top of grill
smoking chimney starter on top of grill - Artem Gorlanov/Shutterstock

With so many options out there, it can be tough to choose the best wood for smoking meat. Keep in mind that you want to find a wood type that works well with chicken, in which case applewood is worth investigating. Applewood-smoked chicken tends to have a subtler flavor, which is good for people new to the world of smoked meats. Hickory is the next step up in terms of flavor, and the slightly sweet notes imparted by the wood make for a more complex chicken salad. You can also combine hickory and cherry wood for a pleasantly fruit-forward smokiness.

No matter which wood you choose, be mindful of imbuing meat with too much smoky flavor. Burning wood produces creosote, which can leave a bitter coating on smoked meat. To prevent an unwanted flavor, burn wood in a chimney starter first before adding it to the grill. This step eliminates some of the creosote and prevents the chicken from taking on an unpleasantly bitter taste.

Putting The Finishing Touches On Smoked Chicken Salad

bowl of mayonnaise flavored with herbs and spices
bowl of mayonnaise flavored with herbs and spices - Stephaniefrey/Getty Images

Combining smoked chicken with plain old mayonnaise is bound to leave your chicken salad somewhat unbalanced. While smokiness is excellent, it can overwhelm the dish when used on its own. That's why you must also upgrade the mayo you plan to use in the dish, which entails adding spices that complement a smoky flavor. Seasoning the mayo also ensures that it pairs with the barbecue seasoning used on the chicken as it cooks.

Mayonnaise is a great vehicle for herbs and spices thanks to its mild flavor. Additions like paprika, scallions, and celery will infuse the condiment with a deeper flavor than it would offer on its own. And because a bit of heat is the perfect complement to smoked chicken, you can also include a splash of your favorite hot sauce. Elevate the mayonnaise even further by including acidic elements like lemon juice and vinegar, which are perfect for tempering some of the richness. With these simple flavor tweaks, your next batch of chicken salad will be far tastier than you thought possible.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.