I don't think the broiler would give you the results you want. The way to go is just to leave a cast iron on high for 10 minutes or so.
I prefer oak to hickory just because hickory always makes everything taste like ham to me. But if it was harsh, it may just be too much smoke and not good airflow. It's not like you were even smoking it that long, I would think, given that you weren't cooking it to a very high temp.
I think you're right on the cast iron skillet. I just avoid it because of the clean-up mess, but it really is the only thing that will get the results I'm looking for.
We smoked baby backs tonight using cherry wood, and they were fantastic! 225°F for 2.5 hours. 6 racks from Singing Pig Farms. Quality and flavor of this pork is light years better than the grocery store or Costco's. Prices are similar to standard Safeway prices and so much better in texture and flavor. He sells all kinds of retail cuts (you don't have to commit to a pig share, you can just buy x many chops, etc.) and he'll meet you almost anywhere around town. I've done pickups downtown from him while he was on route for restaurant deliveries, and I've done a pickup out here on the Westside. You can get in touch with him on Facebook or here, or I can give you his contact info.
I don't think we'll be going back to hickory. I want to get some apple wood to try, and a couple of others and start to figure out the differences in flavors on the meat.
I'm going to post this in another thread, but we've got a huge bag of cherry wood that would take us forever to go through. If someone has apple, pecan or something else (other than mesquite or hickory) and wants to trade a couple of logs for cherry wood, let me know!