We are no strangers to the smoker and slow & low BBQ. But for all the hours spent with the mesquite smoldering and cherry branches smoking, all the pounds of brisket and pork butt delightfully slow cooked, until recently we’ve never smoked a whole chicken. Roast chickens make a near weekly appearance for us. As we get older, the lighter meat of chicken feels better to eat, is quite tasty, and sits in the belly much less heavy than pork or beef (although they are still quite delicious). Yet we just didn’t think about smoking a chicken in the smoker. However that thought did creep into our minds recently as we had the BBQ craving kick in, and we are forever changed.
One word, “Aammazzing!” This is something which will now be making a frequent appearance on our summertime tables. Chicken is perfect to pick up a perfect amount of smokiness, the meat stayed moist, and it was simple as can be. You’ll want to keep the smoker temperatures between 275°F-300°F, if desired add in some fruit or nut wood branches or chips (cherry wood, apple, apricot, pecan, almond, etc…) a couple times during the cooking to give a nice smoke flavor, and if you have the foresight, brine the chicken before hand for at least a couple hours, although overnight is usually best.
Oh, and if you want to go over the top, use a good lump charcoal, we usually use a mesquite lump charcoal and have always been happy with the flavors. We smoke in a grill which has an offset smoker box. When filling the box with charcoal, divide the lit charcoal coals from the unlit, not having them all piled up together. Place the lit charcoal closest to the vent and the unlit closest to the cooking chamber. This will allow the charcoal to slowly burn its way towards the grill and not all burn at once. If you use briquettes, even good competition briquettes, we highly recommend to also use smoking wood chips. Either harvest your own from fruit tree trimmings or other good smoking wood (ie. apple or stone fruit trimmings, hickory, pecan wood) or buy smoking chips. Briquettes alone need a little help to get a decent smoke flavor, but with all of the lump charcoal brands we’ve bought, we’ve haven’t needed to add any extra smoking chips or trimmings. The lump charcoal alone produces a great flavor in the meat.
Time factor for this smoked chicken recipe will vary depending on how big your whole chicken is and the temperatures you keep your smoker at, so it is best to check done-ness by measure the internal temperature of the chicken, at least until you are familiar enough with the process to do it by feel and sight. At the thickest part of the breast is should be around 165-170°F. Usually that will take around 3 1/2 hours for the average chicken, but will still vary quite a bit if your temperatures fluctuate and depending the size of the chicken.
Check out a Few of our Favorite BBQ Tools:
Some tools make BBQ and grilling all the more enjoyable. Here’s some of the favorites:
Enjoy! The chicken goes great with a good barbecue sauce too. Here’s a link for a homemade barbecue sauce (click on link for recipe). And don’t forget to save the bones to make an amazing stock. Just follow the same directions as for the basic chicken stock (click on link for recipe).
Smoked Whole Chicken
Yield: 1 Whole Smoked Chicken
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
See post for more recipe details.
We definitely prefer to use lump charcoal instead of briquettes. Lump charcoal alone will provide a nice smokey flavor, however briquettes, even competition smoking briquettes seem a little flat on the smoke flavor. If using briquettes we highly recommend to also use smoking wood chips. Either harvest your own from fruit or other good smoking wood (ie. apple or stone fruit trimmings, hickory, pecan wood) or buy smoking chips.
- 1 whole Chicken
- Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
- fresh cracked Black Pepper
- smoker or grill set up for in-direct grilling
- charcoal, preferably lump charcoal
- fruit or nut wood cuttings or chips (if using chips-soak in water for @30 minutes before using)
- meat thermometer
- Rinse chicken and place in a large bowl. Cover with a brine (salted water - the water should have the approximate saltiness of sea water). Place in fridge for at least a couple hours or overnight.
- Remove chicken from brine and pat dry. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Truss if desired (click on link for trussing instructions).
- Light charcoal. If using a side smoker box, place the lit charcoal next to the side vent door (furthest from the grill), then stack the unlit charcoal going towards the grill (not on top of the already lit charcoal). Allow the smoker temperature to get between 275°F-300°F.
- Place the chicken in the smoker and close door.
- While smoking occasionally adjust the vents to keep the cooking temperature between 275°F-300°F (less air to cool the temperature, more to increase the heat). If using briquettes *see head note, two or three times during the smoking, add a handful of wood cuttings or chips on top of the lit charcoal. (Don't do this too much or else the meat will be overly smoky. Once every hour - hour and half is usually perfect).
- Cook until the thickest part of the breast meat measures around 160-170°F, usually about 3 1/2 hours but will vary greatly depending on your temperatures and the size of the chicken.
- After the chicken is cooked, remove from the smoker and allow to rest for 20 minutes. After rested, carve and serve.
The chicken goes great with a good barbecue sauce too. Here's a link for a homemade barbecue sauce (click on link for recipe). And don't forget to save the bones to make an amazing stock. Just follow the same directions as for the basic chicken stock (click on link for recipe).