Smoked Whole Chicken
This smoked chicken recipe is a favorite. Making smoked chicken is a lot easier than you think and don’t be intimidated.
2 Temperatures, 2 Flavors – You choose your Style!
How to make Smoked Chicken?
Our technique below shows you how we made smoked chicken, step by step. Our smoked chicken recipe is out of this world. We are no strangers to the smoker and slow & low BBQ. We’ve spent many hours with the mesquite smoldering and cherry branches smoking. So many pounds of brisket and pork butt delightfully have been slow cooked. Now we smoked a whole chicken and love it. 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).
Watch the video How to Smoke Chicken:
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.
You decide on your smoked chicken crust, texture and flavor! Above: Hotter temp. & more smoke while cooking. Below: Lower temp. & less smoke used.
Lump Charcoal for Great Flavor
Oh, and if you want the best smoky flavor, use a good lump charcoal. We usually use a mesquite lump charcoal and have always been happy with the flavors. We smoke the chicken 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.
How Long To Cook Chicken in Smoker?
Time factor for this how to smoke chicken recipe will vary depending on how big your whole smoked 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.
LOVE our Weber Charcoal Chimney Starter – Perfect way to light lump charcoal or briquettes.
Make it a smoked FEAST! Party Time!
Some Favorite BBQs & Tools:
Some smokers and tools make BBQ and grilling all the more enjoyable. Here’s some of the favorites:
Oklahoma Joe’s Offset Smoker – Love this offset smoker. Solid construction. Isn’t perfect, but with a couple easy modifications it will smoke as well as the $1k + smokers. Can use the main chamber also as a regular charcoal grill. Much better than the one used above in the video and photos.
Weber Upright Smoker – Used by Champion BBQ masters. Fantastic smoker! The 14″ is surprisingly large enough for family smoking. Go with the 18″ or larger if you regularly feed 40 or more.
Flame Boss Wifi Temperature Control – A gadget geeks smoking dream. Control your smoker’s temp. from your phone. Adjusts air flow, determines meat temperature. Gadget awesomeness!
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
- 4 lb. (1.82 kg) whole Chicken
- Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
- Black Pepper , fresh cracked if possible
- 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 here 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.