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How To Smoke A Whole Chicken – Turns Out Tender & Juicy Every Time!

Once you learn how to smoke a whole chicken, you will never want to cook it any other way. It is extremely easy and even a beginner can master this recipe in no time!

When chicken is smoked properly the meat always turns out moist and juicy. And the flavor that the chicken gains from being smoked is undeniably delicious.

Not to mention that by following this recipe the skin will crisp up perfectly. Even those who don’t typically eat the skin will want to take a bite into the crunchy and flavorful treat.

carving a whole smoked chicken

However, as easy as it is there are a few key tips to follow to ensure that the chicken turns out perfect every time. And after you get comfortable following these basic steps, you will be able to experiment with various dry rubs and smoking with different types of wood to give the chicken it’s own unique flavor.

But for now, we will stick to the key steps on how to smoke a whole chicken.

What Type of Smoker To Use

There are so many types of smokers on the market, so you may be wondering which one to use. Fortunately, you can use any make or model to smoke a chicken.

However, if you use a pellet grill, there will be little hands on monitoring required. That is one of the reasons that I love to use my Z-Grills Pellet Grill.

If you aren’t familiar with how pellet grills work, let me explain. Pellet grills use tiny wood pellets as the source of fuel.

Once the pellets ignite, you set the temperature on the smoker and wait for it to preheat. Once it is at the desired temperature, you place the bird inside.

The pellets work on an auger system which will automatically feed into the burner. This allows your grill to maintain the desired temperature at all times.

This means there is no adjusting air flow vents to maintain the temperature like on other types of smokers. And although electric smokers work in the same fashion, you have to add more wood intermittently throughout the cooking process.

However, with a pellet grill, there is a large hopper that you can fill with pellets so that it never runs out. So in summary, you can use any smoker to cook your chicken. However, if you are looking for the one that requires the least amount of monitoring, choose a pellet grill.

dry rub for chicken
Use your favorite dry rub both on the skin and inside the cavity.

What Type of Wood To Use To Smoke A Whole Chicken

When it comes to smoking meats, I always get asked what type of wood is best to use. There are so many different options when it comes to picking a bag of wood or pellets from the store.

Some of the most common types of wood used for smoking are Hickory, Mesquite, Pecan & Apple. However you can also find various blends that combines flavors for a more complex taste.

But when it comes to smoking a chicken for the first time, I highly suggest using apple wood. It will give the meat more of a mild taste, rather than giving it a bold taste of highly smoked meat.

Then after you taste the chicken, you can decide if you want to step up the flavor profile a little more the next time.

To Soak or Not Soak The Wood Before Smoking

If you ask 10 different pit masters about their opinion on soaking wood before smoking, you are likely going to get 10 different answers.

Some brands of wood chips suggest soaking them in water before adding them to your smoker. However, I recommend you soak them based on the expected cook time required.

For instance, if you are going to be smoking a large brisket for 12-14 hours, letting your wood chips soak will slow the burning process down a bit. This will allow the smoke to linger a little longer than if you put in dry chips.

Think about when you go to start an outdoor fire. If your wood is wet, it will provide a lot more smoke than if you used dry, seasoned wood.

However, when you have a meat that requires less time in the smoker, I suggest not soaking the wood at all. This way the wood can burn immediately and provide the smoke into the meat in a short amount of time.

However, soaking isn’t an option at all for smokers that use lump charcoal or pellets. Simply add the wood to the smoker and let it burn.

tips of wings tucked and legs tied
Before the chicken goes on the smoker be sure to tuck the wings and tie the legs together for even cooking.

Do I Have To Brine A Whole Chicken Before Smoking

Brining is a process where meat is submerged in water that has been mixed with salt, sugar & spices. The salt water penetrates into the meat, making it more tender.

Although the preferred method on how to smoke a whole chicken is to brine the chicken overnight, this isn’t absolutely necessary. You can still get great tasting smoked chicken without brining.

Sometimes the urge to smoke a chicken comes at the last minute. Therefore, there is no time to brine a chicken overnight.

However, if you do have a couple extra hours, brining even for an hour or two will help the meat be extra tender. Simply mix together 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup sugar per gallon of water and completely submerge the chicken in the liquid.

When you are ready to smoke the chicken, pull it out of the brine and rinse it off. Then use paper towels to completely pat the chicken dry.

Now it is time to add the dry rub to the outer surface of the chicken.

What Type of Dry Rub To Use When Smoking A Whole Chicken

When it comes to adding flavor to the skin of the chicken, there are so many options that you can use. With the popularity of smokers and grills on the market, there are a lot of auxiliary products that you can use to flavor meat.

You can purchase several pre-made dry rubs that highlight a certain flavor. In fact, some of your favorite barbecue restaurants may even offer their special seasoning for sale.

thermometer checking internal temperature of meat
Be sure to check the internal temperature of the chicken. It is safe to eat once the temp reaches 165°F.

Jack Stack Barbecue offers their special poultry blend of seasoning. And Buffalo Wild Wings offers their Barbecue Dry Rub seasoning as well.

However, it is very easy to make your own dry rub seasoning with a few spices in your kitchen. Here is how I make the dry rub before I smoke a whole chicken or Smoke A Spatchcocked Chicken:

  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Chili Powder
  • 2 tablespoons Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons Onion Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper

Mix all the ingredients together and you can use the rub for your chicken or any type of meat. Finally, let’s get to the actual prep and cooking process.

How To Smoke A Whole Chicken

*Specific measurements and complete recipe instructions are located in a printable recipe card at the bottom of this article. However, be sure to continue to read the tips and tricks to making this recipe below.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 whole chicken, approximately 5 pounds
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Favorite Dry Rub (or homemade with recipe above)

INSTRUCTIONS

Before you smoke a whole chicken determine if you have time to brine the chicken. It is best to do overnight, but 1-2 hours in the brine will make it more tender.

If you have the time, place 1 gallon of water in a large container. Then add 1/2 cup each of salt and sugar. Place the chicken down in the liquid, making sure the entire chicken is submerged.

If you don’t have enough liquid, make another gallon of the brine mixture. Let it sit overnight or for a couple of hours in the refrigerator.

*If you don’t have time to brine, don’t panic. You can still smoke the chicken and it will taste great.

When you are ready to smoke the chicken, pat the skin and the inside of the cavity with paper towels. Do this several times until the chicken is dry.

how to smoke a whole chicken
Once the chicken has reached the desired temperature, remove it from the grill and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Drizzle all sides and inside the cavity with extra virgin olive oil. Then sprinkle the dry rub over the entire surface of the bird.

If you have extra dry rub, sprinkle it inside the cavity as well. Then tie the legs together with cooking twine, and tuck the tips of the wings under.

What Temperature To Smoke A Chicken

Set your smoker to 225°F (107°C). Once a steady temperature has been achieved, place the chicken, breast side up directly on the grill grates.

Smoke at 225°F for 1 hour. Then increase the temperature to 350°F (177°C) to allow the skin to crisp.

Continue to smoke until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) when checked at the thickest part of the breast with an instant read digital thermometer.

However, if you want fall apart, tender smoked chicken, allow the chicken to cook to an internal temperature of 180°F (82°C) when checked at the thickest portion of the chicken thigh.

Remove the chicken to platter and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Enjoy! Mary

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How To Smoke A Whole Chicken

whole smoked chicken

How to smoke a whole chicken so that it turns out nice and juicy on the inside with crispy skin on the outside.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, approximately 5 pounds
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Favorite Dry Rub (or homemade with recipe below)

Instructions

    Pat the skin and the inside of the cavity with paper towels. Do this several times until the chicken is dry.

    Drizzle all sides and inside the cavity with extra virgin olive oil. Then sprinkle the dry rub over the entire surface of the bird. If you have extra dry rub, sprinkle it inside the cavity as well. Tie the legs together with cooking twine, and tuck the tips of the wings under.

    Set your smoker to 225°F (107°C). Once a steady temperature has been achieved, place the chicken, breast side up directly on the grill grates. Smoke at 225°F for 1 hour. Then increase the temperature to 350°F (177°C) to allow the skin to crisp.

    Continue to smoke until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) when checked at the thickest part of the breast with an instant read digital thermometer. This will take 2-3 hours. However, if you want fall apart, tender smoked chicken, allow the chicken to cook to an internal temperature of 180°F (82°C) when checked at the thickest portion of the chicken thigh.

    Remove the chicken to platter and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Notes

Homemade Dry Rub:

  • 1/4 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Chili Powder
  • 2 tablespoons Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons Onion Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Black Pepper

  • Recipe provided by Make Your Meals

    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    6

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 258Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 88mgSodium: 82mgCarbohydrates: 0gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 27g

    Nutritional Information is to be used as a general guideline only . Nutritional calculations will vary from the types and brands of the products used.

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