Smoked Whole Chicken

If you haven’t tried smoked chicken, you are missing out.  It’s easy to prepare on the grill and not only is it great by itself, smoked chicken can be used in all sorts of dishes.  You’ll never roast or boil a chicken again after you try this recipe!

The first and longest step in my whole chicken process is the brine.  A 4 – 5lb bird needs to soak for at least 6 hours, but I like for it to go overnight.  This really packs in the flavor and makes a huge difference with the final product.  If you don’t believe me, test it out for yourself.  The brined chicken will be juicer and have more flavor through-and-through.

Here’s the brine recipe I used:

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.  Add 1 cup of brown sugar to the boiling water.  As soon as the sugar dissolves add 1 cup of BBQ dry rub.  Stir the rub into the mixture and turn off the heat.  Add 32oz of ice cubes to the pot to chill the brine.  This recipe is enough brine for 1 chicken.  It can be easily doubled for multiple birds or even whole turkeys.

Once the brine has chilled, open the chicken, remove the neck and internal organs (usually packed in the cavity), and rinse the bird under cold water.  Place it in a large bowl and pour the brine over it.  Make sure the chicken is submerged completely; then place the bowl in the refrigerator.

Cooking process

The next day remove the chicken from the brine.  You can tell that the seasonings have penetrated the skin and soaked deep into the meat.  Lay it on a sheet pan and spray the entire outside with cooking spray.  You can substitute vegetable, olive, peanut, or any type oil that you want; but don’t skip this step.  It not only binds the rub to the skin, but it’s also what gives the final product a beautiful, golden appearance.

For seasoning the whole chicken I use a kicked up seasoning salt made with cayenne pepper, black pepper, and garlic powder.

This bird is packed with flavor and all it needs now is heat and smoke.   Fire up your grill or smoker to  275-300 degree range.  I’m a firm believer that higher temps produce better chicken.  The meat cooks evenly and the skin turns out perfect every time. I use cherry wood chunks for smoke on chicken.  The cherry produces a light, fruity smoke that gives chicken just the right amount of flavor without overpowering the meat.   It normally takes about 2 hours to cook a whole chicken at this temperature.  I start checking the internal temp at the 1 ½ hour mark just to get a feel for where it is.   As soon as I see temps of 165 in the breast and 175 in the thickest part of the thigh, I know it’s ready to come off the pit.  Always let the chicken rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting into it.  This gives the meat time to stop cooking and allows the juices to move away from the outer areas resulting in a juicer end product.  If you cut into it immediately, all of the liquid (flavor) will run out onto the cutting board and you’ll get dry chicken.

About Malcolm (the Author)

For over a decade now Malcom Reed has been competing in barbecue competitions... and it didn't take long for this hobby to develop into a full-blown addiction. After being inspired by the comradery and brotherhood of the sport, Malcom developed HowToBBQRight.com, a website devoted to sharing BBQ techniques and promoting the Competition BBQ Lifestyle. Through his cooking team, The Killer Hogs, and his barbecue business, Malcom is a constant student of 'Que... and his goal is to and his goal is to share his knowledge and passion with everyone.