Entree

Smoked Whole Chicken

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Smoking a whole chicken can result in a deliciously tender and flavorful dish that will impress your guests and satisfy your taste buds.

Whole chicken on metal tray.Pin
Smoked Whole Chicken

Smoking involves slow-cooking the chicken over indirect heat, infusing it with smoky flavors, and creating a moist and juicy texture. Whether you’re a seasoned pitmaster or a beginner looking to try something new, smoking a whole chicken can be a rewarding culinary adventure.

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In this guide, we’ll walk you through the basic steps and techniques of smoking a whole chicken to help you achieve mouthwatering results.

What does smoking food mean?

Smoking is the process of flavoring, browning, cooking, or preserving food by exposing it to smoke from burning or smoldering material, most often wood.

There’s evidence that humans have been smoking since paleolithic times, 3.3 million years ago. So, safe to say it is not a new art.

However, new technology has made smoking easier with smokers that can maintain specific temperatures for long periods of time. This allows us not to check on temperatures as often, and the finished product will be done faster because it is in a closed environment and can’t lose heat.

The key to good smoking is that you can not rush the process. Be patient! Always use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature. It is done when it’s done. There is no rushing the process.

Smoked whole chicken on black board.Pin

Why smoke meats?

  1. Flavor: Smoking adds a unique smoky flavor to the chicken that other cooking methods can’t replicate. The slow cooking process allows the wood chips or charcoal flavors to penetrate the meat; the finished products turn out extra tender, juicy and flavorful.
  2. Moisture: Smoking helps retain the chicken’s moisture, producing a succulent and tender product. The low and slow cooking method prevents the chicken from drying, resulting in a juicy and flavorful dish.
  3. Versatility: Use smoked whole chicken in various recipes. It is incredibly versatile.
  4. You can enjoy it as the main course, use the leftovers in salads, sandwiches, or soups, or even incorporate it into other dishes like tacos or pasta.
  5. Impressive presentation: Smoking a whole chicken can create a unique centerpiece for your meal. The golden-brown skin, infused with smoky flavors, is visually appealing and makes an attractive presentation when serving guests.
  6. Cooking experience: Smoking a whole chicken can be a fun and rewarding cooking experience. It allows you to explore different wood chips or charcoal flavors, experiment with rubs and marinades, and develop your skills as a pitmaster. It’s a great way to learn about what you like and enjoy the process of creating a delicious meal.
  7. Tenderize: You can even smoke a generally tough piece of meat with a lot of connective tissue to tender perfection, such as; Pork.

What you need

For the rub

  • Roasting hen – Choose a fresh, high-quality whole chicken. Look for a bird that is of good size and free from any signs of spoilage. Ideally, opt for organic or free-range chicken for the best flavor. You can use a frying chicken, too, but the roasters have a delicious flavor.
  • Brown sugar – dark brown sugar is our favorite because it has more molasses but light brown will also work.
  • Kosher salt or sea salt
  • Poultry seasoning
  • Black pepper
  • Paprika
  • Chili powder

For the optional sauce

  • Pineapple juice
  • Brown sugar
  • Salt
  • Cornstarch
  • Chili powder
Ingredients for making optional pineapple sauce for chicken. See details in recipe below.Pin
Pineapple Sauce ingredients

How to make it

The rub

Step One

Add rub ingredients to a bowl.

Rub ingredients in a small bowl.Pin
Measure rub ingredients and add to a small bowl.

Step Two

Mix well. Break up any chunks of brown sugar with your fingers.

Breaking up clumps of brown sugar with fingers.Pin
Break up any clumps of sugar with your fingers.

Step Three

Prepare the bird. Cut off excess fat or skin.

Break wings and fold them under the bird so they don’t dry out.

Dry with a paper towel inside and out.

If you’d like, you can fill the cavity with chunks of onion, carrot, and celery to flavor the inside.

Raw chicken on board.Pin
Pat chicken dry inside and outside.

Step Four

Generously rub in the dry rub ingredients to the outside and inside the cavity.

Tie up the legs with kitchen twine. (We ran out, so we improvised with metal bread ties twisted together.)

Spice rub added to chicken skin.Pin
Generously rub in the rub ingredients to the outside and inside the cavity.

Start the smoker and get it preheated to 225°F/ 100°C. Add pellets or wood. Do not forget to add the water. Let chicken rest on the counter until the smoker is ready, up to 45 minutes to remove the chill from the refrigerator.

Once the smoker is heated, place the chicken on the smoker rack, breast side up. Insert a probe if your smoker has one in the thickest part of the thigh.

Close the door and be patient. Our 6-pound bird whole took 4 hours. The 9-pound spatchcocked bird took 3½ hours. (Yes, we found a couple of large birds.)

For the optional sauce

Step One

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan except cornstarch.

All sauce ingredients added to saucepan.Pin
Add ingredients to saucepan, except cornstarch.

Step Two

Add water to cornstarch in a small bowl. Whisk with a small whisk or a fork until smooth.

Cornstarch with water added in a small bowl.Pin
Mix cornstarch with water.

Step Three

Add cornstarch slurry to the sauce to thicken. Stir for a few minutes.

Cornstarch slurry added to sauce to thicken.Pin
Add cornstarch slurry to the sauce to thicken.

Step Four

When the chicken starts to brown, brush it with sauce.

Chicken in smoker.Pin
When the chicken starts to brown, baste it with sauce.

If you don’t want to make the pineapple sauce use your favorite bbq sauce.

What if I don’t have a smoker?

You can still enjoy smoked meats if you don’t own a smoker. You can use your grill to smoke. Set up your grill so that the fire is only on one side. You will place the meat on the side of the grill without a direct flame (indirect heat). This is called indirect cooking.

Add soaked wood to a metal tray (we use a disposable foil pie plate or bread pan). Add another metal tray with water. Place water and wood chips on the side of the grill with the fire. Remember to fill the water if it runs out.

You can also create a similar setup for your oven in a pinch or in the winter.

What’s the best wood to use

When smoking fish and poultry, we prefer using mild-flavored wood. Applewood, cherry, pecan, alder, maple, and peach would all be good choices.

Avoid hickory or mesquite unless you like a smoky flavor; these woods tend to overpower the meat’s delicate flavor.

Smoked whole chicken full meal on black plate.Pin

What to do with leftovers

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. For longer storage, store in freezer bags or vacuum packs. Frozen leftovers will last about 4 months.

The leftover smoked whole chicken is great in so many different dishes.

  1. Sandwiches and Wraps: Shred or slice the smoked chicken and use it as a filling for sandwiches or wraps. Add fresh vegetables and your favorite condiments, and enjoy a delicious smoked chicken sandwich.
  2. Salads: Chop or shred the smoked chicken and toss it into salads for added protein and flavor. It works well in green salads, grain salads, or pasta salads. Combine it with fresh vegetables, greens, and a tasty dressing for a satisfying meal.
  3. Chicken salad: Chop the meat. Add celery, onion, and /or carrots. Dress it with mayonnaise and spices like celery salt or seed, black pepper, salt, and parsley.
  4. Tacos or Quesadillas: Use the smoked chicken as a filling for tacos or quesadillas. Warm up some tortillas or use them to make crispy quesadillas with melted cheese. For a flavorful meal, top with your favorite toppings like salsa, guacamole, or sour cream.
  5. Quiche: Add the meat to an easy quiche for breakfast or brunch, like this leftover chicken and bacon quiche.
  6. Soups and Stews: Add the shredded smoked chicken to soups for an extra depth of flavor. It works well in chicken noodle soup, chili, or even creamy chicken and vegetable soup. The smoky notes infuse the broth and make for a comforting and hearty dish.
  7. Pies: Use it for savory pies like chicken pot pie.
  8. Pizza or Flatbreads: Use the smoked chicken as a topping for homemade pizzas or flatbreads. Combine it with your favorite cheese, vegetables, and sauces for a unique and delicious pizza creation.
  9. Pasta Dishes: Incorporate the smoked chicken into pasta dishes like fettuccine Alfredo, carbonara, or primavera. The smoky flavor will add a delightful twist to your favorite pasta recipes.
  10. Chicken Salad: Combine the shredded smoked chicken with mayonnaise, diced celery, chopped onions, and your choice of seasonings to create a flavorful chicken salad. Enjoy it as a filling for sandwiches or wraps, or serve it over a bed of greens.

Pro tips for your success

  • Remove chicken from the refrigerator about an hour before you are ready to smoke.
  • Preheat the smoker.
  • Do not rush the process. Smoke it at 250°/ 120°C. Be patient.
  • Smoke until thigh temperature is at least 175°F / 100°C.
  • Baste sauce on the last hour or so, so that the skin stays crispy and doesn’t get soggy.
  • Let the chicken rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
  • If you’d like, you can use a spatchcock chicken; it will cook faster. To spatchcock the chicken, turn it over, breast side down. Cut along both sides of the backbone with a sharp knife or a pair of kitchen shears. Open up the bird. Score the breastbone With a sharp knife so the bird lays flat.
  • We used a roasting hen for this recipe. If you want to use a fryer, we suggest brining it first. Brine in a mixture of salt, water, and acid such as lemon, lime, or pineapple juice and spices of your choice.

More recipes for your smoker

Spatchcocked chicken on black tray.Pin

What side dishes to serve with smoked chicken

Helpful tools

This smoked whole chicken recipe is incredibly moist, juicy, tender, and utterly delicious! Give it a try; you won’t be sorry.

Sliced smoked whole chicken on black plate with side dishes.Pin
Sliced chicken with side dishes.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe today.

Enjoy. And have fun cooking!

Binky's signature
Smoked whole chicken on baking sheet.Pin

Smoked Whole Chicken

This Smoked Whole Chicken is the most tender, juicy chicken you will ever eat. Even the breast is incredibly juicy.
See Step by Step Photos Above!Most of our recipes have step by step photos and videos! Also helpful tips so that you can make it perfectly the first time and every time! Scroll up to see them!
5 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: entree, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 12 servings
Calories: 419kcal
Author: Beth Neels
Cost: $8

Ingredients

  • 6 pound roasting chicken

For the dry spice rub

For the sauce (optional but recommended)

Instructions

  • Clean and trim fat from chicken. Pat dry with paper towels.
    6 pound roasting chicken
  • Mix all dry rub ingredients together in a small bowl.
    ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or sea salt, ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper, 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning, ½ teaspoon paprika, 1 pinch cayenne pepper or chili powder
  • Break up any chunks of brown sugar between your fingers.
  • Rub the spice rub into the chicken skin on all sides and inside the cavity. If the rub doesn't want to stick, rub a thin layer of olive oil over the skin.
  • Preheat smoker to 250°F /120°C. Set up wood chips or pellets and water.
  • When smoker is heated, place the chicken on a rack, breast side up.
  • Smoke for 3-5 hours until the thickest part of thigh registers 175°F/ 100°C on an instant read thermometer.

For the sauce

  • If you'd like to use this pineapple sauce, add all ingredients, except cornstarch to a small saucepan.
    ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper, 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning, ½ teaspoon paprika, 1 cup Pineapple juice, ¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt or sea salt, ⅛ teaspoon cracked black pepper, 1 pinch cayenne pepper or chili powder, ½ cup brown sugar
  • Heat through. Add a tablespoon of water. Whisk until smooth.
    1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • Add to warmed sauce to thicken. Stir for a few minutes. Then remove from heat.
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Notes

Pro Tips For Your Success
  • Remove chicken from the refrigerator about an hour before you are ready to smoke.
  • Preheat smoker.
  • Do not rush the process. Smoke it at 250°/ 120°C. Be patient.
  • Smoke until thigh temperature is at least 175°F / 100°C.
  • Baste sauce on the last hour or so, so that the skin doesn’t soggy.
  • Let the chicken rest for at least 30 minutes before slicing.
  • You can use a spatchcock chicken if you’d like, it will cook faster. To spatchcock the chicken, turn it over, breast side down. With a sharp knife or a sharp pair of kitchen shears, cut along both sides of the backbone.
  • We used a roasting hen for this recipe. If you would like to use a fryer we suggest brining it first. Brine in a mixture of salt, water, and acid such as lemon, lime or pineapple juice and spices of your choice.
What to do with leftovers
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. For longer storage store in freeze bags or vacuum pack for even longer storage.
Leftover smoked chicken is great in so many different dishes.

Nutrition

Calories: 419kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 142mg | Sodium: 361mg | Potassium: 373mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 1448IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 3mg
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Originally published August 29, 2022.

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10 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    FLAVOUR is the word to describe this chicken! Wow, love the smokiness and how nice and succulent it came out! Will definitely make this recipe again without a doubt!

  2. 5 stars
    This chicken looks fantastic, and so easy to prepare as well! I’ll definitely be adding this to my list for a nice dinner next week.

  3. 5 stars
    I used this recipe over the weekend to make a whole chicken and it turned out perfectly! Thanks so much for sharing the recipe!

  4. 5 stars
    Such a great way to prepare a whole chicken! 🙂 I don’t have a smoker, but I am going to try this on the grill. Thanks for the tips.

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