This smoked chicken recipe is a whole chicken coated in homemade spice rub, then slow smoked to tender juicy perfection. This is some of the best chicken I’ve ever eaten, it’s full of flavor and couldn’t be any easier to make.
Smoked whole chicken is the latest in my smoking recipe series. I’ve brought you some of the basics like smoked chicken thighs and smoked chicken wings, now it’s time to try our hand with a whole bird!
I’m back with yet another smoker recipe and this smoked chicken might be my favorite so far! The chicken is incredibly moist and packed with that delicious smoky flavor. No dry, tough chicken around here!
How do you prepare a whole chicken?
To get a chicken ready to go into the smoker, you’ll need to do a few things. The first step is to tuck the wings underneath the front of the chicken. This will ensure that the wing tips don’t burn. The second step is to tie up your legs with a piece of kitchen twine. The legs will be less likely to burn if they’re close to the chicken, plus it makes for a neater presentation. If your chicken comes with giblets, be sure to remove and discard those too.
How do you smoke a whole chicken?
After your chicken is tucked and tied, it’s time to add the seasoning. I use a homemade BBQ spice rub which is the perfect blend of brown sugar and spices. If you’d rather use a store bought rub, that’s fine too. A whole chicken is a pretty substantial sized piece of meat, and you’ll want to make sure the seasoning penetrates throughout the chicken. There are a few ways to do this.
- Brine your chicken (optional, but recommended if you have the time)
- Loosen the skin of the chicken and rub some of the seasonings between the skin and the meat, as well as all over the outside of the chicken.
- Add seasoning to the meat after the smoking process by brushing on a sauce such as my homemade BBQ sauce.
Do you have to brine a chicken before you smoke it?
You do not necessarily need to brine your chicken, but a brine is the best way to ensure that your meat is seasoned all the way through. If you just put a spice rub on the skin of your chicken, your meat will not be seasoned underneath. A soak in salt water, herbs and spices infuses all that great flavor into every bit of the chicken. I have my own chicken brine recipe that I highly recommend using!
How long does it take to smoke a chicken?
The size of your bird will dictate how long your chicken takes to cook. Roughly speaking, it takes about 3-5 hours to smoke a whole chicken, or approximately 45 minutes per pound at 250 degrees F.
When is smoked chicken done?
Smoked chicken is ready to eat when a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers at least 165 degrees F. I recommend using an electric probe thermometer that can be left in the chicken as it smokes so that you can continuously monitor the temperature.
I smoke my chicken in a disposable aluminum pan because it makes clean up SO much easier at the end of the day. Some people feel that this isn’t ideal because the pan can block the smoke from fully penetrating the meat, so if you want to smoke the chicken directly on a rack in your smoker, that’s totally fine too.
What wood is best for smoking chicken?
I like to use apple wood chips to smoke my chicken because they impart a mild, sweet tasting smoke that complements the chicken perfectly. Other great options include cherry, mesquite, hickory or maple woods.
What to serve with smoked chicken
I like to serve a starch and a vegetable along with my smoked chicken. Some of our favorites include
- Loaded Corn Casserole
- Foil Packet Asparagus
- Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes
- Homemade Rice-A-Roni
- Glazed Carrots
This smoked chicken is everything you’d ever want in a chicken, it makes other whole chicken recipes seem dry and tasteless in comparison. The key is to be generous with the seasoning, then patient while the smoker does its work!
- 1 recipe chicken brine optional but recommended
- 4-5 lb whole chicken
- 1/4 cup BBQ Spice Rub
- parsley for garnish optional
- Prepare the chicken brine as directed in the brine recipe (link is in the ingredients list). Brine the chicken for 24 hours.
- If you're short on time, you can skip brining the chicken and still have a good result.
- Preheat the smoker to 250 degrees F. Load the smoker with apple wood chips or wood chips of your choice.
- Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry. Tuck the wings underneath the chicken and tie up the legs with kitchen twine.
- Place the chicken in a disposable aluminum pan and coat the chicken with the spice rub. Be sure to loosen the skin and rub some of the seasoning directly onto the meat underneath the skin.
- Place the chicken in the smoker. Smoke for 3.5-4.5 hours or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165 degrees F. You will need to replenish wood chips during the cook time, so keep an eye on your smoker.
- Remove the chicken from the smoker and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- Place the chicken on a platter. Garnish with parsley if desired. Carve the chicken, then serve.
Why put the probe in the thigh and not the breast?
The thigh is typically thicker than the breast, you want to find the thickest part of the chicken to insert the thermometer into to make sure the whole thing is cooked through.
Very good recipe…thank you for sharing. This was my first time smoking a whole chicken and it turned out amazing
Do you cover your pan with aluminum foil?, or do you leave the top open?
Leave the top open!
Did the chicken yesterday and it was outstanding! Can’t wait to try your Turkey recipe
Have you tried this recipe with a Turkey?
Here is my smoked turkey recipe: https://www.dinneratthezoo.com/smoked-turkey-recipe/
Thanks, sounds good!
The moistest, most delicious chicken I’ve ever made
Is the skin bite through with this recipe? Does it make good pulled chicken? Thank you
Yes it would be good for pulled chicken! The skin is not crispy since it cooks at such a low temperature.
Thank you for the recipe I love it the chicken turned out just wonderful and I didn’t even get a chance to eat but one leg everybody ate the rest
Do you put the chicken directly on the smoker grill or leave it in the aluminum pan?
I leave it in the pan for easier cleanup!
I made this over the weekend and it turned out AMAZING. I highly suggest using the BBQ Spice Rub in the recipe AND a pan. The juices that came off the chicken with the rub applied were so good my hubby drank it. He said it was like drinking a bbq potato chip. This is a great recipe and I can’t wait to try more. Thank you so much!!!
The best! The bird is so tender and the rub imparts so much flavor. I have smoked these for numerous people and they are all amazed how tender and flavor able the meat is
This is a great recipe. it was juicy and tender. I like using the pan, easy clean up. I used my own rub and put butter under the skin. Very good!