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!

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Smoked chicken on a serving platter garnished with parsley.

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.

A raw chicken in a roasting pan.

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.

A raw chicken coated with homemade spice rub in a roasting pan.

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.

A whole smoked chicken in a roasting pan.

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.

Carved smoked chicken including drumsticks, wings and chicken breasts on a serving platter.

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

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!

5 from 29 votes

Smoked Chicken

AuthorSara Welch
Smoked chicken on a serving platter garnished with parsley.
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.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time4 hours
Total Time4 hours 10 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine American
Serves 6


  • 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.


Calories: 312kcal | Protein: 26g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 108mg | Sodium: 101mg | Potassium: 274mg | Vitamin A: 205IU | Vitamin C: 2.3mg | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 1.3mg

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Recipe Rating


    1. 5 stars
      Perfect Recipe !!
      Everyone enjoyed this!! Took slightly longer than expected!!
      Perfect Results!!
      Thank you so much for the brine, seasoning and cooling recipe
      All Great!!!!!

    2. 5 stars
      This recipe is exceptional!!
      I have a PIT BOSS grill/smoker, and followed all recommendations for the brine, rub and cooking.
      The results were so good that I conclude that this is the very best Chicken we have had at our house for this summers Barbecue season !!
      This was easily the best Chicken recipe I have ever tested !
      I always judge by the crowd comments…SO….This is a crowd pleaser!
      Thank you so much for publishing this wonderful recipe for the public

  1. 5 stars
    Excellent! Tried with brining and without and both turned out beautifully. My husband said it’s the best smoked chicken he’s ever had, and I agree!

  2. 5 stars
    Best chicken we have ever eaten! Even rather picky 15 year old loved it! Smoked bacon wrapped potatoes and corn in the husks with this. Wonderful meal! Don’t skip the brine step, worth every minute!

  3. 5 stars
    Did it in bradley smoker. Meat was best I’ve ever had but the skin was chewy… what can I do to make it crispy? Or I’ve just messed up since put bbq sauce on it at 150F….

    1. The skin doesn’t crisp up in the smoker because of the low heat, you’d need to crank up the heat or stick it under the oven broiler for crispy skin!

  4. Followed the recipe 100%, so flipping good. Definitely making this again. Turned out perfect, so tender, so moist.

  5. 5 stars
    I love cooking a whole chicken to have on hand for the week of recipes. The flavor on this smoked chicken was absolutely delicious!!!

  6. 5 stars
    Love cooking a whole chicken. We love the smoky flavor this smoked chicken has. So so good.

  7. 5 stars
    Thank you for also including how to prep the chicken and how to know when it’s done! All these extra info are very useful so that the recipe turns out perfect!

    1. 5 stars
      Make sure you keep an eye on temperature as poster suggests. My 6 lb chicken reached 165 in only 3 hours at 250. Glad I kept an eye on it. It came juicy and perfect!

  8. I love this recipe! I do a lot of beer can chickens with a smokebox, but never a low long smoke. I bet it’s perfection, have to do this too!

  9. 5 stars
    I’ve never attempted cooking a whole chicken before. This makes it sound super easy, and not to mention, delicious!

  10. 5 stars
    I love how easy this looks and with minimal ingredients! Looks perfectly juicy and full of flavor!

  11. 5 stars
    I was going to make soup with the whole chicken in my freezer, but now I want your smoked chicken! Wow, does this look amazing!!!