Moist and flavorful every time
Several years ago, I discovered how to smoke a chicken so it’s tender and juicy with just the right amount of rich smoke flavor and seasonings. The kind of chicken that’s moist all the way through, that you can’t stop tasting, even when you’re full. The kind you savor for lunch every day, several days in a row – because it’s that good.
When you look forward to the leftovers as much as you looked forward to enjoying it fresh off the smoker, you know you’ve hit the right recipe.
My way of smoking whole chicken is not complex, though. In fact, it’s so simple and basic that it’s almost like cheating. But it works. Every time. Without fail. That’s why I consider it to be my very best smoked chicken recipe, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.
How to Smoke a Chicken
My Best Smoked Chicken Recipe
Soak wood chips
Place a few handfuls of wood chips in a bowl of warm water.
- Use fresh, whole, never-frozen chicken.
- Leave skin on.
- Rinse it thoroughly (inside and out) under running water.
- Drain it completely.
Place chicken over a pan or dish, on a wire cooling rack so its juices can drain freely.
Dry the skin’s outer surface with paper towels.
Seasoning / Rub
My secret to making this the simplest smoked chicken rub you’ll ever use is something you probably already have on hand: Seasoned Salt
The brand I purchased contains:
- Natural flavor
- “Other” spices
It’s all your chicken will need for a nice seasoned flavor.
Apply a moderate amount of Seasoned Salt to all sides of the whole chicken. Not too much, though. Just a medium coating. This is going to add a hint of seasonings to your meat, but not be overwhelming.
Return chicken to wire cooling rack. I forgot to use a wire rack, and regretted it when juices pooled under each chicken and removed some of the seasoning. Learn from my mistake.
Start your charcoal
Load the appropriate amount of charcoal in your smoker (I used a Brinkmann Smoke ‘N Grill), then light it as per the smoker’s instructions.Tip: You have the option of starting charcoal separately in a charcoal starter chimney (with newspaper), or using lighter fluid. However, some people say lighter fluid adds unwanted flavors to your meat. I’m undecided, and just choose the most convenient method for each circumstance. Do whatever you think is best.
While your charcoal is starting
- If your smoker has a water pan, fill it to the appropriate level.
- Spray your racks with non-stick cooking spray (for easier clean-up), then load them in your smoker.
- Load your chicken(s).
When charcoal is ready
- Toss some wood chips on the coals.
- Close the smoker.
- Walk away.
Return every 20-30 minutes during the first couple of hours to add about about half a handful of wood chips. This keeps a steady stream of mild smoke passing by the chicken, and flavoring it nicely.Tip: The secret here is to smoke slowly and mildly over time, not to overwhelm the meat with intense smoke all at once in the beginning. Slow smoking creates rich, desirable flavors. Intense all-at-once smoking creates harsh flavors (like you’re eating ashes).
Monitor your smoker’s temperature
Most recipes suggest a smoker temp of 200°F or higher, but mine tended to hover around the 180°F mark most of the time, depending on the intensity of the coals.
Some people will consider this too low, but it did bring my chicken up to temperature and it turned out great.
The temperature inside my Brinkmann Smoke ‘N Grill falls slowly over time. When it gets below 180°F, I start more charcoal in a chimney, then add it to the charcoal pan once it’s mostly covered with gray ash.
The temperature then rises and holds for a period of time before slowly slipping back down.
Every smoker is different, so monitor yours and learn how often it’s going to need a new batch of coals, if it needs them at all. Some don’t.
If your smoker has a water pan, be sure to check it when adding charcoal. Mine usually needs a refill after 2-3 hours.
Is it done yet?
The smoking process will easily take 4-1/2 to 6 hours, but don’t use time, alone, to determine whether or not your chicken is done. The only way to determine whether or not it’s done is by checking the chicken’s internal temperature.
I always remove mine when its internal temp reaches 165°F (as per FoodSafety.org). This means it’s fully cooked, but not over-cooked or dried out. You definitely want to catch it at this stage, before it starts giving up those precious juices.
- Fresh chicken, never frozen.
- Season moderately with seasoned salt.
- Smoke it to a 165°F internal temperature
Smoking whole chicken doesn’t get any easier than this!
I know it’s so simple it doesn’t even seem possible, yet this recipe produces tender, juicy, seasoned chicken with just the right amount of smoke flavor every single time I do it – and everyone raves about the results.
They’ll rave about yours, too, now that you know how to smoke a chicken so easily.
Do you have suggestions, or maybe some questions? Just add a comment below. Also, if you follow this recipe, I would like to hear how it works for you.