Delicious, smoky, tender, juicy, & flavorful, Smoked Whole Chicken delivers on every level. There is something beautiful about a whole smoked chicken. The crispy skin, the tender breast, or the juicy drumstick. Whatever you choose you are in for a treat.
The Whole Chicken
In our family, a quick and easy takeout dinner is rotisserie chicken. Between myself, my wife, and all six kids, there is a part of the chicken that each person prefers. It helps appease that picky eater. So cooking the whole chicken for the family, make a lot of sense in our house. Another reason I like to cook the whole bird is presentation. Whether it is a holiday meal, a formal gathering, a celebration, or an intimate romantic dinner. The presentation is beautiful. And based on the dinner attendees, you can purchase a smaller or larger bird. This really is a pretty versatile option for dinner.
Ingredients for Smoked Whole Chicken
Chicken - The whole chicken. You want at least 12 to 16 oz per person. It is okay to have extra, there are so many ways you can use leftover smoked chicken. For this recipe, I used a 4.2 lb bird. The goal was to feed the whole family of eight. Between two adults, two teens, three children, and one toddler, I figured a 4 lb bird would be sufficient.
Butter - Butter is key to helping keep the chicken moist and get that skin crispy. It also adds a wonderful flavor to the meat.
Salt and Pepper - Proper seasoning is key to getting that perfect bite. Seasoning thoroughly inside and outside is important for a delicious bird.
BBQ Sauce - I was going for yummy, sticky, bbq chicken. You can use your favorite BBQ sauce or try our sweet bbq sauce. If you prefer a dry rub, one of my favorites is simply equal parts of garlic powder, salt, smoked paprika, onion powder, and black pepper. If you prefer a spice rub, you can also add chili powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper to the rub.
Instructions to Smoke a Whole Chicken
Step One: Prepare the bird. If you purchased a frozen chicken, make sure to thaw it before cooking. Remove it from the packaging and take out anything from the cavities. Many times your bird may come with organ meat and the neck stowed away in the cavity. You can use these for soup or gravy, otherwise, you can disregard them. Rinse the chicken with cold water and pat it dry with paper towels.
Step Two: Place the chicken on a baking sheet. Using a sharp knife make a few incisions straight into the breast and legs. Make wedge-shaped slices of butter and gently shove the butter into the incisions. This butter will melt and baste the chicken as it slowly smokes. For any remaining butter, rub it all over the outside of the chicken and tuck it under the skin as well.
What's the best wood to use?
I like some of the fruit woods for poultry. I find the best wood is cherry or apple wood for a whole chicken. If you are using wood chips, it is very easy to create a mix with fruit woods, and then maybe add some maple, hickory, or mesquite. For this smoker, I went with cherry wood pellets in my Traeger pellet grill. I do like the Traeger for these smokes. It allows me to really control the temperature with little effort.
Step Three: Generously season the outside and inside of the chicken with salt and black pepper. Then use kitchen twine to tie the legs together and tuck them into the body of the bird. This is important. If we let the wings and legs just kind of lay spread out, they will easily dry out as the chicken smokes because they will cook much faster than the internal breasts of the chicken. I smoke the chicken breast-side up.
Tip: I recommend leaving a meat thermometer in the chicken as it cooks to monitor the internal temperature. Place it in the thickest part of the breast. When it reaches 165°F, I recommend using an instant-read thermometer to test different areas of the chicken to ensure it is cooked evenly. Check the leg, thigh, and breast for doneness.
Step Four: Place the chicken directly onto the grill grate into a preheated smoker and smoke at 225°F for about 3 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are going for a BBQ-flavored bird, you can start mopping it with BBQ sauce at about the two-hour mark. I don't recommend applying BBQ sauce before that to give the smoke time to really build up a nice flavor first.
Cooking Tip - I like to place a drip tray under the chicken as it cooks so that all the juices don't make a complete mess of my smoker. You can then also use those juices if you were looking to serve gravy with the whole smoked chicken.
Step Five: Once the chicken's internal temperature reaches 165°F. Remove it from the smoker and let it rest for ten minutes before carving it.
What to serve with Smoked Whole Chicken Recipe?
Smoked Mac and Cheese, Cajun Potato Salad, or just a smoked potato or sweet potato are the perfect side dishes of this smoked chicken recipe. If you are going smaller and lighter for Thanksgiving, this whole chicken is a perfect centerpiece. Serve it with smoked pumpkin soup, and smoked scalloped potatoes. If you still have room on your dish, serve this also with loaded shrimp baked potatoes if you want to impress your guests.
As the smoker is cooking the chicken, it is also easy to add some sides right into the smoker with a similar cook time. Several vegetables like onions, carrots, and peppers can all be smoked instead of roasted in the oven. You can also cook your cornbread and desserts in the smoker. My favorite is Smoked Cheese Cake.
How to Use Leftover Chicken
Even if you aren't going to eat the whole smoked chicken for your meal. The leftovers are easy to use. I like to turn my leftover chicken into a delicious cranberry pecan chicken salad. You can also just add the chicken to a soup, salad, or sandwich. The smoky flavor gives any of these an added depth of flavor.
- 4.2 lbs whole chicken
- 2 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoon pepper
- 4 tablespoon butter
- If you purchased a frozen chicken, make sure it is thoroughly defrosted. Remove from packaging, and discard any organs, neck, or giblets that may be in the cavities of the chicken. Rinse the bird with cold water then pat dry with a paper towel. Set the chicken onto a large cutting board or backing sheet.
- Cut thin slits into the breasts, thighs, and legs of the chicken and insert slanted slices of butter. Then rub any remaining butter under and over the skin to ensure crispy chicken skin. Thoroughly season with salt and black pepper, inside and outside the bird.
- Place the chicken directly on the grates in a preheated smoker. Smoke at 225°F for about 3 hours or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F. Then remove the chicken from the smoker and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving it.