Turn yourself into a backyard hero with this smoked whole chicken recipe. The combination of an easy spice rub, a moisture infusing brine, and wood chips in you smoker will reward you with the juiciest smoked chicken with a nice crispy skin. You find yourself craving this recipe again and again.
In the lazy days of summer or the crisp notes of fall, treat yourself to the most insanely delicious chicken. A smoked whole chicken is amazingly simple to prepare and yet the rewards are outstanding.
This recipe is easy enough to increase the ingredients and smoke more than one chicken. You can have your meal prep ready for the week. With the leftovers you can make bbq chicken sandwiches with a sweet and tangy bbq sauce Or how about smoked chicken pizza, tacos, nachos or chili. Whole smoked chicken freezes well too.
Why This Recipe Is Always a Favorite
Crispy Brown Skin. Rubbing the skin with oil helps the skin get crispy and also makes the seasonings stick. Tying the legs together (trussing) and tucking the wings underneath exposes more of the skin underneath these parts so that the skin can brown nicely.
Moist and tender meat. Injecting the chicken with marinade keeps the interior moist. Tying the legs closes the cavity of the chicken which prevents air from circulating inside and drying out the chicken.
Flavor. The smell of smoking chicken stimulates our primal sense of food and survival that really makes our mouth water. The dry rub adds just enough interest to not overpower the chicken.
Simple Ingredients. Chicken is readily available and typically budget-friendly. You can use your favorite ready-made bbq sauce and a dry rub mix. Or, you can use a homemade bbq sauce – yes I have an easy bbq sauce recipe for you in the recipe card! You can also use a seasoning blend or you can use my recipe for bbq rib rub.
Great for Leftovers. Served carved or shredded. Serve it once like a traditional Sunday dinner with carved chicken. Then, shred it or cut it into chunks for use in a variety of dishes.
Easy to Make Ahead. Smoked chicken can be frozen up to 6 months. It can also be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
What You’ll Need
- One Whole Chicken weighing 3 to 4 pounds.
- Canola Oil or other neutral oil.
- Smoked Chicken Rub
- Injectable Marinade
- Instant-Read Thermometer.
- Wood chips/pellets. Applewood is great for smoked chicken, but feel free to use hickory or any of your favorites.
How To Smoke a Chicken
- Read completely through the recipe before starting.
- Plan ahead. Smoking takes time and there is no way to speed this up.
- Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.
- Truss your chicken if it didn’t come trussed (tied up) Check out How To Truss a Chicken for detailed steps.
- Rub oil all over the chicken to prevent the skin from drying out and help get that crispy skin we love.
- Sprinkle the smoked chicken seasoning generously all over the chicken. Do not try rubbing it in. If you do, you will end up with clumps and uneven seasoning.
- Inject the chicken with marinade (brine) to keep the meat moist.
- Smoke the chicken until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees fahrenheit when inserted horizontally into the thickest part of the chicken breast.
- Periodically check the internal temperature of the chicken, especially near the end of the recommended cooking time. How long to smoke a chicken can vary because of their size, age, or diet of the bird.
- BBQ Sauce. During the final 30 minutes of smoking, baste the chicken with BBQ Sauce.
- Crispier Skin. For very crispy skin, increase the heat of the smoker to 375°F during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
- No Brine. You can omit injecting the chicken with brine, if you prefer. But, your chicken will not be as moist or have the flavor enhancement.
Smoked Chicken Rubs
- One of my family favorites is this BBQ Rubs recipe inspired by Jack Stack Barbecue in Kansas City. It works well on pork or poultry.
- For a sweeter rub and darker, crispy skin, add 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar to the seasoning rub in the recipe card.
- For an all around great rub, this Steak Seasoning Recipe works equally as well on chicken as it does on steak.
- If you are smoking your chicken on a Traeger, you may want to go all the way and use Traeger Rubs. Their rub for chicken has citrus and black pepper flavorings which is a wonderful pairing for chicken. Or grab their Pork & Chicken rub with apple and honey flavorings that works well on both smoked pork and smoked chicken.
Chicken Marinade Variations
- Elote (Mexican Street Corn Recipe)
- Cucumber Tomato Salad (Crisp and Refreshing)
- Sautéed Broccoli with Garlic (Simple Ingredients)
- Sautéed Green Beans with Brown Butter and Almonds
- Cabbage Slaw
Now you’re ready start smokin’!
The Juiciest Smoked Whole Chicken
- 1 whole chicken
- 2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral tasting oil
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 4 tablespoons butter melted
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- Preheat smoker to 225°F.
- Using a 1 foot piece of kitchen string, position the string under the leg ends. Pull it up and over the legs, then down and crisscross the string between the legs. Pull the string tight and tie a knot. Cut off any extra string. Then, tuck the wing tips underneath the body.
- In a medium bowl, add the chicken stock, melted butter, lemon juice, honey, and garlic powder, stirring until well combined. Fill the injector with the butter sauce.
- Insert the injector tip into one end of the breasts and push it to the other end, being careful not to puncture the skin on the opposite end. Slowly inject the marinade while gradually withdrawing injector. Do this 2 to 3 more times in the breasts to fully marinate. Follow the same method to inject each thigh and leg once..
- In a small bowl, combine chili powder, salt, pepper, garlic powder, ground mustard, and smoked paprika. Generously sprinkle all over chicken.
- Place your chicken directly on the smoker's grates and close the lid. Close the lid and smoke for 3 to 4 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted horizontally into the thickest part of the breast registers 165°F. The thighs will register about 10 degrees higher, which is fine.
- Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Let stand 5 minutes before carving. Serve.
- During the final 30 minutes of smoking, baste the chicken with BBQ Sauce.
- For very crispy skin, increase the heat of the smoker to 375°F during the last 10 minutes of cooking.