How To Smoke Whole Chicken

If you're still smoking chickens like you smoke brisket and pork butts, low and slow, you are missing out! Find out how to smoke whole chicken that's done in almost half the time, and tastes twice as good! For years I'd been smoking whole chicken in smokers running at around 225 degrees Fahrenheit, just like I smoked about everything else. But a year or so ago I discovered that it's better to smoke poultry at a higher temperature.

After trying it myself, I wondered why I ever smoked chickens any other way! There are definite benefits to smoking chicken (and other poultry) at 275 degrees and higher, and no drawbacks. The chickens cook quicker and the skin gets crispy and browned, which adds another layer of flavor to the birds. And even though the smoking time is shortened, the meat gets plenty of smoky flavor.

Poultry is put together differently than beef and pork, and doesn't require low temperatures and slow cooking to become juicy and tender. I mean, weren't those beer butt chickens you grilled last summer tender, juicy and full of flavor? They didn't suffer from cooking at 300+ degrees, did they?

So, how do you go about smoking a whole chicken? There's really not that much to it.

  • Rinse a whole chicken. Trim off excess skin and fat.
  • Soak the chicken in a simple brine for 4 hours. 2 quarts cold water 1/3 cup non-iodized salt 1/4 cup sugar
  • Preheat your smoker to 275 degrees Fahrenheit, and up to 325 degrees if your smoker can do it. Add smoke wood (apple or cherry with a little pecan is great!)
  • Season the chicken, including the body cavity, with your favorite dry rub.
  • Put the chicken in your smoker. Be sure there's a drip pan under the chicken, 'cause it's gonna drip some fat! If you're using a horizontal smoker, place the chicken on a raised rack in a shallow baking pan.
  • Smoke for 1-1/2 to 3 hours. When the breast reaches 160 and the thigh is 170, remove it and let it rest for 20 minutes.

How to Smoke Whole Chicken...Another Way

Now, if you're smoking some ribs, or a brisket, or a big, juicy pork butt, and you want to throw in a whole chicken because, well, it's just not right to waste smoker space, just do it. Smoke that bird at 225 degrees until it reaches 160/170 degrees, then pop it into a hot (400 degrees) grill or oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on it, and remove it when the skin has browned to your liking.

The skin won't brown as nicely as it would've using the hot smoking method, but it'll do in a pinch.

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