How to Smoke a Whole Chicken? It’s So Simple And Easy

Have you ever tried smoking a whole chicken? Many people avoid this because they worry that the chicken meat will come out dry, flaky, or worse, raw. However, it is possible to perfect a smoked whole chicken, as long as you have the right ingredients and know the right steps to follow.

After much trial and error, I have now mastered how to smoke a whole chicken, and I’m here to share with you exactly how I did it. You only need to follow seven easy steps, and I promise your chicken will come out juicy, delicious, and cooked just right.

Things You Need

  • 1 whole chicken (4 to 5 pounds)
  • Brine:
    1. 2 quartz (1.9 liters) cold water
    2. ½ cup salt
    3. ½ cup sugar
  • ​Seasonings:
    1. Cooking spray
    2. Salt
    3. BBQ rub

    You can add other herbs and seasonings to make your chicken tastier. I usually combine salt, ground black pepper, and garlic powder for a spicier flavor. Feel free to try other combinations.

  • ​Smoker:
  • 1 medium bag of hickory, maple, or cherry wood chips, soaked in a bowl of water for 30 minutes

  • Equipment:
    1. Sheet pan
    2. Electric or charcoal smoker
    3. Meat thermometer
    4. Carving knife
    5. Chopping board


Step 1: Brine the chicken

Kristy of Rada Cutlery shows a quick and easy way of brining chicken and other types of poultry in this video:

Wash your chicken with cold water and pat dry. Let it sit in room temperature for a few minutes while you prepare your brine.

Pour water in a container big enough to hold the whole chicken. Add the salt and sugar and mix well until well dissolved. Submerge the chicken in the brine completely. You can place a small bowl or container on top of the chicken if it doesn’t sit down properly.

Leave the chicken in the refrigerator for at least half an hour but not longer than 12 hours, because this will make your chicken meat too soft and mushy. I like to brine my chicken for 3 to 4 hours so that the meat will come out more flavorful.

Step 2: Season the chicken

Remove your chicken from the refrigerator after a few hours and rinse well in cold water. Pat dry and let it air dry in the sheet pan for a few minutes.

Spray a generous amount of cooking spray all over the chicken. This is an important step, because the oil helps the seasonings and BBQ rub stick to the chicken skin. This also gives your chicken a nice, golden look after smoking.

Once you finish spraying, rub your choice of seasonings on the outside of the chicken. This will serve as the base flavor on the chicken skin. Then coat the chicken with a heavy sprinkle of BBQ rub to really enhance the colors and flavors.

Step 3: Prepare your smoker

Set your smoker between the 250-275oF (121-135oC) range. Add the soaked wood chips and let them smoke for a few minutes before you put your chicken in the smoker.

I use an electric smoker, but a charcoal grill works just as well. If you intend to use one, make sure you do the indirect method of cooking so that your meat doesn’t come out dry or rubbery. To do this, just stack your charcoal and wood chips on one side of the grill and place a metal baking sheet with water on the other side.

Place your chicken on the side of the metal baking sheet and let the smoke indirectly cook your meat.

Step 4: Place the chicken in the smoker

Once you maintain a good temperature in your smoker, you can now start smoking your chicken. Place the whole chicken in the smoker bone side down, and leave it to cook for at least 2 hours.

Do not open the smoker before the 2-hour mark, because this will cause the smoke and moisture to escape. Not only will this make your meat dry or rubbery, it will also increase your cooking time.

Step 5: Monitor the meat’s temperature

After 2 hours, you can start checking your chicken’s temperature. Stick your meat thermometer into the chicken breast, and then into the thickest section of the thigh. The ideal temperature for the breast is 165oF (74oC), while 175oF (79oC) for the thigh is just about right.

Once you reach both temperatures, your chicken is now ready to come out of the smoker. If not, close the smoker and check again after 30 minutes.

Step 6: Remove the chicken from the smoker and let it rest

Place your chicken in a sheet pan and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. This lets the juices settle and move away from the outer sections of the meat, and makes your chicken juicier. If you skip this step, the liquids will run out of the meat and cause your chicken to become dry and flaky.

Step 7: Serve

You can serve the whole chicken as is during a formal dinner, or sliced nicely for a more relaxed brunch. Chef Matt Wadiak of Blue Apron demonstrates an easy way of carving a whole chicken in this video:

Insert a sharp kitchen knife in between the body and a leg and pop it out. Separate the leg from the thigh by bringing down your knife in between the parts. Do the same for the other leg. Then, slice off the wings. Next, cut the chicken right down in the middle and through the backbone, and then cut the breasts in half.


Remember: The right temperature and cooking time is important in smoking the perfect whole chicken. Once you master these, cooking chicken in the smoker or a charcoal grill will be just a breeze.

Is this article helpful? Do you have other tips on how to smoke a tasty and juicy whole chicken? Write them down in the comments’ section. I’d love to hear from you! Also, please take the time to share this article with your friends. Who knows? They might find it helpful, too.

Melissa Novotny

Hello friends, I'm Melissa from San Diego. I created because I'm obsessed with food. I love cooking, eating and sharing. The Kitchen is the heart of my home.

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