This is a simple Smoked Whole Chicken recipe with a simple dry brine that is packed with flavors! With a little bit of prep, and patience, your family will love the phenomenal flavors.
We whipped out the apple wood for smoking a whole chicken and it was the perfect match.
Imagine when you take the chicken off of the smoker and bring it in and now your house smells EXACTLY like your favorite BBQ restaurant. That is how your house is going to smell. This is when you go “I nailed it” and want to invite everyone over to experience this recipe.
🍽️ Why this Works
Simple, Simple, Simple – It’s amazing how easy it is to make this Chef-quality recipe. This is 5-7 minute prep, waiting for the brine to do its job, and then you will smoke it, which is all hands off. The end result will blow you away.
Dry Brining and Curing – Dry brining is really the key to success here. While many of us have done a wet brine (soaking the bird in a bath of salts, flavorings and water), not as many have used this dry brine technique. It works wonders if you are smoking it.
BBQ Joint Quality – Frankly, this simply tastes like it was fired over some red hot coals at a BBQ joint outdoors. You know the ones where you can smell it blocks away. Even on the second day, it still tasted *that* good.
Chicken | I usually pick up whole chickens when I can find them for sale at the local grocery store or I am willing to brave the crowds of Costco. Make sure to empty out the necks and organs before dry brining.
Dry Brine | This is key to pull out some surface level moisture. It will leave you with a nice, crispy skin. This is a simple salt, pepper and seasoning mix that pulls out the excess moisture from the bird while providing some additional flavorings.
⏲️ Equipment and Tools
Smoker | We used our Big Green Egg (or any other Kamado Joe style) but the method works perfectly on a pellet grill like Traeger, Masterbuilt, CampChef, Pit Boss and Weber Kettle. The electric smokers are extremely popular and can be much easier to use as they keep the temperature even like your oven does. Simply dial up the temp you desire and press go! The manufacturers have really improved the technology for those.
Sheet Pan and Grate | This raised grid sits inside a sheet pan and lets the moisture drip down below the chicken. Ingenious tool, right?
Smoking Wood | I used apple wood chunks, but another fruit wood like cherry will do wonders as well. We have a handy printable wood pairing chart that will help you choose the best varieties for the meal you are smoking. If you have a pellet smoker, make sure to get the wood pellets to match.
🔥 How to Smoke a Whole Chicken Instructions
Step One: Remove the bag of the neck, livers and gizzards from the cavity of the chicken. Rinse off the bird and pat it dry. Truss the legs together with butcher’s twine and secure the wings.
Step Two: Prepare the dry brine by combining the ingredients together in a small bowl and mixing well with a whisk.
Step Three: Coat the chicken with the dry rub. Lift the chicken wings and get in between and all over the flapper part. The salt will help draw the moisture out of the skin. The trussed bird keeps everything nice nice and tidy. Follow the images below for the best way to truss a whole chicken.
Step Four: Place the whole chicken on a small sheet pan with a rack installed to raise the chicken off the bottom, and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight uncovered. You want the air flow all around the bird.
Note: Let the chicken cure for up to 2-3 days. Just make sure the fridge is free of strong smelling food, as the uncovered chicken may take on those flavors. When you remove it, you’ll notice the skin looks a bit dry and crinkly – that is fantastic, as it means you’ll have a crispy skin after it is smoked!
Step Five: When you are ready to smoke the next day, set up the grill for indirect heat and bring the temperature to 250°F. Add your wood chips. I chose apple wood for a nice, mild flavor profile. Check out the Wood Cheat Sheet for best guidance.
Step Six: Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and lightly rub it with a tablespoon of olive oil. This will help the skin achieve that awesome crispiness.
Step Seven: Add the chicken to the smoker breast side up. Plan on it taking between 40-50 minutes per pound. Remove the chicken when the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165°F.
Let rest for 10 minutes and serve.
PRO TIP: Alternatively, you can get super juicy whole chicken simply by butterflying it open by cutting both sides of the backbone out, removing it and pressing down on the breast bone as we did with the Spatchcocked Whole Chicken.
❗ Recipe Tips and Tricks
Don’t baste the chicken. I have always heard that you should baste your chicken for the best juicy results, but that is not the case for a smoked whole chicken that has been dry brined. You just spent a couple of days removing the moisture from the skin to allow it to crisp up, so why would you add it back?
Usually, a dry chicken is the result of over-cooking. Use a wireless meat thermometer to closely monitor the temperature. For optimal results, remove the bird about 3-5 degrees below 165°F and bring it inside to rest on the counter. Tent it with foil and the internal temperature will continue to rise those last few degrees as it rests. This also allows all the juices to stay inside the bird rather than immediately cutting it and the juices end up on the plate.
Let the dry brine do its job! At a minimum, let the chicken cure for 24 hours. If you can let it go for two or three days, the better. For ours, we let it go for 72 hours before we put it on the smoker. You’ll see in the photo below how the texture and color of the chicken changed while it was undergoing the dry brining process.
Additions and Substitutions
Add in additional seasonings and herbs to the dry brine. Create your own spice rub using fennel, coriander, sage and rosemary are excellent options or go bold with chili powder and onion powder. Be creative and make it your own. A good place to start is to sweeten it up with some brown sugar, maple syrup or molasses. The sugars will penetrate the meat and the flavor is pronounced.
Consider adding more seasoning to the chicken before placing it on the smoker. I love to add a smoky paprika for and earthy flavor, but normally stick with fresh herbs and garlic powder.
A fruit wood will result in a more mild, smoky flavor. If you are ready for a more robust flavor, go for Hickory or Mesquite. I do like to use these woods when I turn this into Pulled Smoked Chicken. Most of the smoky flavor is limited to the outside of the chicken, so when you pull it, it all blends together and a more vibrant smoke flavor is spread throughout the meat.
I like it plain, but you can easily serve this with your favorite BBQ Sauce. The meat will be tender and juicy, but a nice sauce can really make a difference.
I love to serve this with a nice grilled vegetable side dish. If I have the grill or smoker running already, I’d prefer not to turn on the stove. For something a little creative, whip up some Steakhouse Potatoes. I love to have a side of ranch dressing to serve with those.
For something a little healthier, go for some grilled carrots with a balsamic glaze. These are so good, we end up eating most of them before they make it to our dinner plates.
When hosting a classic bbq in your backyard, make Smoked Mac and Cheese for the ultimate comfort food.
How Long to Smoke a Whole Chicken?
Plan on the smoking to take about 40 minutes per pound. This is highly variable depending on the temperature of your grill, so the ultimate test is to remove it when the internal temperature of chicken reaches 165°F in the thigh meat using an internal probe thermometer.
How long does it take to smoke a whole chicken at 225 degrees? This should take 45 minutes per pound. If you have a 7 pound chicken, it should take around 5 hours or so. Remember to cook to internal temp of 165°F.
How long does it take to smoke a whole chicken at 250 degrees? 30 – 40 minutes per pound. Regardless, you have to cook to internal temp of 165°F.
🧑🍳 Storage and Reheating
If you are planning to have leftovers, carve up the chicken into pieces and store in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Alternatively, use your meat claws to pull the chicken apart and store in freezer-safe Ziploc bags in the freezer for up to three months.
I try to portion them out into single serving portions so it is easy to grab what I need for my next meal. I add the chicken to chilis, salads, and sandwich mixes. The mild smoky taste is just decadent!
To reheat, use the microwave for a minute or two.
It will take about 45 minutes per pound at 250°F.
Remove gizzards and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub a dry brine between the skin and meat and let it sit of one to three days. Remove from the refrigerator and smoke at 250°F for about 40-50 minutes per pound.
Microwave leftovers for a minute or two. If you really want to get a crispy skin, consider adding the pieces to the air fryer for a few minutes.
That can happen, but the easiest solution is to shred the chicken and make into pulled chicken sandwiches, smoked chicken nachos, smoked chicken enchiladas, smoked chicken macaroni and cheese and more.
Absolutely, chicken pieces can be brined but will just need additional time. Make the brine and put the frozen chicken pieces in the seasoned water. Place in the refrigerator and check on it every 30 minutes to see if it is defrosted. The longest it should take is about 90 minutes.
Whole chickens don’t work as well as it will take too long which means it will take too much of the brine in causing it to change texture and flavor.
USDA states that poultry is done at 165°F when probed to the deepest section of the thigh meat.
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Smoked Whole Chicken
- Apple Wood Chips
- 1 Whole Chicken
- 2 ¾ tbsp Kosher Salt
- 1 ½ tbsp Pepper Coarse Ground
- 2 tsp Greek Seasoning
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- Combine the ingredients of the dry brine and reserve ⅛ of a cup to use ON TOP of the chicken.
Preparing the Whole Chicken
- Prepare a sheet pan with a raised grid rack.
- Remove the chicken from the wrapping, remove the livers and gizzards and rinse. Pat dry with paper towels. Place on the prepared sheet pan.
- Pull skin up off of the chicken with your hands/fingers to loosen it all up. Go as deep as you can and include the legs.
- Using the dry brine (remember to save the ⅛ cup for the top), rub the brine mixture all over between the skin and meat. Using the RESERVED ⅛ cup, rub on top and bottom of the skin of the bird.
- Leave uncovered and place in the refrigerator for 24-72 hours.
Smoking the Whole Chicken
- When you are ready to smoke the next day, set up the grill for indirect heat and bring the temperature to 250°F. Add your wood chips. I chose apple wood for a nice, mild flavor profile.
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and lightly rub it with a tablespoon of olive oil. This will help the skin achieve that awesome crispiness.
- Add the chicken to the smoker. Plan on it taking between 40-50 minutes per pound. Remove the chicken when the internal temperature of the breast reaches 165°F.
- Let rest for 10 minutes and serve.