How to Smoke a Whole Chicken

How to smoke a whole chicken in an electric smoker or pellet grill

Smoking a whole chicken is quite possibly the most popular meat that I smoke. It may only pork ribs that I smoke more often than a whole bird.

We love smoked chicken and it is far superior to any rotisserie chicken you can purchase at the grocery store. The meat is moist and juicy with a wonderful smokey flavor.

One other thing we love about about smoked chicken is that it is outstanding for leftovers. We always make extras, knowing that the meat will be great in wraps, sandwiches or on pizza. Use the carcass to make some smoked chicken broth for a soup with so much flavor.

Here is a recipe for my Smoked Chicken Chowder Soup. It is AMAZING!

How to Smoke a whole chicken-4

Make sure that you generously rub the chicken with a good bbq spice rub before placing it in the smoker.

Steve’s Basic BBQ Rub

This is my ‘go-to’ rub that is great with so many things, including chicken.

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Set the smoker for 250F. Some smokers work more in a ‘temperature range’. If that is the case, keep it over 250F. Anywhere between 250-275F is great.

Poultry is great with many different wood choices. Some of the wood I usually use are hickory, apple, oak, pecan and maple. For this particular smoke, I used Bradley’s Whiskey Oak wood bisquettes. They resulted in a really nice flavor.

How to Smoke a whole chicken-5

Smoke the chicken until the internal temperature of the leg reaches 165F.

Some electric smokers struggle to crisp up the skin.

The taste of the meat is amazing but the skin can be on the rubbery side. If you love a crispy skin, it may be necessary to transfer the chicken to your oven for the last 30 minutes or so.

I have done this and it works really well. In this case, remove the chicken from the smoker when the internal temperature is around 145-150F. Place the bird in a 375F oven and cook until the internal temperature is 165F. 

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Let the chicken rest 15-20 minutes before carving. This will draw all the juices back into the bird.

Bradley, traeger, Masterbuilt, Cookshack and other smokers result in amazing chicken!

While the majority of pictures show the chickens being smoked in an electric smoker, I also love to cook them in my pellet grill. The picture just above shows 6 whole chickens in my pellet grill and they are amazing!! Perfect for a big BBQ party!!

To smoke the chickens in a pellet grill, follow the same instructions as for the electric smoker.

How to Smoke a Whole Chicken using an Electric Smoker

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Step by step instructions for smoking a whole chicken with final internal temperature of 165F. Great for electric smokers, pellet, grill and more. Bradley, traeger, Masterbuilt, Cookshack and other smokers result in amazing chicken!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 1 or more whole chickens
  • 3 tbsp of rub for each whole chicken


  • Setup up smoker for 250F using wood of choice. Some great wood options for poultry are hickory, apple, oak, pecan and maple. I used Bradley's Whiskey Oak wood for this smoke.
  • Rinse the chicken under cold water. Trim any excess skin or fat around the neck area or in and around the cavity of the bird.
  • Tie the legs together using kitchen string or butcher's twine. If desired, fold the wings back and under the back. This is not necessary, but nice for presentation.
  • Generously rub the bird with the spice rub. Make sure that you get all areas of the chicken covered with the spices as this will greatly enhance the flavor.
  • Place the birds on the smoker racks and leave in the smoker until they reach an internal temperature of 165F. The time it takes to reach this temperature varies greatly. Depending on the smoker and the amount of food you are smoking it can take anywhere from 3-5 hours.
  • Let the chicken rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.

How to Smoke a Whole Chicken - in the Bradley Electric Smoker


How to smoke a whole chicken in an electric smoker or pellet grill

Did you try this recipe?

Leave a comment and let me know how it turned out. Or, take a picture to share on Instagram and tag me @theblackpeppercorn.

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  • Yet another wonderful looking smoker recipe, Steve. You have the exact smoker I’ve had on my Amazon wish list for months now lol. For now I will live vicariously through your delicious posts!

      • Do you use smoke the whole time?

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      • That is the very smoker that I plan on getting! Thanks for sharing this great information!


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  • Great tip on getting the chicken to the oven for the final stint there to crisp up the skin. I have been looking for some info on how to get a chicken cooked in an electric smoker, because some of the basic smokers don’t even have a high enough temperature setting! Good to know though, Bradley is the way to go!

    • Another method to get a crispy skin is to unpackage and plate the chicken in the fridge overnight – Allowing the skin to dry before smoking/cooking/baking. I’ve been doing this for years and the difference is outstanding.

      Another thing to note – Washing chickens is a debatable subject these days.

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  • Aaahhh we have really enjoyed smoking chickens but felt the skin was a bit “boingy”. Now I will try putting it in the oven. Thanks Steve!!


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  • I have the same Bradley smoker as you do. The last time my husband smoked chicken for me, it was too smoky. I’m going to give him your recipe and make him do it again. LOL!

    • @ Skinny Decadence

      I just bought a digital Bradley smoker and did a brisket. It came out very smoky as well. I did 4 hours of chips – I did my beef jerky (next item) for only 2 hours – much more pleasant level of smoke. think I’m going to cap my smoking to two hours, unless it’s a monster piece of meat (did a 4 lb brisket).

      Doing the chicken today so keep all posted on the result.

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    • I like to Brian my chicken before I place it in the smoker. Just use salt brown sugar liquid smoke water put it in a bag in the fridge raider overnight.The next morning get up take the bird out of the refrigerator and rinse it under cold water put it back in the refrigerator for 2 hours to dry off. I like to cut the back out of my chicken turned upside down spatchcock it.

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  • How long do you smoke for? Full 4 hours or less smoke than cook time? Thanks

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  • Does anybody know anything about the little chief smoker?

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    • YES!!! Just fixed our first whole chicken on it!!! LOVE IT!!!! The little chief does not have a temperature gauge, so I just kept using the internal probe on the chicken and then brought it inside and put it in the oven for 30 minutes!!! It smells as good as it TASTES!!! Oh yeah, this is the first time we have used the little chief smoker!!! GREAT!!!!

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  • What about brining your bird before the smoking process?

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  • Great information! Thanks!
    I imagine that you could still brine and inject the birds then put a good dry rub on, correct?

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  • Thanks Steve for giving me the confidence to smoke a whole chicken for my first try of cooking in a Bradley Smoker. I saw all the other stuff you had in there with the chicken and decided to try making our whole meal in there, so I put in some mini sweet peppers, asparagus wrapped in foil, tomatoes and sweet potato. I have to say that the chicken and sweet potatoes were a total hit. Thanks for making it easy.

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  • Great recipe but I would recommend smoking the meat for two hours then pulling chicken Off and wrap in foil. Then return to smoker for the remainder of the cooking time the meat will be sooo tender and juicy. Once the meat is cooked and the wood has burnt down so its not producing smoke and is just charcoal at this point you can put it back on for another 20 min and crisp the skin up. Thanks
    Tank belly bbq

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  • Wondering how open u keep the vents on the top during this process?

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  • Do you need to foil the chicken after initial smoking to keep it moist?

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      • Why don’t you just spatchcock it? comes out much better in less time.

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  • Lip smackingly good! Just upgraded to a Bradley digital and this was the first think I’ve hot smoked it it. Can’t wait to try some more stuff now. And chicken chowder tomorrow. 🙂

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    • Just got a sweet deal on en electric Masterbuilt smoker and I’m going to try this tomorrow. I have never smoked anything before. Anything I should know before I start or just wing it to perfect my craft?

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      • Welcome to the world of smoking Jon! Smoking a chicken is a great place to start your BBQ journey! Best way to learn smoking is to try all sorts of different meats, types of wood, different rubs and marinades. You will learn what you like, what type of smoke flavours work best for you. Enjoy it and if you have any specific questions, feel free to ask.

  • Perfection!!

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  • How long do you smoke the vegetables for in that picture?

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    • Here is the post for smoking the vegetables:

      How to Smoke Vegetables

      They took a bit over 3 hours. Tomatoes wouldn’t take as long, but I really wanted the onion to soften.

  • If you spatchcock (butterfly) the chicken it will cook faster and more evenly. A small bird will be cooked in 2 1/2 hrs at 250 f

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  • Followed yoi directions and bird came out moist and tasting amazing. Stioo3d the smoke after 2hours. Keep posting you amazing recipes. Thanks

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  • What rack do you place the chicken on? I have a master built electric smoker

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    • I use the rack that came with Bradley Smoker.

    • I just did 2 chickens in my new Masterbuilt (spatchcock style) on the two middle racks. Only filled the smoke tray twice. Wonderful!

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  • Wow that was what I call a smoker! I want to show this to John but fear I may end up with more outdoor cooking appliances! You have enough yummy food in there to throw a heck of a gathering!

  • This looks so moist, juicy and bursting with flavor!! Pinning to try later!

  • Great instructions! Saving this recipe… We often grill whole chickens, but we definitely need to try your recipe. They look so, so good!

  • Do you use the water pan to keep it moist? If so do you use water or another liquid like Apple juice? I always do beer can chicken in my smoker because I’m afraid the chicken will dry out if not.

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    • No I have not ever really used a water pan and don’t find it dries out. I just make sure that I am monitoring the temperature and remove the bird from the smoker once it reads 165F

  • Is it necessary to add or replace the wood chips at all while the chicken is smoking?

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    • If your smoker does not have a feeder to advance fresh wood chips then you likely will need to add/replace the wood chips. Once you notice that the wood chips in there are no longer producing any more smoke you will need to add more.

  • When you transfer the chicken from the smoker to the oven are you leaving the chicken uncovered until it reaches the internal 165 temp?

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  • I also brine the bird, and stuff it with rosemary and onions. Brine it with whatever you like, it works fantastic. Used fruit wood, but not too much because chicken is so delicate and a little goes a long way. These directions are perfect, four hours on the nose for my electric smoker, I don’t mess with the skin with five dogs, they do! Thanks for your great tips.

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    • Love what you stuffed it with. I am sure it added a lot of flavour!

  • We love smoked chicken and it is far superior to any rotisserie chicken you can purchase at the grocery store. The meat is moist and juicy with a wonderful smokey flavor.

  • I have a basic Masterbuilt electric smoker. It is simple to regulate the temperature, and I’m sure the meat tastes just as good as it would in a $500 smoker with digital temperature control. I made perfect ribs the first time and I’ve never used a smoker or made smoked anything before. I got mine on sale for $99.99.

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    • Hey great recipe! First time use of my Bradley smoker! Do the foil on top racks will hold the smoke into the smoker?

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  • Made this tonight and it turned out incredible. It is a definate make again. The white meat was just a juicy and the dark meat. I used black cherry chips soaked in water with a little apple whisky for flavour. Soooo good.

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  • Have you ever tried an apple rub with cherry chips? I’ve also have researched that some people cut the backbone out and lay it flat….. Have you ever tried this, if so which way produces better results?

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  • Steve ,

    I am new to smoking. Have an electric Masterbuilt, happy so far. Have done ribs a few times that’s it so far. Want to do chicken tonight. I noticed on this site and others where you are smoking vegetables at the top shelf, sausages on another and then chicken at the bottom shelf. When putting different meats at different levels don’t you run the risk of the chicken tasting like sausage?

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  • learning process. I like the way the chicken came out. my question is why do we need to brine the chicken before put in the smoker

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    • I have found that you don’t NEED to brine chicken for it to come out moist and delish. I do usually brine turkey and turkey breasts as turkey in general tend to have much less fat.

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