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.

How to Smoke a whole chicken-3

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. 

How to Smoke a whole chicken-2

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

4.74 out of 5
30 reviews
Print
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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  • 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

Categories

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.

Leave a comment

Recipe Rating




58 comments

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

    • Reply
  • 5 stars
    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!

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

    • Reply
    • I use the rack that came with Bradley Smoker.

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

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

    • Reply
    • Thanks!! Glad the chicken turned out well!

      • Reply
  • 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

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

    • Reply
    • 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.

      • Reply
  • Perfection!!

    • Reply
  • 5 stars
    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. 🙂

    • Reply
    • 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?

      • Reply
      • 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.

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

    • Reply
    • I don’t foil the chicken at all.

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

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

    • Reply
  • 5 stars
    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

    • Reply
  • 5 stars
    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.

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

    • Reply
  • 4 stars
    What about brining your bird before the smoking process?

    • Reply
  • Does anybody know anything about the little chief smoker?

    • Reply
    • 5 stars
      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!!!!

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

    • Reply
  • 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!

    • Reply
    • @ 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.

      • Reply
    • 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.

      • Reply
  • 5 stars
    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!!

    • Reply
    • 4 stars
      WHAT EXACTLY IS BOINGY?

      • Reply
  • 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!

    • Reply
    • 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.
      https://www.google.ca/search?q=chicken+do+not+wash&oq=chicken+not+wash

      • Reply
  • 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!

    • Reply
    • Thanks Janet. You would love the smoker!

      • Reply
      • Do you use smoke the whole time?

        • Reply
        • Yes, I smoke for the whole time

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

        Patrick

        • Reply

Subscribe to the newsletter and never miss a recipe!