How to Smoke a Whole Chicken on a Charcoal Smoker?

Preparing a smoked chicken is like creating a masterpiece of art. While everyone can smoke a chicken, a few can achieve perfection in it. The good news is that we will help you achieve perfection …

How to Smoke a Whole Chicken on a Charcoal Smoker

Preparing a smoked chicken is like creating a masterpiece of art. While everyone can smoke a chicken, a few can achieve perfection in it. The good news is that we will help you achieve perfection and smoke a crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and a mouthwatering whole chicken.

Let’s begin our smoking journey!

How to Smoke a Whole Chicken on a Charcoal Smoker

The first and most important step is to select the right chicken. Below are a few guidelines that will help you buy the best chicken for smoking.

Choosing the Best Chicken

Skin Appearance: Don’t go for a chicken with discolored skin. A quality chicken will have white and milky skin. White skin means that the chicken has been raised well, hygienically, and on a good diet. If you notice blood spots on the skin, it indicates that the chicken’s meat will be hard and take more time to cook.

Brine or Un-brined: If you ask us, go for a chicken which hasn’t been brined or marinated before. We want you to smoke a chicken according to your taste. Injected chicken is often old and treated to make it fresh. It is better to brine or marinate the meat as per your family’s taste buds.

Size: Don’t go for a too extra-large chicken. It is best to stick with normal-sized chickens. Too small chickens will get hard very soon, and too big will take too much time. They will get brown on the outside and will be uncooked inside. You must also take into account the size of your smoker before buying a chicken. If your smoker is big, go for more than one medium-sized chicken instead of buying one large chicken. If you can find a chicken with a backbone removed, go for it. It helps in laying the chicken flat on the grill and results in a more even cook. You can remove the backbone yourself as well. All you have to do is cut on either side of the bone with a sharp knife and pull out the bone. If you don’t know how to do it, search for a video tutorial online.

Preparing the Chicken for Smoking

Once you have the chicken with you, the next step is to prepare it for smoking. It includes the following steps.

Thawing: Before you can brine or marinate the chicken, you need to thaw it. There are two ways to melt a frozen chicken. You can melt it in the refrigerator or keep it on the counter. We suggest a refrigerator thaw. Keep the chicken in a shallow tray at the bottom rack of your fridge and let it stand. The bottom tray will collect all the juices coming out from the chicken.

Brining: The next step is bringing. Brining a chicken helps in improving the taste of the chicken and infusing flavor in every bite. You will need 1 cup diamond salt, 3-4 cups of brown sugar, and 4 cups of water. This is a basic bringing recipe. You can add herbs, spices, and aromatics to water according to your taste.

If you are looking for a spicy kick, add some red chilies with seeds. Please don’t overdo it. Just keep everything to your taste. If you want to add flavors to the brine, boil 1 cup of water, add all the brining ingredients, and let it be combined for 20 minutes. It helps in mixing the flavors in the water. Now add the remaining cold water and ice to the container. You can keep the chicken in the brine solution for 4-6 hours. Don’t let it rest there for more than 24 hours as it will get too much salty, and you won’t be able to eat it.

dry rub

Dry Rub: If you have brined the chicken with all the flavors you want on it, you don’t need to dry rub it. Just a nice spray of olive oil or butter will make the skin crispier.

If you have just used salt and sugar in the brine, don’t add salt to your dry rub. If you don’t have time for bringing, you can skip it and go for a commercially available rub or sauce.

Follow the instructions on the packing for application. Check the wait time for the rub and give it the due time to infuse in the meat.

Smoking the Chicken

Finally, you are ready to smoke the chicken. Follow the steps below for a juicy smoke.

Step 1: Prepare your smoker for indirect cooking and set it up at 250°F. Use a thermometer to ensure that the smoker has achieved the required temperature.

Step 2: Place a disposable aluminum foil pan filled with hot water right under the area where you will lay the chicken or fill the smoker pan with water.

Step 3: Add some of your favorite wood chips/chunks to the burning coals. I don’t know which wood chips to use; we will discuss some of the best wood chips for chicken later in this article.

get your smoker ready

Step 4: Once the smoke starts to come out, place the chicken on the grill. It must be right above the aluminum pan to catch any leaked juices or water. Close the lid of the smoker. It is better to smoke a whole chicken at a lower temperature. If you keep the temperature above 300, the outer sides will get way too dark, and the thicker parts of the meat will be left uncooked.

At 250°F, a whole chicken will take about 2-3 hours. The chicken’s size, the surrounding temperature, and the coals’ temperature will impact the cooking time. It takes around 45 minutes for 1 pound of chicken meat to be smoked as a general rule.

The best way to ensure that the meat has been cooked properly is to use a food thermometer. Once the chest piece’s temperature registers a reading of 165°F or thighs showing a reading of 175-185°F, the chicken is ready to be served. You can increase the number of coals in the last 10-20 minutes to get a crispier skin.

Step 5: You all have to wait for 15-20 minutes before you can feast on a juicy and scrumptious chicken. This wait time is necessary as it will allow the juices in the chicken to settle down.

You can now slice and enjoy the smoked chicken with your favorite sides. You can also use some sauces with your chicken. BBQ sauce, buttermilk ranch, or any other sauce of your choice will do great. Some ideas for sides are coleslaw, mashed potatoes or potato wedges, cornbread, potato salad, or any other suitable side.

Which Wood Chips are best for Smoking a Whole Chicken?

When it comes to wood chips, don’t go for just any wood. It would help if you looked for high-grade wood chips or chunks that are recommended for smoking chickens. Never use any backyard wood unless you are pretty sure about it. The following woods are best for chicken.

Apple: Apple gives a fruity taste and has a mild flavor. It can also be used with pork and turkey.

Cherry:  Another mild wood with a lovely flavor. You can also use it with fish and beef.

Hickory: For all the people who love a strong flavor, hickory is the best. It adds a bacon flavor to the smoked chicken.

Peach: Peach brings in a slightly sweet taste and a wood flavor. It has medium flavor strength.

Pecan: Pecan is one of the most common woods used for smoking chicken and other types of meat such as turkey, pork, beef, and fish. It imparts a mild flavor to your meat.

Should you soak the Wood Chips?

Soaking the wood chips will not make any major difference. Rather it will just increase the time needed to produce the smoke. Dry chips will start producing smoke in just 5-10 minutes after adding. Wet chips will take around 20 minutes as the water will burn first. The moisture in the chips will also reduce the temperature of the smoker. We suggest using dry chips. One way to delay the burning of wood is to use chunks instead of chips. Chunks are bigger than chips, so they take more time before turning to ashes.

What to do if the Smoker fails to maintain a Constant Temperature?

If your smoker cannot maintain a constant or a higher temperature, add some more coals or adjust the vents. To increase the burning temperature of the coals, you will need to provide them with more oxygen. If the temperature is too cold outside, increase the number of the coals. To monitor the smoker’s temperature, use a leave-in thermometer.

What to do if my Chicken gets smoked too early?

If your chicken gets smoked too early, you can keep it for 20-30 minutes on the counter. If you need more time, wrap the chicken loosely with aluminum foil and place it in an oven at 150F. If you notice that the chicken is getting too brown midway in the smoker, cover it with aluminum foil. The areas which usually get extra brown are legs and wings. You can use aluminum wraps to protect them from burning.

Some Great Ways to Consume Leftovers

Are you left with leftovers, don’t worry. You are in for a treat for the next day. Smoked chicken gets even tastier the next day. Some people are so fond of leftover smoked chicken that they smoke an extra chicken to enjoy their favorite smoked chicken meals. You can make a variety of dishes with leftovers. Pulled chicken, tacos, smoked chicken sandwiches, wraps, smoked chicken salad, Alfredo pasta are some of the dishes to make with leftover smoked chicken.

You can also freeze the smoked chicken by making small packets in plastic zippers and then use them when needed. Don’t worry. Nothing will be wasted while smoking chickens.

Final Words: The Juicy Chicken

You have just learned the easiest way to smoke the most delicious and juicy whole chicken. It’s time to enjoy a great meal. Once you are done smoking, clean the grill and all the other parts of the smoker. Remember, a well-kept smoker is a secret behind a well-smoked chicken. You must follow all the safety precautions while smoking and keep the kids away.

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