How to Smoke a Whole Chicken

Posted on: April 29th, 2015 by Bradley Smoker

Of all the foods that I have smoked over the years, one of my favourites has to be a whole chicken. Sure, I love ribs, brisket, pulled pork and smoked jalapeño poppers, but smoking a whole chicken is just amazing! I find that smoking a whole chicken will produce a very juicy bird that that is super tender with a wonderful infusion of smoke. On top of that, it is crazy simple to do and requires little monitoring.

When smoking a whole chicken, make sure that you get a nice fresh bird. Personally, I love a chicken that is around 3 1/2 pounds for smoking. It will provide a nice amount of meat for the family. It is possible to use a smaller or larger bird, but be aware that the size of the chicken will affect the smoking time.

While, I typically smoke the chickens whole, it is also possible to cut the bird in half. This will reduce the smoking time a little bit, but not as much as you might think. To split the chicken in half, Cut it lengthwise in between the two breasts. Cut into the cavity and along the back/spine of the bird. Make sure to place the half chickens ‘skin side up’ on the smoker racks.

It is important to give the chicken a generous rub of seasoning prior to smoking. Seasoning will infuse into the meat of the bird, along with the smoke and give the chicken a wonderful distinct flavour. Below are a few different seasoning recipes and each are good for one 3 pound chicken. They can be rubbed right on the skin of the chicken, but other options are spreading a little oil or melted butter on the skin just before rubbing on the seasoning.

Herb and Garlic Rub
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dry oregano
1 teaspoon dry thyme
1 teaspoon dry parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sweet and Spicy Chipotle Rub
2 teaspoons chipotle powder
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons brown sugar

Moroccan Spice Rub
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Once the chickens are seasoned, place them back in the fridge until the Bradley Smoker is up to temperature. Start up the Bradley using wood bisquettes of choice. Almost any wood bisquettes will work great but some of my favourites for chicken include hickory, pecan, maple and whiskey oak. A great temperature for smoking chicken is around 250F and I find that aiming in the range of 250-275F is best, since adding one or more whole chickens into the smoker will cause the temperature to dip a little bit at first.

Once the smoker is in the 250-275F range, it is time to place the chicken(s) on the smoker racks and into the Bradley. Close the door and let the Bradley Smoker do the rest! The length of time it takes to smoke the chickens varies greatly on the size of the bird, so it is best to monitor the internal temperature of the bird to determine doneness. I use a digital thermometer with a temperature probe and stick the probe into the thigh of the chicken. Running the cable of the probe through the top vent of the Bradley allows you to continually monitor the temperature of the chicken while the door is closed.

Once the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165F, it is fully cooked and can be taken out of the Bradley. For a 3 1/2 pound chicken, this can take around 3-4 hours, and maybe a bit more. Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes before carving. The chicken can be quartered and served, or the meat can be sliced and used in wraps, on salads and so much more. The carcass of the chicken is awesome for making broths for soup as well!

By Steve Cylka