This is the BEST Smoked Whole Chicken recipe and it only requires 10 minutes of prep time. When smoking chicken you’re left with extra crispy skins and juicy meat.
Whole chicken is coated in a simple mixture of olive oil, herbs and lemon juice (or BBQ) then cooked smoked low and slow, to create a perfectly seasoned crust to compliment the juicy interior infused with smoke.
Table of Contents
Smoked Whole Chicken Ingredients
The only must have ingredient is the whole chicken itself and oil! All the other spices are optional. We have two favorite flavors to choose from:
Garlic Herb – Lemon, Italian seasoning and garlic.
Another flavor option? Herbes de Provence! Check out this Herbes de Provence Chicken recipe for the spice mix.
How Long To Smoke A Whole Chicken
Wondering how long to smoke chicken? The smoke time will vary depending on the weight and shape of the bird you’re cooking along with other factors, such as outdoor weather (how cold or windy is it?), so it’s difficult to calculate an exact cook time.
Here’s two guidelines to utilize:
How long does it take to smoke whole chicken at 275°F?
It takes approx. 2-2.5 hours when maintaining a constant temperature between 250°F and 275°F.
How long does it take to smoke whole chicken at 375°F?
It takes approx. 60-90 minutes when maintaining a constant temperature between 350°F and 375°F.
How To Smoke A Whole Chicken
Full instructions for smoked whole chicken are in the recipe card, but here’s a quick overview so you know what you’re in for:
- Dry Brine the Bird (Optional) – For extra crispy skin, dry brine the bird with salt.
- Tie, Dry and Season the Bird – Remove the giblets, truss the legs and season away.
- Smoke – Carve out 2 – 2.5 hours cook time.
The bird is ready when the breast meat reaches 165°F and the thigh meat reaches 175°F. Make sure to take the temp on both sides of the bird, unless you’re cooking via a rotisserie. Use the lowest temperature of the two.
Also make sure the thermometer isn’t touching any bones as this will affect the reading.
Smoked Chicken Temperature
The goal when making smoked whole chicken is to keep the ambient smoked chicken temp as close to 275°F as possible. If you’re opting to use a manual smoker aim to keep it between 250 – 275°F.
Best Grill For Smoking A Whole Chicken
Smoking a whole chicken is easy when using the best smoked chicken recipe! This recipe can be made on any grill, however we don’t recommend a gas grill for longer cook times, such as this one. Full instructions are in the recipe card.
For beginners, here’s a quick cheat sheet for each type of grill:
- Charcoal – Pre-heat the coals until just washed over. Dump them in the middle of your grill and open the vents to 25%. Create smoke by placing wood chunks directly on the pre-heated coals.
- Pellet/Electric Smoker – Pre-heat your grill to 225°F. Follow the manufacture’s instructions to get an even smoke.
- Energy Source – The chicken will be on the grill for hours so make sure you stock up on your selected energy source: charcoal, pellets, propane, gas, etc.
- Smoking Wood – Chunks, chips or pellets.
- Thermometer – Always use a thermometer. Always. Our go-to digital thermometer is the Thermaworks Dot. It never fails.
- Water Bottle – Use it to spritz the bird while cooking. We use inexpensive spray bottles from Amazon.
Wondering what wood to use to make for a flavorful whole chicken? There are quite a few that work well. Pecan is our favorite when smoking poultry. It lends a nice sweetness to the meat. Cherry wood and apple wood are great options as well.
For more options, check the list of “Best Wood For Smoking Chicken“.
Like super crispy skin? The key is to dry brine the bird to help draw excess moisture out of the skin before cooking. It’s a simple process, but does take advance planning as it needs to dry brine for a minimum of 6 hours, up to 24 hours.
Check out the recipe card below for the “how to dry brine a chicken” instructions. To read up on the specifics of why this works, check out this informative article on the topic.
Tips From The Pitmaster
- You can replace the oil with butter, if you prefer, however the oil is what crisps up the skin.
- Prefer a spatchcock bird? Head over and learn How to spatchcock chicken.
- We always place a small bowl of water in the smoker when cooking for long periods, to help keep moisture in the meat.
- Make sure to spray the grill or rack prior to heating up, to ensure the chicken doesn’t stick to them.
- As with all chicken recipes, do not leave out at room temperature for more than two hours. If you have leftovers store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Use leftover bones and/or meat and make Instant Pot Bone Broth.
Side Dish Ideas
While you’re already using the smoker, why not throw on a few veggies to round out the meal? Here’s what we love serving next to poultry:
Leftover Chicken Ideas
What Wine Goes With Chicken
Wine – Syrah, Pinot Noir, Burgundy, Champagne
Smoked Whole Chicken
- 4-5 lb whole chicken
- 1 lemon, zested and quartered
- 4 tbsp olive or avocado oil, divided
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1½ tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¼ tsp onion powder
OPTIONAL SALT BRINE
- Up to 24 Hours Before Smoking: Pat dry the chicken with paper towels and generously rub salt on the skin. Transfer the uncovered chicken to the refrigerator and let dry brine for 6-24 hours.
PREP THE CHICKEN
- Remove the giblets and pat dry the chicken and truss the legs together with butcher twine. Tuck the wing tips underneath/behind the back of the bird so they don't burn, or tie them against the bird.4-5 lb whole chicken
- Zest the lemon and save the rest for another recipe, or quarter it and place the pieces inside the chicken cavity.1 lemon, zested and quartered
- Add the lemon zest, 2 tbsp of olive oil and the rest of the ingredients to a small bowl and stir to make a paste. Coat the chicken as evenly as possible, on all sides.4 tbsp olive or avocado oil, divided, 1 tbsp minced garlic, 1½ tsp Italian seasoning, 1 tsp salt, ¼ tsp onion powder, ½ tsp black pepper
COOK THE CHICKEN
- Pre-heat the smoker to 275°F. Add the wood chips and place the chicken, breast side up, on the smoker rack.
- At the 45 minute mark, rotate the chicken (for even cooking) and spray with extra cooking oil (or use a basting brush, but go light!) to help crisp up the skin.
- At the 1.5 hour mark, rotate the chicken (for even cooking) and spray with extra cooking oil (or use a basting brush, but go light!) to help crisp up the skin. The temperature of the breast should be around 140°F and the temperature of the thigh should be around 150°F.
- Around the 2 hour mark, the thickest part of the breast should be 165°F and the thickest part of the thigh should be 175°F. Keep smoking until the thermometer registers these temperatures.
- Remove the chicken and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.