Sunday, April 24, 2022

Smoked Whole Chicken + Video

Smoked Whole Chicken is tender, juicy and bursting with flavor. If you've been wanting to learn how to smoke meats, this easy recipe is the perfect way to get started smoking the best chicken ever.

The first smoking recipes we ever made were a smoked meatloaf and a side of smoked baked potatoes. At that point, we were hooked! We're excited to share this recipe for smoking whole chicken with you.

We have a whole bunch of new smoking recipes coming your way this summer. We will keep you posted!
chicken on a plate

This is hands-down, one of the easiest ways to cook a whole bird. Rub on a blend of spices, let it marinate overnight, then stuff the cavity with citrus and herbs before smoking.

It’s ready in about an hour and is sure to be the most tender, flavorful chicken you’ve ever eaten! Plus, there’s plenty to feed the whole family or serve guests.

Smoked Whole Chicken

With just a handful of pantry spices, you can create a delicious rub to coat an entire chicken! 
I like to stuff the bird with lemon slices, white onion, and fresh sage leaves before it goes in the smoker for even more flavor.

Once cooked, the meat practically falls off the bone and the skin comes out crispy and golden. 

Be sure to watch the video in this post to learn how to smoke whole chicken on a pellet grill!

If you don’t want to cook a full bird, I also have recipes for chicken quarters, thighs, and even wings. They all come out just as tender and flavorful, perfect for any weeknight meal.

Are you regularly feeding a crowd? Use your smoker to make a juicy pork tenderloin or chuck roast as well. You can even cook a whole turkey in there!

ingredients for smoked whole chicken

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Pat the chicken dry.
    It’s important to remove any excess moisture so the rub has a better chance of sticking to the surface. It also makes the meat less slippery to handle!
  • Want a milder flavor?
    While the cayenne pepper brings a nice warmth to the skin, you can leave it out entirely if you are sensitive to spice.
  • Separate the skin first.
    Taking an extra minute or two for this step will make applying the rub so much easier. Just slip your fingers gently under the skin to separate it from the meat.
  • Let it rest!
    If you cut into the bird too soon, all of the juices will escape onto the serving tray instead of redistributing throughout the meat.
  • Be careful when slicing.
    The smoked whole chicken will still be very hot despite having rested, and you don’t want to burn your fingers.
seasoned chicken

How Long to Smoke a Whole Chicken

The size of the bird and the temperature of your smoker both determine how long it will take for it to cook.

When smoking whole chicken on a pellet grill, I find that 350°F is the sweet spot for juicy meat that is also ready quickly. At that temperature, a 4-pound chicken will be done in about 60-80 minutes.

If you prefer to cook it low and slow, it will take noticeably longer. Plan on about an hour per pound for smoked whole chicken at 250°F.

Cooking time may have a lot of wiggle room for larger chickens, so be sure to monitor the internal temperature and use that as a guide. Once a probe thermometer reads 160-163°F, it’s ready!

sage, lemon slices and sliced onions on a plate

Internal Temp Guide For Smoking Whole Chicken

All poultry is considered done and safe to eat once it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.

Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh to get the best reading. Be sure the probe isn’t touching any bones or hasn’t poked through into the cavity.

There are also wired cooking thermometers that allow the probe to stay in the smoker the whole time. This gives you the most accurate, minute-by-minute reading without needing to open the smoker lid multiple times to check.

Because the temperature will continue to rise as the meat rests, you can remove the bird from the smoker once it reaches 160°F.

What You’ll Need For This Smoked Chicken Recipe

  • Smoker - Wood pellet varieties allow extra flavor to be infused into whatever you’re cooking.
  • Your favorite flavor wood chips - I love this blend of mesquite, hickory, and maple and use it for just about everything!
  • BBQ Tray - Use this for both marinating the bird and transferring it back inside once it is done.
  • Meat Thermometer - A digital version will be easiest to read, and be sure it’s the kind that can stay inside the smoker the entire time.
checking internal temperature of smoked whole chicken

Serving Suggestions

Honestly, there isn't much that doesn’t pair well with smoked poultry. For a simple meal, add a green salad or your favorite roasted vegetables.

All of my pasta salad recipes are great for a cookout, and you can’t go wrong with a big plate of homemade sweet potato fries. And kids will go wild for this rainbow fruit salad.

If you’ve got enough room in your smoker, you can toss in some potatoes or corn on the cob too.

chicken and potatoes

Smoked Whole Chicken FAQ

How do you keep chicken moist when smoking?

When smoking whole chicken, or any meat for that matter, it’s important to brine it first. There are two different kinds — wet and dry.

A wet brine is exactly as it sounds: salt and water is mixed together and used as a soak for the meat. Some people like to use broth or stock for the liquid, but salt is really the most important ingredient.

This smoked chicken recipe calls for a dry brine, which simply means coating the poultry with salt and other spices. It’s refrigerated with this rub overnight to help lock in both the flavor and juices, giving you perfect results when cooked.

Why does the dry rub go under the skin?
For flavor! This way, the spices are in direct contact with the meat, and the skin acts as a barrier to hold it all on.

Placing the dry rub under the skin also helps prevent that top layer from getting too dark or crispy.

Can I make smoked whole chicken on a grill instead?

With something like a Big Green Egg, absolutely. Soak the wood you would like to use for at least 2 hours beforehand, or up to overnight.

Then, set the grill to indirect cooking and heat it to 350°F before following the recipe directions.

chicken on a fork


With love from our simple kitchen to yours. 

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smoked whole chicken on a plate

Yield: 4
Author: Donna Elick
Smoked Whole Chicken

Smoked Whole Chicken

A smoked whole chicken is the perfect solution for busy families. Enjoy it as a main course or break it down to use in your favorite recipes.
Prep time: 10 MinCook time: 1 H & 15 MTotal time: 1 H & 25 M


  • 4 pounds whole bone-in chicken
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Dry Rub
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
For Cavity
  • 1 large lemon cut into wedges
  • 1 small white onion sliced
  • 1 fresh sage leaf


The night before the cook
  1. Whisk all dry rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  2. Remove chicken from packaging. Empty the cavity and rinse with cold water. Use paper toweling to pat it dry.
  3. Place dry chicken on a rimmed sheet pan.
  4. Drizzle olive oil all over skin of the chicken. Apply the dry rub in between the skin and the meat. Sprinkle some in the cavity and apply the remainder of the rub all over the top of the chicken.
  5. Use butcher's twine to tie legs of chicken together, then tuck the wings so they don’t burn.
  6. Cover the seasoned chicken with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
At Time of Cooking
  1. Preheat the smoker to 350°F. and prep using your favorite wood chips or pellets. I use pecan on my pellet smoker, but maple, hickory and mesquite are also amazing.
  2. Stuff the cavity of chicken with lemon, onion and sage.
  3. Place the chicken in the center of the smoker and insert probe of cooking thermometer (if using).
  4. Smoke for 60-80 minutes or until an instant thermometer reads 162°F. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and tent with aluminum foil.
  5. Allow chicken to rest for 5-10 minutes, or until internal temperature of meat at the thickest portion of the chicken reaches 165°F.
  6. Remove butcher's twine, empty contents of cavity, and carve as desired.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

closeup chicken quarters

Originally published April 2021, updated and republished with video April 2022

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1 comment:

  1. The recipe says to use 2 lbs. of chicken.....are you supposed to use a 2 lb. whole chicken, as the recipe is for a whole smoked chicken? I've never seen that small of a chicken......they're usually at least 4 to 5 lbs.!


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