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How To Make a Smoked Whole Chicken

How To Make a Smoked Whole Chicken

Have you ever tried smoked chicken? If not, you’re missing out. Here’s everything you need to know to smoke chicken like a pro.

Why Smoke Chicken?

Chicken is the base for countless recipes. From frying and baking to roasting and grilling, there are plenty of ways to make this bird taste delicious. Our favorite way to prepare chicken, however, is smoking it whole.

When smoked whole chicken is on the menu, you’re in for a treat. You might think you have to head to a barbecue joint to find perfectly smoked whole chicken. Luckily, that’s not the case — you can smoke chicken in your backyard. Not sure how? Lillie’s Q has all the information you need. 

Smoked Whole Chicken: What You Need To Know 

There’s a big difference between smoking and baking. When you bake chicken, you pop the bird into the oven for an hour or so, pull it out, and enjoy. Smoking chicken takes longer than baking, but it’s worth the wait. 

What Is a Whole Chicken? 

Whole chicken refers to the chicken with all parts intact — both white and dark meat. 

Whole chickens tend to cost less than individual pieces like breasts and thighs. Why? Because you’re not paying for someone to butcher the chicken.

Why Is the Smoker the Perfect Choice for a Chicken?

The most straightforward answer here is that smoked chicken is delicious — period. The dry heat of a smoker really adds something special, making the skin extra crispy. That said, there are a few other reasons chicken is the perfect thing to smoke

First, if you’re new to the art of smoking, chicken is the place to start. It’s relatively cheap, but working with a whole chicken gets you used to breaking down all the bones and working with a whole animal. 

Tips for Smoking Chicken Like a Master

Whether you’re a pro or new to the art of smoking, we have some helpful tips for taking your whole smoked chicken to the next level.

Tip #1: Pick the Best Smoke 

When smoking chicken, pick wood chips that complement the flavor of the bird. Some of our favorites include:

  • Hickory has a sweet flavor similar to bacon.
  • Cherry wood has a mild, sweet flavor.
  • Peach wood is one of our all-time favorites, offering a light, sweet flavor
  • Maple is a subtle wood with a milder flavor than hickory. It’s the sweetest of the heavy woods. 

If you’re wondering why we don’t recommend using charcoal to smoke meat, it’s simple. Charcoal won’t give you the extra flavor that wood will. If you’re aiming for chicken that bursts with flavor, use wood chips

Tip #2: Always Brine Before Smoking 

Chicken is naturally lean, making it much more difficult to smoke without compromising tenderness and flavor. Brining — submerging the bird in salty broth before smoking — can help.

Brining will also improve the color of the smoked meat, making the finished product more appetizing. After brining, let the meat air-dry for about an hour. Drying the chicken before smoking helps the meat absorb flavors from the wood chips.

Tip #3: Use the Right Seasonings 

Using the right seasonings takes your smoked chicken’s flavor up a notch. 

When smoking chicken, we recommend our salt-based Q-Rub. With a dash of black pepper and garlic, Q-Rub is perfect for red or white meat. Add the rub to your meat 15 minutes before smoking for best results.

Another ideal seasoning for smoked chicken is our Brisket Pepper blend. It features a special pepper from India and is an excellent fit for chicken and beyond.

Tip #4: Don’t Overcook Your Chicken

You don’t want to put in all this effort only to be left with dry chicken, so you have to take some preventative measures. 

The FDA-approved temperature for cooking chicken is 165, but your chicken doesn’t stop cooking the moment it comes out of the smoker. The bones of the bird hold heat, so you should actually remove from the smoker between 155 and 160 degrees. The temperature will continue to increase as the chicken rests, much as it would if you were cooking a roast in the oven

You should also note that a little bit of pink in your bird is okay — in fact, it’s unavoidable when you’re cooking chicken in the smoker. The smoke includes chemical compounds that turn the meat pink, which is especially prevalent in chicken since it’s smaller than something like a rack of ribs. 

Tip #5: Use the Leftovers To Make Stock

When you’re done breaking down the cooked chicken, don’t throw away the leftovers just yet. You can use the neck and back, as well as anything that you’ve pulled out of the cavity, to make an ultra flavorful stock. 

Tip #6: Serve Your Smoked Chicken With Classic, Flavorful Sides

When you’re smoking a chicken, you want to make sure the rest of the meal lives up to the delicious flavor profile you’re creating. That means serving your chicken alongside classic barbeque sides like mac and cheese and collard greens. 

A smoked chicken will also go perfectly with any form of potatoes. Consider potato salad for an outdoor barbeque event, choose roasted potatoes for a classy, elevated feel, or serve with mashed potatoes and gravy for a homey meal. You also can’t go wrong serving up your chicken alongside a scoop of cheesy grits if you want to mix it up a little. 

How To Make a Smoked Whole Chicken: The Directions 

Ready to make smoked whole chicken? Follow our directions below: 

Ingredients for a Smoked Whole Chicken


  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • hot water, 1/2 gallon
  • sugar, 175 grams
  • salt, 90 grams
  • ice, 1/2 gallon

Step 1: To start, you will need to spatchcock the chicken by removing the backbone of the bird so that it can lay flat in the smoker

Step 2: Place the chicken in a large container and cover it with a brine of your choosing

Step 3: Cover the container with a tight lid before placing it in your fridge (or a cooler) overnight. 

Step 4: Season the chicken with Q-Rub and then season it again with Brisket Pepper.

Step 5: Place the chicken skin-side-up in your smoker at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 ½ hours.

Step 6: Insert a probe thermometer into the thigh of the bird. Once the temperature reaches 155 degrees, your smoked whole chicken is ready to enjoy.

Interested in adding a Northern Alabama twist to your smoked chicken? Dunk the entire finished chicken in our Alabama white barbecue sauce, Ivory

A Final Word 

That’s everything you need to know to make a smoked whole chicken.

Here at Lillie’s Q, we’ve been serving up our spin on Southern BBQ for years. Whether you’re looking for mouth-watering recipes, flavorful sauces and rubs, or the best pulled pork, hot links, and sausages, you can count on us to deliver. 


Role of poultry meat in a balanced diet aimed at maintaining health and wellbeing: an Italian consensus document | NCBI

What's the difference between white and dark chicken? |

Color Confusion: Identifying Red Meat and White Meat | Food & Nutrition Magazine

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