How Long to Smoke a Whole Chicken?

Hey there, fellow meat enthusiasts! If you’re anything like me, you appreciate the mouthwatering taste of smoked meats and the unique flavors they bring to the table. Today, we’re diving into the art of smoking a whole chicken.

This guide will walk you through the process, from selecting the right wood chips, and how long does it take to smoke a chicken to achieving that perfectly tender and juicy result. Get ready to elevate your culinary game and discover the amazing world of smoked chicken.

The Benefits of Smoking a Whole Chicken

There’s something undeniably special about smoking a whole chicken. Not only does it offer superior quality compared to other cooking methods, but it also brings a multitude of benefits to the table. When you smoke a chicken, you unlock a world of flavors and textures that are hard to replicate through other means.

First and foremost, smoking ensures a moist and juicy texture. The low and slow cooking method helps the chicken retain its natural juices, resulting in tender meat that practically falls off the bone. Plus, the smoking process infuses the chicken with enhanced flavors, adding a subtle smokiness that elevates every bite.

Smoked chicken also offers versatility. Once you have your perfectly smoked bird, you can use it in various recipes. From delicious wraps and salads to hearty soups, the possibilities are endless. The flavors imparted by smoking add depth and character to your dishes, taking them to a whole new level.

Even if you’re new to the world of smoking meats, fear not! Smoking a whole chicken is an excellent starting point for beginners. It’s relatively forgiving and allows you to practice the fundamentals of smoking while still achieving fantastic results. As a beginner smoker, be sure to abide by this guide’s recommendations. And don’t worry, I’ll also share my list of the best meats to smoke, so you can continue exploring the world of smoking with confidence.

Understanding the “Low and Slow” Technique

The “low and slow” technique is the key to achieving exceptional results when smoking a whole chicken. It involves cooking the chicken at a low temperature over a longer period.

This method allows the meat to absorb the smoky aromas while cooking in its own juices, resulting in tender and flavorful chicken that will have your taste buds dancing with joy.

The process of smoking a whole chicken is similar to cooking a Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey, where slow cooking enhances the flavors and textures of the meat, resulting in an unforgettable dining experience.

How Long Does It Take To Smoke A Chicken?

To achieve the perfect smoked chicken, it is essential to maintain the optimal cooking temperature. Aim for a temperature of 225°F/110°C.

This low and steady heat will ensure that the chicken cooks slowly and retains its moisture, resulting in a tender and succulent outcome.

As for cooking time, a general rule of thumb is to estimate 45 minutes per pound of chicken.

At each step in the cooking process, it’s vitally important to monitor progress carefully using a meat thermometer in order to reach desired internal temperatures: 165°F (75°C) for the breast and 170°F (77°C) for the thighs.

This ensures that the chicken is cooked thoroughly and safe to eat.

How to Smoke a Whole Chicken

Importance of Brining Chicken

Brining plays a vital role in preventing the chicken from drying out during the long cooking time involved in smoking.

Brining involves soaking the chicken in a saltwater solution, which enhances moisture retention and promotes tenderness in the meat.

The brine penetrates the chicken, infusing it with flavors and ensuring that each bite is juicy and flavorful.

It’s important to note that brining requires some time, so plan accordingly to allow the chicken to brine before starting the smoking process.

Seasoning Techniques

Proper seasoning is key to elevating the flavors of smoked chicken. A dry rub is an excellent way to add a burst of flavor to your chicken.

Combine a mixture of spices and herbs to create a unique flavor profile that suits your taste preferences.

Consider pairing salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika along with herbs such as thyme or rosemary in order to add dimension and spice.

When applying the rub, be sure to thoroughly coat the chicken, including under the breast skin. This allows the flavors to penetrate the meat, resulting in a well-seasoned and delicious smoked chicken.

Selecting and Preparing Wood Chips

The type of wood chips you choose can significantly influence the flavor infusion in your smoked chicken.

Fruit-based wood chips, such as apple, cherry, or peach, pair exceptionally well with chicken, complementing its natural flavors without overpowering them.

Before using wood chips, it is strongly suggested to soak them for at least 30 minutes in water prior to their application.

Soaking helps prolong the smoking time as the damp wood chips smolder slowly, releasing their aromatic smoke.

However, be mindful not to soak them for too long, as they may become waterlogged and impede the smoking process.

Preparing the Smoker

Before you begin smoking your chicken, it’s essential to properly prepare your smoker.

Whether you’re using a charcoal or electric smoker, follow these steps to ensure optimal smoking conditions.

If using a charcoal smoker, start by lighting the charcoal and allowing it to burn until it reaches a grayish color with consistent heat.

Spread the charcoal evenly in the smoker’s designated area, leaving room for the wood chips. If using an electric smoker, ensure that it is plugged in and functioning correctly.

Properly package the soaked wood chips in aluminum foil, poking holes to allow the smoke to escape, and place them directly on the heating element or in the designated wood chip box.

Smoking Process

Once the smoker is prepared, it’s time to place the whole chicken in the smoker. Carefully position the chicken on the cooking grates, ensuring that it is not too close to the heat source.

Adjust the smoker vents to control the flow of smoke and ensure proper circulation.

It’s important to resist the temptation to check on the chicken too frequently, as this can cause fluctuations in the heat and lengthen the cooking time.

However, do monitor the progress periodically, ensuring that the smoker maintains a steady temperature and adding more wood chips as needed.

Smoking Time and Completion

Based on the general guideline of 45 minutes per pound of chicken, the smoking time for an average-sized chicken will be around 4 hours.

However, it’s essential to remember that cooking times may vary based on factors such as the size of the chicken and the consistency of the smoker’s temperature.

Use a meat thermometer to accurately gauge whether or not the chicken is ready, using its internal temperatures: 165°F (75°C) in its breast portion and 170°F (77°C).

Once these temperatures are reached, remove the chicken from the smoker and let it rest for a few minutes before carving it into succulent, smoky goodness.


Smoking a whole chicken is a culinary journey that rewards you with extraordinary flavors and a sense of accomplishment.

By understanding the benefits of smoking, the low and slow technique recommended cooking temperatures and times, the importance of brining, seasoning techniques, wood chip selection, and the smoking process itself, you can embark on this flavorful adventure confidently.

So fire up your smoker, select a plump chicken, and get ready to create a delicious masterpiece that will have everyone coming back for seconds.

With patience, practice, and a little bit of smoky magic, you’ll become a master of smoked chicken in no time. Happy smoking!

Smoked Whole Chicken Recipe: A Guide to Capturing Smoky, Delicious Goodness

Smoking meat has long been a favorite method of preparing delectable dishes, infusing them with rich, smoky flavors that tantalize the taste buds. Among the various meats, smoking a whole chicken offers a unique and succulent experience. In this guide, we will take you through the steps of smoking a whole chicken to perfection, ensuring you capture the smoky, delicious goodness that will have everyone coming back for more.

  • 1 whole chicken (washed)
  • Wood chips (apple, peach, or cherry)

Rub ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder or garlic salt
  • 2 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp ground thyme
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  1. Begin by soaking the wood chips in water for one hour. This ensures a slow and steady release of smoke during the smoking process, enhancing the flavor of the chicken.

  2. Thoroughly coat the whole chicken with the rub mixture, ensuring every part is covered with the flavorful blend. The rub will not only add taste but also aid in the formation of a delicious crust on the chicken's skin.

  3. Don't forget to apply the rub inside the chicken cavity wall as well. This will allow the flavors to permeate the meat from within, resulting in a more intense and well-rounded taste.

  4. For an extra burst of flavor, gently pull the breast skin away from the meat and apply some rub underneath. This technique will infuse the chicken with even more savory goodness, creating a truly unforgettable dish.

  5. Preheat your smoker to 225°F/110°C. The steady low heat will ensure the chicken cooks evenly and absorbs the smoky essence. Depending on the type of smoker you have:

  6. Divide the soaked wood chips into two groups and wrap each group tightly in separate aluminum foil pouches. Place one pouch directly on the charcoal or heating element and save the other for later. This arrangement will release the smoky aroma gradually, enveloping the chicken with its enticing fragrance.

  7. Now, it's time to place the prepared chicken in the smoker. Position it carefully, ensuring there is enough space for the smoke to circulate and infuse the meat evenly.

  8. Open the smoker vents to approximately 50%-75% of their maximum capacity. This allows for proper airflow and temperature regulation during the smoking process.

  9. As the chicken smokes, check on it approximately once every hour. This presents an opportunity to baste the chicken with any accumulated juices or mop it with additional rub mixture to enhance the flavor and keep the meat moist.

  10. Continue smoking the chicken for about 4 hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F/74°C, ensuring it is thoroughly cooked. The low and slow smoking process will render the chicken tender, juicy, and infused with a delightful smoky essence.

  11. If using a charcoal smoker, light it up 30 minutes prior to cooking to allow the coals to reach the desired temperature. If using an electric smoker, follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper insertion and preheating

Dinner, Main Course
American, BBQ

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