This savory and tender smoked whole chicken is juicy, flavorful, and so easy to make. Covered with your favorite BBQ rub, this chicken is infused with smoky flavor. Perfect for a weeknight meal or a backyard bbq!
about this smoked chicken
If you are craving juicy, tender chicken, this smoked chicken is the answer to your craving. It’s both easy to make for your family, while also being impressive enough to serve at any gathering.
I love smoking meats anytime of year, whether it’s in the dead of winter or the height of summer. That’s the beautiful thing about a smoker – you can fire it up whenever the need arises. Because of the size of the chicken, it doesn’t take 8 to 12 hours to finish cooking on the smoker. You only need a couple of hours from start to finish!
Nothing beats the ease of smoking a chicken. All you need is a chicken and you favorite bbq spice rub.
See? I told you this recipe isn’t reserved for pro chefs.
The chicken comes out golden brown with crispy skin, while the meat stays tender and juicy. Smoking the bird makes it super flavorful! It’s also easy to load up your smoker with as many chickens as you can fit for gatherings throughout the year.
It doesn’t matter if you are simply trying to avoid turning on the oven in the heat of summer, or if you are looking for a new way to make chicken on a random weeknight. This recipe is hear to provide all the variety you need, without complicated cooking techniques or fancy ingredients.
whole chicken. Use a whole skin-on chicken that weighs about 4 to 5 pounds it total weight. Be sure to thaw it completely if you buy it frozen!
bbq rub. We have a bbq chicken rub that’s smoky and savory, making it perfect for this recipe. Honestly you can use any bbq rub you wish! You could even experiment with other seasoning mixes as you like.
this recipe’s must haves
All you need to make this recipe is a smoker! I love my Traeger grill because it’s a grill and smoker all in one. I’ve had mine for years and it is still going strong. Usually I use Traeger grill signature pellets, but you can use any flavor of wood pellets or wood chips/wood chunks for the chicken. Other options include mesquite, hickory, oak, cherry, and apple wood.
here’s how to make a whole smoked chicken
prepare the chicken
To prepare the chicken, remove the giblets from the chicken. Rinse under cold water and pat dry all over.
apply dry rub
Apply an even coating of the rub all over the chicken. Be sure to rub the spice mixture under the skin too! This will help infuse the flavor into the chicken. To really get the most flavor out of the chicken, I recommend letting it dry marinate for about 30 minutes. It is a short brining process with a dry brine instead of a wet brine.
You can truss the chicken if you choose to, but you don’t have to!
Place the chicken on the smoker breast side up and cook at 250˚F for about 2 hours. Check the temperature at this stage to ensure is it around 140˚F in the thickest part of the breast. If it isn’t at this stage, continue to cook until it reaches this temperature.
Increase the heat to 350˚F. Let the chicken cook until it reaches 162˚F to 163˚F in the thickest part of the breast. The increase in temperature will help the chicken skin get crispy.
Remove the chicken from the smoker and let rest for 20 minutes before carving. Note that the chicken will come up to 165˚F (the temperature that chicken should be cooked to) in this resting tie. Carve and serve.
tips and tricks
avoid overcooking. Use a leave-in thermometer if you can to help track the temperature of the meat. This is the easiest way to avoid overcooking the chicken.
use your favorite spice mix. I like to use a bbq chicken rub, but you can use any of your favorite spice mixes depending on the flavor you would like for the chicken.
what is the ideal temperature for smoking chicken?
I prefer to smoke the chicken at 225˚F to 250˚F. Usually I do 250˚F as it speeds up the time slightly, without impacting the texture of the chicken.
The process we recommend for smoking is to start at the lower temperature of 250˚F. After a couple of hours of smoking, the temperature increases to 350˚F to help crisp up the skin.
how long does it take to smoke a chicken?
A whole chicken that weighs between 4 to 5 pounds will generally take about 2 to 3 hours to cook on a smoker set to 250˚F.
You can also smoke the chicken on a lower temperature of 225˚F, which will take about 2 1/2 hours to 3 1/2 hours total time.
should I wrap the chicken in foil?
There’s no need to wrap the chicken in foil! Simply place it directly on the oiled smoker or grill grates.
do I need to truss the chicken first?
There’s no need to truss the chicken, unless you want to for presentation! I personally skip this step because it makes the whole process easier. Trussing a chicken is not a strong skill for me, so I avoid it when I can. Feel free to truss if you would like!
should the chicken be placed breast side up or down?
You should place the chicken on the smoker breast side up.
how do you get the skin crispy when using a smoker?
I recommend using a pellet grill that has the option for smoking meats. That way you can crank up the heat at the end of cooking to 350˚F, which will crispy up the skin.
You can also pull the chicken at 160˚F internal temp and transfer it to the oven. Turn on the broiler to crisp up the skin (keep a close eye on it) and finish cooking the chicken as well.
how do you know when a smoked chicken is finished cooking?
Keep track of the temperature! I recommend pulling the chicken off the grill when it registers between 162˚F and 163˚F on a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast. The chicken will continue to cook off the smoker, carrying it to the ideal temperature of 165˚F internally, without overcooking.
can you overcook chicken in a smoker?
Yes, you can overcook chicken in a smoker, just like any other cooking method. That’s why it is crucial to keep an eye on the temperature. You want to pull your chicken at just the right time to ensure it comes out juicy and tender, not overcooked and dry.
how many people does a whole chicken serve?
A 4 to 5 pound whole chicken will serve between 4 and 6 people. Note that you can easily smoke multiple chickens at once! You can smoke multiple chickens at once, as long as your smoker has the space.
Need some inspiration for dinner this week? Check out my dinner recipes page!
what to serve with a smoked chicken
This smoked chicken is perfect for pairing with your favorite side dishes throughout the year. Serve the chicken straight off the grill, or slather it in barbecue sauce if the mood strikes! Really, it just depends on the time of year for what seasonal side dish you serve.
Love a cocktail? Try our citrusy and bright Texas margarita! It’s super simple to make and can easily be turned into a big batch cocktail. If you like grapefruit and a little heat in your cocktails, a spicy salty dog hits just the right balance between spicy and tart.
how to store and reheat
Store. Cool any leftovers completely before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The chicken will last for up to 3 to 4 days.
Reheat. Reheat leftovers in the microwave until warmed through. Use the meat as desired whether it is on top of salads, in tacos, on sandwiches, and so much more!
Freeze. Leftovers cooled to room temperature can be frozen in a freezer-safe bag or container for up to 4 months.
Thaw. Let thaw in the fridge overnight. Warm in the microwave and use as desired.
more delicious bbq recipes
Honey bbq chicken wings are a sweet and savory recipe for your favorite crispy wings!
Pulled pork burgers are my personal favorite BBQ sandwich. Period. I top mine off with a quick coleslaw, crunchy pickles, and fried onions!
If you love a bloomin onion, you have to try my take on it! A BBQ grilled blooming onion is glazed with BBQ sauce, making it a tender appetizer that’s a little healthier than the deep fried version.
For dessert, check out these biscoff brownies with a gooey and fudgy texture!
Finally, if you make this whole smoked chicken recipe, please be sure to give this recipe a star rating on the recipe card and/or leave a comment! I love to hear when you all make recipes, and I do take the time to respond to every single comment.
Feel free to drop questions below too, if you have them!
Oh and be sure to tag me on Instagram if you make the recipe! I love being able to see these recipes come to life in your homes – it’s my favorite thing to look through those photos. It really means the world to me!
Whole Smoked Chicken
- 1 whole chicken 4 to 5 lbs
- 1/4 cup BBQ rub
- Remove the giblets from the chicken. Rinse chicken well with cold water. Pat the chicken dry all over.
- Apply the dry rub in an even layer all over the chicken. Make sure that you get the spice mixture under the skin as well to impart the most flavor.
- Preheat smoker to 250˚F.
- Place the chicken on the smoker, breast side up. Cook for approximately 2 hours, until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the breast registers at 140˚F on a.
- Increase the temperature to 350˚F. Continue to cook the chicken until thereaches 162˚F to 163˚F. Remove from the smoker.
- Let rest for 20 minutes before carving and serving. The chicken will come up to 165˚F internal temperature in this resting time!