Smoked Chicken

Smoked Chicken

This smoked chicken is great all around go to for dinner. It combines the savory elements of paprika, garlic and a gentle hint of smoke. My favorite is making tacos out of any leftovers. If you are wanting to take your barbecues to the stratosphere you cant miss this. 

Brining 101

Do I need to brine?

Brining serves two purposes: Seasoning the meat from the inside out using the balance between salinity in the proteins and keeping the meat moist by absorbing salt water and retaining the water as it cooks. For a semi scientific explanation check out Alton Browns Video

How do I brine?

Brines consist of a salt water solution of roughly four tablespoons of salt per quart of water. Heat the water and add your salt. Stir until dissolved and allow to completely cool before adding your meat directly into the solution. 

Place the container in a cooler or refrigerator. Bonus tip: you can add fruit such as oranges and lemons or spices(thyme, rosemary and garlic) to the brine if desired.

What’s a dry brine?

You can skip the excess liquid if you’re dry brining. The overall process is the same but dry brining pulls the moisture out of the chicken before allowing it to be reabsorbed. This will help you get crispier skin. Dry brining is a simple process. After you have unwrapped your chicken pat it dry. Grab a sheet pan and 1 cup of kosher salt. Place the chicken on the pan and cover on all sides with salt. Any salt that falls off can be removed from the pan. Place in the refrigerator uncovered for a minimum of 1 hour but up to 24.

How long should I brine?

Anywhere from one hour to 24. For a smaller piece of meat like chicken I recommend keeping it to under four hours, however a turkey can withstand the brine longer.

What do I do after brining?

After you remove the chicken from the brine, rinse it in cold water-also do for dry brines. Since you will be applying a rub, you want to remove the excess salt inside and out. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and allow it to rest in the fridge for one hour. This will keep the skin from getting rubbery.

What is spatchcocking?

Spatchcocking is a method used to cut the time it takes to cook the chicken in half. In this method you split the chicken along the spine and flatten it by pushing down on the breast to create a more uniform surface.

How should I season the chicken?

Before the smoke

Basic flavors that you can build on. Salt and pepper are the most essential but I recommend adding paprika, onion and garlic power as well. The paprika adds a nice layer of complexity but also gives your chicken an outstanding color. Don’t over complicate it and let the natural flavor come to the forefront. The key to seasoning is to not over power the actual meat itself but to accentuate the positives. 

During the smoke

Another aspect of flavoring your chicken will be your smoking materials. I prefer to use a B&B Hickory Lump Charcoal. It adds fantastic flavor but for something special give a chunk of pecan or cherry wood a try. These two options really makes the chicken flavor the star and adds a wonderful, natural smokiness.

* Don’t forget to season both sides of the chicken.

What if i don't have a smoker?

Charcoal grill

If you don’t have a smoker but want to get smoker quality results don’t worry I have a few helpful tips for you as well. On a gas grill heat your charcoal until you have a visible gray ash covering them. Afterwards you can push the charcoal to one side and place an aluminum pan with water underneath the chicken. This is what is called an offset smoking method and will allow the heat to envelop indirectly and cook the chicken. From there you can either place whole wood chunks of wood chips that have been soaked directly on to your hot coals.

charcoal grill

Gas Grill

On a gas grill the process of placing an aluminum pan with water underneath the chicken is just as important however getting the much desired smoke flavor will be a little different.  Step #1 get a fire box… there are a variety of options and honestly it doesn’t matter which one you pick. Depending on you grill I do recommend a v-shape smoker box so that it will sit on top of the heating elements. When using a smoker box be sure to soak the wood chips overnight.

Since the wood chips are smaller I can not stress enough that soaking them will give you better smoke result and flavor without causing them to burn. Not many people like the taste of burnt food.

The main focus is always going to be about getting the right temperature so that all the other elements can fall into line. But once they do you have reached the epitome of barbecue. Welcome my friends.

How long do I smoke the chicken and at what temperature?

Smoking a chicken can be a little tricky and with barbecue there is not exact science. Although the chicken will be done when it’s done, generally, you can expect a range of 15 minutes per pound at 225. Checking initially at the one-hour mark and about 15-30 minutes after until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 will get you where you need to be. From here you can pull it off the smoker and let it rest. During this time the temp will rise to 165° guaranteeing the chicken will be done but also allowing the juices to redistribute. 

Do I have to flip it when smoking?

This one is up to you. I do not because the ambient air around the chicken will help to crisp the skin without burning it. But, if you prefer to flip the chicken, by all means, do it!

If you want to go extra crispy on the skin you can heat your grill so that its super hot and allow the heat to firm up the skin without drying it out…thank you brine.  

Why does my chicken look pink?

A pink hue is natural for chicken cooked on a smoker. This is what is called the smoke ring. Make sure you are checking the temperature and it reaches that 160 mark. Don’t let the smoke ring scare you!

Whole Smoked Chicken

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
If Brining4 hrs
Total Time5 hrs 45 mins
Course: dinner, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: barbecue chicken, Barbeque, BBQ, bbq chicken, Smoked Chicken
Servings: 4


  • Smoker or Grill


  • 1 whole young chicken about 5-7lbs
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • cooking spray or olive oil


Wet Brine

  • Mix 1 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water into pot on stove
  • Heat water and salt mixture and stir to dissolve
  • Allow brine to cool and place chicken into pot with a lid
  • Store pot in fridge or cooler for desired time 1hr minimum but not more than 24hrs

Dry Brine

  • Take 1 cup of salt and apply liberally over chicken
  • Place in refrigerator on sheet pan and allow to sit uncovered


  • Place the chicken breast side down
  • Use a sharp chef knife to cut slightly to the left and the right of the spine. several cuts may be needed to ensure you have gone all the way through.
  • Remove spine by pulling
  • Once you have removed the spine turn the chicken over so that the breast are facing up
  • Apply pressure to the chicken breast. You will hear a cracking. This is normal when flattening out the chicken

Seasoning with Rub

  • Combine salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder and garlic powder into a shaker or small bowl and stir until it is well mixed
  • Spray chicken with cooking spray or coat lightly with olive oil on both sides
  • Sprinkle seasoning until evenly covered

The cook

  • Poor charcoal in a chimney and add 2 wax starter cubes underneath and allow the charcoal to burn until you the majority are covered in ash.
  • Dump into bottom of smoke and assemble with water pan a grates and top with lid
  • Once the smoker has reached 225°-250° place chick skin side up on smoker. Allow to smoke approximately 15 minutes per pound until done.
  • Check with instant read thermometer after the first hour and adjust time accordingly
  • Once your temperature had reached 162-165° take off the smoker and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving. There will be 3-5° of carry over cooking from the residual heat.

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