I know that everyone's had Roast Chicken for dinner, a staple on dinner tables across the world. But have you ever eaten a Hot Smoked Chicken recipe for dinner? This is my favorite way to make chicken dinner, you're gonna love this recipe.
To get started, you need a smoker. There are many different varieties out there and they all kind of do the same thing. Pellet smokers are very popular, like a Traeger, because they are easy to use. Some use a Weber with the indirect heat cooking method. I personally like the old fashioned charcoal wood smokers. I use a Chargriller off-set smoker, and add wood pieces for smokey flavor.
How to Prepare Chicken for Smoking
A concern people have is that smoked chicken will be too dry, and sometimes it can be. The secret to a juicy smoked chicken is to prepare the in a chicken brine in advance. Most commonly a wet brine delivers the juiciest smoked chicken. My wet brine recipe isn't just salty water, but I add onions, herbs and spices to the mix so the flavor absorbs through.
You can also make a dry brine, with salt and spices rubbed into the chicken. The salt releases the chicken juices and they are slowly re-absorbed back into the chicken overnight.
Both of these brining recipes require refrigeration and need to be brined at least overnight, up to 24 hours before smoking. So some pre-planning and fridge space is required before your smoke a chicken.
How to Season Smoked Chicken
You can season your chicken with whatever spices you like. I like a Cajun Spice which I buy from the store, already mixed. A spicy Chipotle seasoning is also popular, or you can make your own mix of spices. I use 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of paprika, 2 teaspoons black pepper, a teaspoon of oregano, and about a 1 teaspoon of salt.
What type of wood for Smoked Chicken?
You'll find 2 types of wood sold in stores, wood chips and wood chunks. I never use the wood chips because I find they burn up too quickly. You can soak the wood chips overnight before using them, which slows down how fast they burn. I'll only use the wood chips if bbq-ing on a gas grill, with a cast iron wood smoker, but that's not really smoking meat.
When I make this smoked chicken recipe, my preference is to use wood chunks. You can also add the wood chunks into water for about 30 minutes before using, to make them last longer, but in the video I didn't. When smoking chicken, fruit wood is usually used. I tend to default to apple wood or cherry wood. These fruit woods are subtle and gentle in flavor, which complements chicken.
You can use Pecan or Hickory wood, but the flavor is stronger, and I think more suited to beef, not chicken. You can mix it up as well, as you experiment with wood, use apple wood and hickory together. Err on the side of caution if using hickory or pecan for the first time, as they smoke is definitely stronger.
You can buy wood for smoking at Bunnings in Australia or Home Depot or Lowes in the States, and even Amazon delivers now. If you live near an orchard, ask the orchardist for stone fruit wood, like peach wood, nectarine if you get lucky.
Do I need a Meat Thermometer?
In short, YES. Don't fool around with guessing if your chicken is cooked or not. Nobody wants to get sick on raw chicken. You can buy meat thermometers for $20. The one I use wirelessly will alert me the temperatures when I walk away from the bbq, so I can monitor it remotely. The meat probe only monitors the internal temperature of the chicken, not the temperature of your smoker, so you will need to maintain the temperature.
To insert the meat probe, you have to insert it into the thickest part of the meat, without touching the bone.
How to Tie Up a Chicken for Smoking
You don't need to tie up (truss) a chicken when smoking or roasting in the oven, however, I recommend it. It only takes a minute, and makes serving the smoked chicken much nicer. Place the chicken breast side up, with the legs toward you. Start by placing the centre of the cooking twine underneath the wings, pull twine over the wings and alongside the breast to tie the legs together, nice and tight. Cut off any excess string. You can see how easy it is in the video.
Do you need a Drip Pan?
I recommend a drip pan when smoking chicken. I buy a large foil tray and add 5-6 cups of water and place under the rack in the base of the smoker. This makes it easier for clean up, as the chicken will leak juices, and the water also adds humidity inside the smoker.
Low and Slow Smoking
You want to have the temperature low and slow, and you need to allow enough time for your chicken to reach the correct internal temperature. This can't be rushed. It's really more of an art than a science, and you get better the more you do it, and start to understand your smoker.
Often low smoking temperature is 220°F, but I struggle to keep the temperature that low. I keep the temperature of my smoker at 275°F or 135°C. You need to keep an eye on the temperature of the smoker, and add more charcoal as needed.
How Long Does It Take To Smoke a Chicken?
Like I said, you need to check the internal temperature of the whole chicken. Smoking time will vary depending on the size of your chicken. I'm always a bit cautious with chicken. My smoked chicken recipe is done when the internal temperature reaches 170°F/75°C at the thickest part of the breast. Usually it takes about 3-½ hours, but don't set a timer, but monitor the internal temp. I've only said that ten times! 🤣
When the internal temp is right, remove from the smoker, cover in foil, and allow to rest for about 15-20 minutes before you serve.
Oven Roasting Smoked Chicken
You can finish cooking your smoked chicken in the oven as well. What I mean is after you smoke the chicken for about an hour and half in the smoker, the smoked flavor is well and truly inside the chicken. If you cover the chicken with foil, you can finish cooking it in the oven. It will be a little less smokey this way, but can shorten your cooking time. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Now if you are a professional smoke master and reading this, you will be freaking out and telling people that's not how to do it. You are correct of course, but it does happen.
You're going to love smoking meats. I even make a Smoked Turkey for Thanksgiving. It's a delicious and fun way to prepare food, something different from the ordinary. A basic smoker isn't very expensive, and a great food hobby that everyone will enjoy eating! If you're new to smoking, then this smoked chicken recipe is the place to start. Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
- Off Set Smoker
- Internal Temperature Probe
- 1 whole chicken
- spice rub (or salt and pepper)
- lump charcoal
- fruit wood
- chicken brine
Smoked Chicken Preparation
- Prepare the chicken by placing it into a wet brine overnight in the fridge.
- Remove from brine, pat dry and season with spice rub or salt and pepper. Tie the chicken together with string.
Prepare the Smoker
- Light the lump charcoal, first in a chimney starter before adding into the side fire box. Place the lit charcoal furthest away from the grill, then add extra charcoal towards the grill. As it burns along, it will maintain temperature. Heat smoker to 275°F/135°C.
- Insert the chicken probes in the thickest part of the breast, without touching the bone. Place chicken in the smoker, and resist the urge to open it up to peek!
- While cooking, adjust the vents to maintain the temperature at 275°F/135°C.
- Add 2 pieces of apple wood in the smoker on top of the charcoal, about every hour, to maintain the smoke.
- Cook/Smoke the chicken until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 170°F/75°C at the thickest part of the breast. Takes approx about 3-½ hours, but depends on the size of your chicken.
- Remove the chicken and cover with foil, allowing to rest for about 15-20 minutes before serving.