This smoked chicken is made with a whole bird that’s either brined or massaged with a marvelous dry rub and is slowly cooked in a smoker or the grill. Simple and easy. Here’s how to make it at home.
“This smoked chicken makes me giddy!” Those were the exact words typed by one of our most trusted recipe testers, Larry Noak, moments after he hauled his bird off the smoker. Crisp skin, succulent meat, pervasive smokiness, a pronounced yet impeccably balanced spice rub—all traits we covet in a smoked chicken recipe. We can understand why he got a little giddy. We think you will, too. To make this smoked chicken recipe, the authors simply took a dry rub and turned it into a brine. You can make this the same way or you can skip the brine and instead simply apply the dry rub to the skin.–Renee Schettler
- Wood chunks or soaked wood chips
If using a brine
- 1 (4-pound) whole chicken
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup Fette Sau Dry Rub
If using a dry rub
- 1 (4-pound) whole chicken
- 1/2 cup Fette Sau Dry Rub
- Pat the chicken dry, inside and out, with paper towels.
- If brining the chicken In a stock pot, bring the water and dry rub to a boil, stirring until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let the brine cool to room temperature, then pour into a nonreactive container and refrigerate until chilled. Add the chicken to the cold brine and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours. Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Remove the chicken from the brine, pat it dry with paper towels, and place it on the wire rack. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 6 hours. Discard the brine.If using just the dry rub Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet and coat the chicken lightly all over with some of the dry rub. (You may not need all the rub.)
- Preheat a smoker to 225°F (107°C) or set up a grill for smoking.
- Place the chicken in the smoker and let it do its thing, maintaining a smoker temperature between 200°F and 225°F (93°C and 107°C) and replenishing the wood chunks or chips as needed, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a chicken leg registers 165°F (74°C). The total smoking time should be between 3 and 5 hours. Move the chicken to a cutting board and let it rest for at least 10 minutes.
- At this point, you can either carve the chicken into quarters or you can tear or shred the meat to make pulled chicken. Or, if you want extra-crisp skin, you can briefly roast the chicken in a 450°F (232°C) oven or prepare a grill for indirect cooking (with hot and cool sides), place the chicken over the cool side, cover the grill, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes.
What are the best options to cook a chicken without a smoker?If that dry rub sounds just too good to pass up, then you can absolutely still roast this chicken in your oven. You can also add a couple of drops of liquid smoke to the rub, if you’re so inclined and have some to hand. Prep the bird in the same way as above, with or without the brine. Roast in the oven as you normally would. You’ll get the same great flavors. If you have a kettle grill, the intrepid authors of this recipe also have a method to turn it into a smoker.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I chose to use the wonderful Fette Sau dry rub on my whole chicken because I was hoping to have a gorgeous, rustic smoked chicken. I wasn’t disappointed. It was succulent, delicious, and smoky, the perfect combination.
I used a bit over 1/2 cup dry rub. The recipe produces much more than that, but I was glad that it did, as I will be using the rub on many smoked meats in the future. I brought my smoker up to temperature and heated it for 30 minutes or so. Once I got the temperature stabilized at 225°F, I added the chicken. It took just about 5 hours for my 6-pound chicken to reach an internal temperature of 165°F. I like my skin crisp, so I finished the hen in the oven, as the recipe instructed at 450°F for about 8 minutes. I let the chicken rest for 10 minutes and then carved it.