Crisp skin, succulent meat, pervasive smokiness, a pronounced yet impeccably balanced spice rub—all traits we covet in a smoked chicken recipe. 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.

david caricature

Why Our Testers Loved This

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. We can understand why he got a little giddy. We think you will, too.

What You’ll Need to Make This

Ingredients for smoked chicken -- a whole chicken and a bowl of BBQ spice rub.
  • Chicken–A 4-pound bird is perfect for the recipe. You can use a larger or smaller chicken, but note that the cooking time will change. You don’t need the giblets or gizzards. Freeze them then pull them out when making chicken stock or chicken gravy.
  • BBQ Spice Rub--The recipe included here lends a subtle smoky flavor to the chicken. You can substitute your own favorite spice rub, if you prefer.

How to Make This Recipe

A person patting a chicken dry with paper towel and a person rubbing a whole chicken with spice blend.
  1. Place the chicken on a baking sheet. Pat dry all over with paper towels.
  2. Sprinkle the dry rub over the chicken to coat. Alternatively, you can mix 1/2 cup of dry rub with 1 gallon of water to create a brine, then brine the chicken for 4 to 8 hours.
A spice-rubbed whole chicken being smoked on a grill.
  1. Prepare a smoker for 225°F cooking. Place the chicken in the smoker and cook until ta meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the leg registers 165°F.
  2. Transfer to a platter and cool for 10 minutes before carving the chicken.

Common Questions

can i make this chicken without a smoker?

If that dry rub sounds just too good to pass up, but the weather’s not cooperating, you can absolutely 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. Roast it in the oven as you usually 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 your grill into a smoker.

what can I do with leftover dry rub?

This spice rub is incredibly versatile and can be used as your go-to BBQ dry rub. Rub it onto grilled pork chops, steaks, or smoked pork shoulder before grilling or smoking. It also makes a great seasoning to add to homemade breakfast sausage or hot smoked salmon.

what should i serve with smoked chicken?

Any popular BBQ side dishes would be great alongside this smoker chicken. Creamy coleslaw, German-style potato salad, smoked mac and cheese, or grilled corn on the cob would make excellent sides.

what type of wood should i use for smoking?

Any time you are smoking meat, you want to choose a type of wood that complements the flavor of the meat. For chicken, choose mild woods like cherry, apple, or mesquite.

Helpful Tips

  • To help the rub stick to the chicken, gently pat it into place with your hands after sprinkling it on the chicken.
  • If you choose to brine the chicken, make sure the chicken is fully submerged in the brine. If you don’t have a pot suitable for this, fill a 2.5-gallon resealable bag with the brine and chicken, seal it, and place it in a large bowl.
  • Leftover chicken can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 4 days. Reheat in a warm oven or on a low grill until heated through.
Three whole smoked chickens on a round grill.
William Hereford

More Superb Smoked Chicken Recipes

Write a Review

If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David

A smoked chicken on a piece of crumpled parchment paper with a knife and a bowl of spice rub on the side.

Smoked Chicken

4.84 / 6 votes
Brining in a very simple salt and sugar brine makes the chicken juicier than a typical bird and it’s seasoned throughout. The addition of the dry rub makes it even more flavorful.
David Leite
CourseMains
CuisineAmerican
Servings4 to 6 servings
Calories468 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time5 hours
Total Time5 hours 30 minutes

Equipment

  • Wood chunks or soaked wood chips

Ingredients 

If using a brine

  • 1 (4-pound) whole chicken
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup BBQ Dry Rub

If using a dry rub

Instructions 

  • 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.

Notes

  1. Rub the chicken–To help the rub stick to the chicken, gently pat it into place with your hands after sprinkling it on the chicken.
  2. Brining tips–If you choose to brine the chicken, make sure the chicken is fully submerged in the brine. If you don’t have a pot suitable for this, fill a 2.5-gallon resealable bag with the brine and chicken, seal it, and place it in a large bowl.
  3. Storage–Leftover chicken can be stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 4 days. Reheat in a warm oven or on a low grill until heated through.

 

Feeding the Fire Cookbook

Adapted From

Feeding the Fire

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 portionCalories: 468 kcalProtein: 40 gFat: 33 gSaturated Fat: 9 gMonounsaturated Fat: 14 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 163 mgSodium: 200 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2015 Joe Carroll | Nick Fauchald. Photos © 2023 Angie Zoobkoff. Photo © 2015 William Hereford. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I chose to use the wonderful BBQ 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 more than 1/2 cup of 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.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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14 Comments

  1. If you smoke with an electric—or gas—smoker, the terrorists win. (Some hard-core—hard-headed?—people scoff at the idea of using gas or electric smokers and would jump all over David for stating that he uses electric. Some people take things way too seriously. I was just poking fun of the “die hard” mentality.)

    1. Love your sense of humor, bkhuna. And completely agree with you. Some folks get way too worked up about what others do or don’t do. (Shakes head.)

  2. Now THAT is an intriguing idea. I never would have thought to Smoke Chicken Salad but that looks delicious!

    1. I have a Char Broil electric smoker that works fantastic. I’ve smoked everything from beef biscuit to whole 15 lbs turkeys with fantastic results.