This Texas smoked chicken is made by rubbing whole chickens with an ancho and piloncillo spice rub and then slowly smoking them on your grill or smoker until tender and juicy. Easy and perfect for entertaining a crowd. Here’s how.
*NOTE: WHAT IS PILONCILLO AND HOW DO I USE IT?
The spice rub for this Texas smoked chicken features piloncillo, an unprocessed form of sugar that’s made simply by boiling down cane juice. As such, it retains its natural caramel color and rich, almost molasses-like taste. It’s akin to Mexican brown sugar and is typically sold in cone shapes at Mexican and Latin American markets and bodegas, where it may be labeled as panela. And, of course, you can order it online.
To measure piloncillo for recipes, place the cone in a resealable plastic bag (maybe double up on the bag) and pound it with a meat mallet or rolling pin (or, in a pinch, a hammer) to break it apart into relatively evenly sized granules until powdery.
Texas Smoked Chicken
- Quick Glance
- 25 M
- 4 H, 5 M
- Serves 20
In a small bowl, combine the piloncillo, ancho chile powder, salt, and pepper and mix well.
Arrange the chickens on a couple large rimmed baking sheets, breast side up. Rub each chicken with some of the piloncillo mixture, dividing it equally among the hens. Let them rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
While the chickens rest, set up your grill or smoker. Place a drip pan filled with 1/2 inch water in between the hot coals or burners set up for indirect heat on your grill or place the water pan in the smoker and add water to the fill line. Bring the temperature of the grill or smoker to 225° to 250°F (107° to 120°C) and maintain the temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.
When the grill or smoker is ready, drain the wood chunks and place them on the prepared coals or in the smoker box.
Spoon any juices that accumulated on the baking sheet over the chickens.
Place the chickens on the grate and close the grill or smoker. Smoke until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of the thighs registers 165°F (74°C), 3 to 4 hours. If you prefer a smokier flavor, toss in a few more wood chunks towards the middle of the cooking time. Occasionally check the temperature gauge.
Remove the chickens from the smoker and let them rest for at least 20 minutes.
Carve, serve, and watch it disappear.
Recipe Testers' Tips
“As far as smoked chicken goes, it's about as good as it gets." That's what one of our guests had to say about this chicken. Who am I to argue? The chicken turned out perfectly moist and juicy and the skin was nice and crisp.
The sweet rub softened the typical edge you get when smoking, which was a really nice change. Not too sweet, just right. No one asked for BBQ sauce! So again, as far as smoked chicken goes, it's as good as it gets! Although another tablespoon of ancho chili powder wouldn't have hurt!
I used hickory wood chips but didn't weigh them. I cooked two flyers for 4 hours at 225°F on our Weber Smokey Mountain Smoker.
It was tricky getting the piloncillo into a rub-ready state but persistence pays off big here.
Can't wait to try this rub on other proteins. First up, I'm thinking salmon.
This recipe made a juicy, tender smoked chicken that we all enjoyed. In fact, I had never seen my son eat so much chicken in one sitting.
The only thing I felt could have been better was more smoke. I used 3 chunks of pecan and added all of it at the beginning. There was terrific smoke but only for the first hour. It gave the chicken a lovely color and the cooked chicken smelled wonderfully smoky, but the actual taste was only mildly smoky. I think if I had added wood chunks continuously, there would have been a more pronounced smoke flavor.
I quartered the rub recipe and it still made a lot!
I served the smoked chicken with a Greek salad and biscuits. No leftovers!