This smoked pulled chicken sandwich is made with chicken breast as well as thighs that are brined to ensure juiciness, coated with a rub, smoked to tenderness, and pulled so it can be piled atop buns. Here’s how to make it right.
Move over pulled pork. This smoked pulled chicken sandwich has stolen the spotlight. A barbecue-rub-spiced brine and a slow cook on the smoker ensures juicy, flavorful chicken that’s slathered with barbecue sauce and piled on a bun.–Angie Zoobkoff
Smoked Pulled Chicken Sandwich
- Brining container large enough to hold a chicken and 1 gallon of liquid; smoker and wood chips, chunks, or smoking pellets
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup (10 oz) kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup store-bought or homemade barbecue rub
- 1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken
- 1/2 cup store-bought or homemade barbecue sauce
- 2 tablespoons buffalo-style hot sauce
- 6 to 8 store-bought or homemade burger buns
- Coleslaw (optional)
- In a large pot over high heat, bring 1/2 gallon (1.9 l) of the water, the salt, brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the barbecue rub to a boil, stirring until completely dissolved. Remove from the heat, cover, and let it cool completely.
- Add the remaining 1/2 gallon water and transfer it to your brining container. Add the chicken to the brine, cover, and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.
- Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse well with cold water. Using paper towels, pat it dry, and then place it on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of barbecue rub.
- Preheat a smoker to 250°F (121°C) or set up a grill for smoking.
- When you have a steady stream of smoke, add the chicken and smoke until the breast temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) and the thigh reaches 175°F (79°C), replenishing the wood chips, chunks, or pellets as needed, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours total.
- Remove the chicken and raise the temperature of your smoker to 375°F (190°C).
- Remove the skin from the smoked chicken and place it on the baking sheet. Sprinkle it with 1 teaspoon of barbecue rub and bake it at 375°F (190°C) until crisp, 10 to 12 minutes.
☞TESTER TIP: If your smoker isn’t designed to reach higher temperatures, you can crisp the skin in a 375°F (190°C) oven.
- While the skin is crisping, pull all the chicken meat from the bone and place it in a large bowl.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the crisped chicken skin, 2 teaspoons of barbecue rub, 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce, and the buffalo sauce and pulse until the skin and sauces are well blended.
- Add the skin mixture and 1⁄4 cup of barbecue sauce to the pulled chicken and toss until completely coated. Serve on a bun with your favorite slaw, if desired.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This final product was so. good. It had a lot of steps, factoring in making the rub, making the sauce, and brining. But it wasn’t difficult, especially when smoking on a Traeger Grill.
I used dark brown sugar and the Texas dry rub from the site and the honey BBQ sauce from the site.
I could have easily doubled or tripled the amount of barbecue sauce and ended up adding more to the final sandwich. I was worried because the skin and more rub was very salty. Once I tossed it with more barbecue sauce and served it with slaw on a bun it was fine, but if I were to do this again, I would scale back the salt in the rub.
I served it with a simple, vinegary slaw of red cabbage, carrot, red onion, pickles, a little mayo, lemon juice, and rice wine vinegar on the sandwich. This was great as a sandwich the first night but we enjoyed the pulled chicken a number of ways over the next few days—barbecue chicken salad, wraps, tacos.
The leftovers were super versatile and delicious!
Originally published May 08, 2020
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Yum. There were so many good things about this recipe. This was the first time I tried smoking a whole chicken. Why hadn’t I done it sooner? After 3 ½ hours of smoking, the skin was a beautiful brown, the aroma was incredible, and the meat was moist and nicely (not overwhelming) smoky tasting.
Although you do need to start the brining the night before, this is not a labor-intensive meal. Aside from it being so delicious, I found a couple other benefits. I used the carcass to make a large pot of chicken stock. The stock had a very mild hint of smoky flavor to it. And there were only 2 of us eating the pulled chicken so I had quite a bit left over. I froze some and then made half a recipe of the delicious King Ranch Chicken on this site for dinner the next night. So I got several meals out of this one chicken.
As I crisped the chicken skin, I was able to quickly pull the chicken from the carcass and in just a few minutes I was ready to serve it.