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Smoked Chicken

Three whole smoked chickens on a round grill.
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.
Joe Carroll and Nick Fauchald

Prep 10 mins
Cook 5 hrs
Total 5 hrs 30 mins
Entrees
American
4 to 6 servings
468 kcal

Equipment

  • Wood chunks or soaked wood chips

Ingredients 

If using a brine

If using a dry rub

Directions 

  • 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

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.