Smoked Whole Chicken is absolutely delicious and easy to make. Below we’ll explain how to smoke a whole chicken on a pellet grill or other style smoker for the best chicken you will make.
Smoked Whole Chicken is one of the most common things we cook on our smokers, and you’ll see just how easy it is to do on your smoker or grill.
Smoked Whole Chicken
Our collection of grills and smokers are like our kids, we can’t choose a favorite. They’re each unique in their own way, they all have their strengths and also downfalls, and we love them all for different reasons.
Between a simple kettle grill, gas grill (which we no longer own), pellet grills, ceramic grills, offset wood burner, we’ve tried out our favorite recipes on pretty much every style of grill that’s out there. And we do chicken on all of them.
For the tutorial below we are using a Pellet Grill, but this method apples no matter what kind of smoker you have. Simply manage the fire on any style of cooker and you are off do delicious smoked chicken.
Whole Roaster Chicken — the best cut for slow smoked chicken
If we’re grilling (i.e. hot and fast) chicken, we typically break the chicken up into smaller pieces, like in our perfect grilled chicken because each piece cooks at a different time (the breasts taking the longest).
BUT for low and slow chicken we love a whole chicken, because it comes to temperature much slower and more consistent. Sure you can spatchcock it, cutting the backbone out and smoking or grilling the whole chicken flat, but a whole chicken makes for a pretty presentation and no need to worry about cutting your chicken in half prior to the cook.
So if you’ve never smoked a whole roaster chicken before, get excited. You may be doing it much more often now.
How to Smoke a Whole Chicken
It’s pretty simple to smoke a whole chicken, actually. Here’s how:
- Get your grill pre-heated to 225 degrees (we like to use apple wood).
- Clean and pat dry your chicken and cover with this dry rub. It’s a great all purpose dry rub for chicken or pork. Make sure to also stuff the cavity to add additional flavor (we like to stuff it with lemon, onion, and garlic. You can also add some herbs like thyme or rosemary).
- Next tie up the wings and legs to get them closer the body of the chicken so they don’t dry out or overcook.
- Place the whole roaster chicken on the grill, breast up.
- Place on smoker for one hour. Then, after one hour, increase temperature of the smoker to 350 degrees, and leave until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the bird reads 165 degrees (this is going to allow the skin to get nice and crispy).
- Remove, and rest for 15 minutes, then slice and serve.
Best Temperature to Smoke a Whole Chicken at
We start at 225, keeping it fairly low, just to let it rise in temperature. Then when it’s close to done (reading around 130 degrees F internal temp) we’ll raise the temperature of the grill to 350 degrees F to ensure a nice crispy outer skin. If you go too hot, it can overcook parts of the meat, so that’s why we shoot for 350 after the initial smoke.
Chef Tip: If you smoke at a low temp the entire time, it may also lead to rubbery skin. That’s why we like to increase the temperature during the last 30-60 mins for the perfect smoked whole chicken.
Alternatively you can roast it at the same temperature that you would in the oven (375 degrees) like this whole roasted chicken recipe. But you won’t get as much of a sweet smoke flavor as it will cook much quicker. We prefer to do it this way for full flavor intensity!
If you have one we recommend inserting a leave-in thermometer to monitor temps, like this BlueDOT Bluetooth Thermometer from ThermoWorks. This one is great because you can monitor the temps from your phone via an iPhone app, or just check on the receiver so you don’t have to constantly open and shut your lid. Make sure to insert it into the thickest part of the meat, where it will take the longest time to cook.
Alternatively, you can use any digital thermometer to occasionally check temps in the breast and thighs.
What Wood is Best?
Any local woods are great. For chicken we focus on fruit woods like apple or cherry because it burns sweet and adds a nice smoke element without it tasting too much like campfire. Another alternative wood is hickory.
How Long to Smoke a Whole Chicken?
Plan approximately 2 hours from start to finish to smoke a whole chicken. But always go by temperature, not exact time. This particular example was a 3.5 lb bird, and it was on 225 for about 1 hour, then about 45 mins at 350 degrees. Your chicken will vary based on various factors (exact size of your bird, exact temperature of smoker, fluctuations, etc.). Below are ranges for how long to smoke a whole chicken.
- Under 4 pound roaster chicken – 1 hour 45 minutes
- 4 – 5 pound roaster chicken – 2 hours
- Over 5 pound roaster chicken – 2 hours 30 minutes
Make sure to save that chicken carcass for stock. Check out how we make smoked chicken stock here.
Smoked Whole Chicken Recipe
Smoked Whole Roaster Chicken
- 1 3-4 lb whole roasting chicken, (we prefer organic birds, which can be on the smaller side)
- 1/4 cup dry rub (see notes), the exact amount will vary based on exact size of your bird
- 4 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
- 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
- 1/2 lemon, sliced in half to fit inside the chicken cavity
- Preheat smoker to 225 degrees (we used apple wood).
- Remove any giblets from the cavity of the chicken. Clean and pat dry your chicken with paper towel and cover with dry rub.
- Optional: Stuff the cavity of the bird with garlic cloves, onion, and lemon (cut up).
- Next tie up the wings and legs to get them closer the body of the chicken so they don’t dry out.
- Place on smoker for one hour. Then, after one hour, increase temperature of the smoker to 350 degrees, and leave until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the bird reads 165 degrees (this could take up to another hour depending on the size of your bird).
- Remove, and let sit for about 15 minutes, then slice and serve.
I typically reach for a Chardonnay or full bodied white wine with smoked whole chicken recipes (pending they do not have any BBQ sauce on them). But because of the dry rub we use, which has some bold and smoky flavors, we opt for red. In this case Pinot Noir.
But you’re going to want a bolder style Pinot Noir for this (nothing too delicate). Côtes du Rhône blends work well too. You want something fruity, but not too intense or tannic (think Cab). Remember, there’s no sauce on this, just the tender meat and dry rub on the crispy skin. Zinfandel works nicely too, as long as it’s not too intense of a Zin.
More Chicken Recipes for Your Grill or Smoker
- Smoked Chicken Stock (use that carcass to make the best stock ever!)
- Grilled Chicken with Ancho Chilies and Prunes
- Dry Brined Smoked Chicken with a Carolina Glaze
- The BEST Smoked Buffalo Chicken Wings (with Crispy Skin!)
- Grilled Wine Can Chicken
Use any Leftover Chicken for these Recipes
- Smoked Buffalo Chicken Jalapeno Poppers
- Smoked Buffalo Chicken Dip
- Smoked Chicken Verde Soup
- Chipotle Honey Grilled Chicken Tacos
- Smoked Chicken Chili
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