How To Smoke A Whole Chicken (4 Easy Steps)

Ready to impress your friends and family with your smoking skills? Look no further!

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the simple yet rewarding process of smoking a whole chicken. Get ready to unlock mouthwatering, tender, and juicy results that’ll have everyone craving seconds.

Let’s dive in and master the art of smoking a whole chicken!

Smoked Whole Chicken

The weekend is the perfect time to cook something that you normally wouldn’t be able to do on a busy working day.

Smoking chicken, thankfully, is pretty low maintenance as you don’t have to keep turning your meat, unlike with a grill.

Smoked chicken is the best way to serve chicken and it’s an easy recipe to follow!

Low and slow, with plenty of smoked flavor — this is a meal people will be smacking their fingers and lips for!

whole chicken on a smoker

How to Prep a Whole Chicken for Smoking

The best way to prep a whole chicken for smoking is by brining it in salt water for up to 24 hours. This will help the chicken to retain its moisture as it smokes. It’s also a good idea to add seasoning, or a drizzle of olive oil to your chicken prior to smoking.

Here’s a quick quide:

  1. Brine your chicken
  2. Pat your chicken dry
  3. Season your chicken
  4. Add a drizzle of olive oil (optional)
  5. Smoke your chicken!

It’s that easy! Below is our recipe for a dry rub for chicken if you need help with the seasoning step! 

Chicken Dry Rub Recipe

We love a good rub, and you can customize this chicken dry rub according to your palate.

You can omit the cayenne if you don’t like it too spicy, add herbs you love to get your personal touch. You get the idea. 

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

This will make enough for a couple of whole chickens.

You can also make huge batches of this rub and just store it in an airtight container inside the refrigerator for maximum shelf-life.

Read More >> How To Grill Chicken Breasts

whole smoked chicken recipe

How To Smoke A Whole Chicken (4 Easy Steps)

  1. Preheat Your Smoker To 225ºF
  2. Season The Whole Chicken
  3. Smoke Your Chicken
  4. Slice and Serve!

Now that you’ve got your chicken and rub ready, it’s time for some smoking! 

Smoked Whole Chicken Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce (optional)
  • Olive oil (optional)

Step 1: Preheat Your Smoker To 225ºF

Get the heat going in the smoker you’re using for this delicious chicken.

Get it to a steady temperature of 225 degrees F. 

Throw some wood chips on right before going to Step 2. 

seasoning a whole chicken

Step 2: Season the Whole Chicken

Drizzle the whole chicken with olive oil and season it generously on all sides with a dry rub.

Make sure you get in all those crevices!

Step 3: Smoke Your Chicken

Place the chicken directly onto your smoker’s grates and close the lid.

Smoking should take anywhere from 3 1/2 to 4 hours. 

The internal temperature of the chicken breasts should be 165 degrees F, while the thighs should fall between 170-175ºF. 

Optional Step:

Towards the end of cooking, you can baste it with your favorite barbecue sauce if that’s your style.

This step is entirely optional, though, as the chicken will taste just as good with just the rub itself.

If you want that glazed look to your chicken, on the other hand, then BBQ sauce will do the trick!

checking temp on a smoked chicken

Step 4: Slice and Serve!

Remove the chicken carefully from the smoker, place it onto a nice dinner place, take out your sharp carving knife, and start slicing!

My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Read More >> How To Thaw Chicken Safely

whole smoked chicken recipe

Whole Smoked Chicken

Shawn Hill
A delicious smoked chicken recipe your whole family will love!
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 10 minutes
Course Chicken


  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce optional
  • Olive oil optional


  • Preheat your smoker to 225°F.
    Pit Boss Pellet Smoker, great for beginners
  • Season your chicken with dry rub and olive oil.
    seasoning a whole chicken
  • Smoke your chicken for 3.5-4 hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
    checking temp on a smoked chicken
  • Add BBQ towards the end of cooking if you desire.
  • Let your chicken rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • Slice and serve!
    whole smoked chicken recipe

What You Need To Know About Smoking a Whole Chicken?

The first thing you should know about smoking a whole chicken is that YOU can do it.

Whether you’re an intermediate or a complete newb, you’ve got this!

One thing to note before you make your smoked chicken is that this method can result in dry, leathery, chicken skin.

A good way to avoid leathery chicken skin is to slather on a generous coating of olive oil to the chicken prior to seasoning it with the rub.

Doing this will make the chicken skin soft. If you’d prefer having crispy chicken skin, amp up the heat in your smoker.

Read More >> The Best Lump Charcoal For Smoking

How To Smoke A Whole Chicken Facts

How Long Should I Smoke My Chicken for?

It should take about 3 1/2 to 4 hours for smoked whole chicken when smoking at 225 degrees Fahrenheit.

Of course, the time may vary slightly depending on size. 

When your chicken is done, the internal temperature of the breast should be somewhere between 160 to 165 degrees F, while the thighs should be somewhere between 170 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep a meat thermometer nearby to make sure that you can monitor the internal temperature of your chicken as well.

Pro Tip >> This is even easier on a pellet grill or smoker that can regulate temperature for you.

How to Choose a Chicken for Smoking

Even if you have the best smoking technique you’re going to need some great quality meat in order to have a delicious smoked chicken. We recommend heading to your butchers to get the freshest whole chicken possible.

Then, double check that your chicken appears white and milky with no blood spots (blood spots indicate tough chicken). You should also opt for organic chicken without added hormones whenever possible!

Read More >> How To Reheat Chicken Wings

What Side of Chicken Goes Up When Smoking?

Place your chicken with the breast side up when smoking. This keeps them as far away from direct heat which helps prevent them from drying out. 

Do You Flip Whole Chicken When Smoking?

Flipping your chicken when smoking it can do more harm than good. Because smoking uses indirect heat, there is no need to flip it as both sides should be cooked evenly.

The last thing you’d want is to drop it on the ground or splash hot juices all over you. Instead, the best chicken smoked whole is left alone during the entire process. 

Do You Have to Brine a Whole Chicken Before Smoking?

Because chicken doesn’t have a lot of fat that can make it juicy, brining is a great way to keep your smoked chicken from becoming dry

You can simply use water and salt as your brine and let the chicken sit in it fully submerged, in the fridge, the night before smoking it. 

If you’re in a pinch, though, skipping the brine won’t ruin your chicken.

Read More >> How Long To Grill Chicken

How Long Should I Brine a Chicken?

Chicken should be brined overnight for at least 8 hours. Don’t brine your chicken for more than 24 hours as this will make the meat too salty. 

Best Wood For Smoking Chicken

Poultry is best smoked over hardwood. We recommend using a cherry or applewood for this recipe, though you can also smoke your chicken over hickory or mesquite wood if you want a stronger smoke flavor!

For a full list, here are our favorite woods to smoke chicken.

What to Serve With Smoked Chicken

Smoked chicken goes perfectly with smoked mac n cheese, potato salad, and some coleslaw. But you can also serve it with fries, mashed potatoes, or even a baked potato! 

How to Reheat Chicken

Reheating smoked chicken in the microwave can dry it out. Instead, we recommend heating your grill to 325°F and placing your chicken on a pan on the grill to warm it! 

What to Do With a Leftover Chicken?

In our house, the leftover smoked chicken is actually more valued than the first go around! Below are all the things we make with leftover smoked chicken.

  • White bean chicken chili
  • Smoked chicken tacos
  • Smoked chicken salad
  • Smoked chicken enchiladas
  • Smoked chicken sandwiches
  • As a mac n cheese mix in
  • Chicken and rice bowls (for lunch!)

And if you want something a little simpler, check out our smoked chicken breasts recipe.

Photo of author

Shawn Hill

Hey, I'm Shawn and I love this site. With a wife and 7 kids, I get most of my grilling practice from feeding my own family. I'm here to help you learn more about grilling, smoking, and backyard BBQ! With almost a decade of manning the grill and helping over 25,000 aspiring grill masters, you're in great hands! I've tried just about every type of grill, accessory, and gadget you can imagine. Because of that, I am here to help guide you to the best of the best and help you save time and money by avoiding the junk.

3 thoughts on “How To Smoke A Whole Chicken (4 Easy Steps)”

  1. 4 stars
    Really good. I love the paprika that stands prominent in the recipe. I used half smoked paprika and half reg/sweet paprika. I used 1TLBS of black pepper per batch. I used 1 1/2 times (of 3/4 cup per batch) of coconut sugar instead of brown sugar which I don’t purchase. I reduced amount of Cheyenne pepper to 2 tsps (per batch). I love cheyenne pepper which I buy it by the pound, but that was too much for one batch for myself and others that would be eating it with me. 🙂 Over all the recipe was a GREAT guide for tweaking to your personal liking. Thank you for the recipe.


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