FAQ: How to Smoke a Whole Chicken

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These are actual questions I have received from web visitors via email and my answers back to them:

Q: please help me with smoking a whole chicken. I`ve tried things but can`t get a great spicy taste throughout and family says it`s plain tasting.

A: Have you tried brining?

Brining is a process in which you soak the chicken (or any meat) in a salt, sugar and water solution for a specified amount of time. You can also add spices and flavorings to the solution and believe it or not the flavors will get drawn deep into the meat creating a very wonderful taste.

I have a page that talks about brining in detail and on there is a recipe in which I brine a turkey in water, salt, sugar, flavorings, and Zattarains Crab boil.

This creates a spiciness and really rich flavor throughout the meat that I think you should try.

You will need to amend the time in the recipe a little bit.. for a turkey it requires about 6 hours however a whole chicken of around 4 pounds would only require about 4-5 hours.

Another alternative you should try is injecting the chicken with a spicy marinade of butter, water and cajun seasoning.. here is the recipe that I use and you can amend this however you like just be sure and taste it before you use it.. if it taste good to you then it will taste good in the chicken.

Mop Water/Injection Fluid

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 stick real butter (the salted kind)
  • 2 TBS Tony Chacheres Cajun Seasoning
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper

You will need an injector which you can pick up at a big box store or even in the supermarket.. if you cannot find one by itself go to the aisle with the barbecue sauce and marinades and sometimes the marinades made for injecting will have an injector attached to the bottle.

My favorite injector of all times is the Bayou Classic found on amazon. It has a much larger needle and does not get clogged up by coarse pepper and and larger grains of spices and ingredients.

bayou classic injector e1512078118866

You may even see some spicy marinade that looks good.. the main thing is that you get the marinade down into the meat. Inject the chicken in about 20 different spots on the top and bottom and sides of the meat. Be sure and get the wings, legs and thighs a little.

Leave the skin on the chicken and dust on some lemon pepper, cajun seasoning and course black pepper in equal amounts just before smoking.

Smoke the chicken for around 4 hours at 225-250°F or until it reaches 165°F in the thickest part of the thigh or breast.. I like to use mesquite chunks/chips however, you can also get great results from oak, hickory, apple, plum, cherry, apricot or a mix of your favorite fruit or hard wood.

I like to cook it low to give it more time with the smoke but if you want the skin to get more crisp, it is ok to crank up the heat to 275 or even 300°F.

The chicken will be a deep golden brown when it is done.. let it rest for 20 minutes or so before carving to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.

Chicken is a great candidate for cooking in a pellet grill like the Camp Chef Woodwind since you can cook it low for about an hour to get some good smoke flavor and then bring the temperature up to 300+ degrees to finish that skin real nice and all at the turn of a button.

If you have further questions about this.. let me know.

Here is more recipes and information on smoking chicken


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  1. I have had great luck putting the pulled pork in to food saver bags adding in the juices and sealing. Then when ready to heat I just dropped the bags into a hot water bath to heat it up. It worked great

  2. Jeff, I will be smoking a drunk chicken for the 4th and will use the rub inside and out.

    drunk chickens are usually pretty moist and this rub should be real flavorful.I will let you know how it turns out.  Do you have any other recipe hints for drunk chicken?


  3. Jeff,

    I am a long time subscriber and user of your rub and sauces.  You do a great job with this site, newsletter, and forums.  Thanks so much for all the ideas and tips.

    With that said, I have a question for you… I have agreed to cater a communion lunch for a friend of mine on Saturday.  I need to smoke 3 pork shoulders and 4 chickens.  I need to do the pork shoudlers on friday/friday night and then will get up early and do the four chickens.

    What is the best way to handle the pork shoulders so they stay fresh, moist, and delicious almost 20 hours after I take them off the smoker?  I am considering wrapping them in foil, towels, and placing in the cooler, but do I incur any risks there?  Is there some way to chill them and reheat the next day without tasting "reheated"?

    Looking forward to whatever tips and tricks you can provide…



    1. 20 hours is going to be too long to hold in a cooler.. much more than 3-4 hours and you are taking a risk of serving unsafe food.

      When you do the pork shoulders (I assume these are pork butts?), cook them in large foil pans if possible or at least transfer them to a pan once they reach about 160 degrees internal. Cover the pans with foil at 160 degrees regardless and this will help to break down the fat, tenderize the meat and power you through the stall.

      The pans will also catch the juices which are very important for reheating.

      Once the meat has reaches that magical temperature of 205 degrees F, let them cool for a few minutes then proceed to pull the meat into small pieces. Remove the gristle, clumps of fat, etc.. Save the meat juices in a jar and place it in the fridge for safe keeping.

      Once you pull the meat, place it into ziploc bags and refrigerate it or you could just leave it in covered foil pans in the fridge so it’s ready to reheat.

      To reheat, place the meat into foil pans if they aren’t already. Remember that juice we saved? Remove it from the fridge,scoop off and discard the yellow fat at the top and spoon about half of the brown gelatin into the pan with the pulled pork. (don’t worry about mixing it in right now).

      Reheat the pulled pork in the foil pan, covered with foil at about 275-300 degrees for at least an hour and possibly more or until it reaches a good eating temperature.

      Once it’s hot enough, check to see how juicy it is and if it needs more juice, heat what’s left of the brown gelatin (from the juices that you saved) until it is liquid and warm and pour it over the pulled pork. 

      If you have some rub available, it’s a great idea to sprinkle some of that on for good measure as well.

      Toss the pulled pork, rub and juices together in the pan and it’s ready to serve.

      It will taste like it just came off the smoker!

      As an alternative, you can reheat in a slow cooker but it will take much longer.