Smoked Whole Chicken

Smoked Whole Chicken

So I decided to smoke a chicken. This is notable because while I’ve smoked meats before, chicken will be a first, and I’m doing it on a new Weber Master Touch grill.

The first step for me was reading a bunch of different recipes. I quickly settled on a few key steps they all had in common.

Brine the bird for up to 24 hours — in water, salt, garlic, peppercorns, lemon, rosemary. I adapted mine from this. After 18 hours I took it out of the fridge and dried it with lots of paper towels.

making the brine

Stuffing — if you can, empty the chest cavity and stuff it with some lemons and some onions.

Dry rub — there were almost too many good dry rub options. I wanted something with a lower amount of sugar, so I went with this one. Start with a quarter cup of olive oil, rubbed all over, followed by the rub. I used about 2/3s of the total rub I made from that recipe.

heating up the coals

Set up the BBQ — I heated up a full chimney of briquettes for about 45 minutes, longer than I intended but it worked out fine. Then when I was ready to dump them, I filled up a drip pan with water, put it to one side, and put the coals on the other side, directly under the door.

On top of the coals I added a handful of hickory wood chips I soaked in water for about 10 minutes. Next time I’ll soak them longer.

where to insert the temperature probe

I placed the chicken on the grill in the center, above the drip pan, stuck one probe in the breast and affixed the other to the grate.

Now, we wait — I monitored the temperature on my dual probe thermometer, adjusting the bottom vent to keep temp around 275 degrees Fahrenheit. This meant occasionally adding additional coals and additional wood chips. When adding coals, make sure to lift the lid straight up and try to keep it open for no more than 30 seconds.

Once the Chicken temperate hit 145 I opened up the bottom grates to boost the oven temperature to 350.

monitoring the cook

At 161 degrees internal temperature, I took the bird out, placed it on a wood cutting board, and lightly covered it in foil for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, time to eat!

finished chicken


  • 4 lb. (1.82 kg) whole Chicken
  • ½ a white onion
  • ½ a large lemon

  • Brine

  • 1 cup table salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 lemon rind
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 peeled crushed cloves of garlic
  • 1 quart hot water
  • 3 quarts cold water
  • 3 bay leaves

  • Rub

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika*
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoon black pepper (fresh if possible)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, but recommended)**


  1. Empty chicken cavity, lightly rinse chicken. Stuff cavity with two quarters of an onion and two quarters of a lemon with the peel and rind removed. Save the peel and rind.

  2. Make the brine

  3. Add the salt, sugar, rosemary, garlic, lemon peel and black peppercorns to a large stock pot or 8 quart square plastic food storage container.

  4. Pour in the hot water (1 quart) and stir until the salt and sugar have dissolved.

  5. Pour in the cold water (3 quarts) and throw in the bay leaves.

  6. Lower in the chicken and position so it is fully immersed in the water.

  7. Cover with plastic wrap or pot top and place in the fridge for 12-24 hours.

  8. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry.

  9. Season the chicken

  10. Rub ¼ cup olive oil all over the skin of the chicken.

  11. Combine dry rub ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Apply dry rub all over the chicken.

  12. Start The Grill

  13. Light a full chimney of charcoal. Wait 30 minutes. Pour the charcoal to one side, place a drip pan half full of water on the other side. Allow the grill temperature to get between 250-275°F, measured on the cold side of the grill.

  14. Place the chicken over the drip pan in the center of the grill. Insert the probe into the breast.

  15. While smoking occasionally adjust the vents to keep the cooking temperature between 250°F-275°F (less air to cool the temperature, more to increase the heat). If using briquettes, two or three times during the smoking, add a handful of wood cuttings or chips on top of the lit charcoal. (Don’t do this too much or else the meat will be overly smoky. Once every hour - hour and half is usually perfect).

  16. Cook until the thickest part of the breast meat measures 160°F, usually about 2 ½ hours for a small chicken but will vary greatly depending on your temperatures and the size of the chicken.

  17. After the chicken is cooked, remove from the smoker and allow to rest for 20 minutes. After rested, carve and serve.

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