Smoked Chicken is one of those incredibly simple, down-home comfort foods that puts a smile on your face while you lick your fingers clean. This smoked chicken recipe is easy and results in a juicy, melt in your mouth chicken layered with flavors from the sweet rub, light apple wood smoke, and tangy Kansas City BBQ Sauce.
Smoking beautifully moist and flavorful chicken is not a complicated process. The low and slow heat combined with wood smoke is a great cooking environment for making juicy chicken. Despite this ease, I do have one trick up my sleeve to help make my chicken even better:
I split the chicken into halves before smoking.
By using sharp kitchen shears to cut out the spine entirely and to split the breast bone apart, you get many great benefits to help your chicken smoke more evenly with a better flavor profile. Here’s why I prefer to split my chicken before smoking it:
- It allows you to season your chicken on all sides of the meat. You can get your seasoning all around, which is near impossible when your chicken is left whole.
- You get better smoke penetration in the meat of your chicken. Since the smoke would be prevented from penetrating the meat inside the cavity of the chicken, you expose a lot more meat to that sweet smoke flavor by cutting it in half.
- You get more even cooking from the breast to the thighs. That means no more under-cooked thighs and dry, chalky chicken breasts.
Smoked Chicken Rub
Now that you’ve got your whole chicken split, it’s time to season! The seasoning is really important on smoked chicken because it helps to develop flavor on the outside of the chicken as well as create a great flavor base for your smoke and sauce steps later. I always use The BEST Sweet Rub any time I am smoking chicken. You can purchase this rub from my store, Patio Provisions, or make it yourself using this recipe. It’s the perfect balance of sweet and savory with just a little kick.
Tips for Delicious Smoked Chicken
Here are a few extra little tips and tricks I love to use while smoking chicken:
- Use that olive oil. Before I season, I like to coat my chicken liberally with olive oil. Smoking chicken at a low temperature tends to melt the fat underneath the skin and dry it out. Coating it with olive oil helps keep the skin moist enough to crisp at the end instead of either turning into dried out shoe leather or becoming soggy under the sauce.
- Sprinkle, don’t rub. Once you have your chicken slathered in olive oil, sprinkle the sweet rub liberally on all sides of your chicken. Don’t try and rub the seasoning in, as it will just clump with the olive oil and rub off.
- Get saucy. I like my chicken saucy and sweet, so I mix some of my homemade Kansas City BBQ Sauce with a few tablespoons of honey. This gives me all the richness of the sauce with some real sticky, finger lickin’ glazed goodness. It also makes the chicken gorgeously shiny.
How Long to Smoke Chicken
With your smoker set at 250 degrees F, it will take approximately 35-45 minutes per pound of chicken to reach 160 degrees F. I like to take my smoked chicken out of the smoker and let it rest for 10 minutes until the temperature rises to 165 degrees F. Remember to always smoke to temperature and not to time. Having a reliable meat thermometer handy will help you determine when your chicken is perfectly done and moist. Temperature is extremely important when smoking chicken to ensure your chicken comes out moist and not dried out and rubbery.
Once your internal temperature reaches 145 degrees F in the thickest part of the chicken, brush the sauce on the chicken. Then, at this point, I like to increase the temperature on my smoker to about 300 degrees F. It will only take a few minutes to finish cooking the chicken and it will also help caramelize the glaze and keep the skin perfect. Watch closely that the sauce doesn’t start to burn at the higher temperature.
More Chicken Recipes
Once you master this smoked chicken recipe, you’re going to be making it all of the time! We like to make several chickens at once and then shred and freeze the meat for simple meal prep later. Here are a few of my favorite smoked chicken recipe ideas:
Smoked Chicken Recipe
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- Preheat your smoker to 250 degrees F. I like using a mild fruitwood like apple, but hickory or cherry also work well.
- Remove any giblets or neck from inside the cavity of the chicken. Set the chicken breast side down on a large cutting board. Starting on one side of the tail, use sharp kitchen shears to cut alongisde the spine all the way up to the neck cavity. Repeat on the other side of the spine until it is completely removed. Flip the chicken over and use the shears the cut up in between the chicken breasts to split the breast bone and cut the chicken completely in half. Dry all sides of the chicken with paper towels and make sure there aren't any dangling pieces of skin or bone.
- Drizzle the olive oil on the chicken halves and rub across the entire chicken. Sprinkle liberally with the sweet rub, but don't try to rub it in. Make sure the chicken is evenly coated on all sides with the seasoning.
- Place your chicken onto the grill grates skin side up. Close your smoker door and cook for 35-45 minutes per pound. Start checking your internal temperature at the hour mark.
- At 145 degrees F, it's time to glaze your chicken. Mix the BBQ sauce with the honey and brush all over your chicken. Increase the heat in your smoker to 300 degrees F.
- Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temperature in both the breast and the thigh reads at least 160 degrees F. Watch during this time period that the glaze doesn't burn.
- Remove the chicken halves to a large platter or cutting board and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.