Of all the foods that I have smoked over the years, one of my favourites has to be a whole chicken. Sure, I love ribs, brisket, pulled pork and smoked jalapeño poppers, but smoking a whole chicken is just amazing!
Not only it will produce a very juicy bird that is super tender, but it will also have that wonderful infusion of smoke. On top of that, it is crazy simple to do and requires little monitoring.
The Size of the Chicken Affects the Smoking Time
If you decide to try it, make sure to get a nice fresh bird. Furthermore, choose one that is around 3 1/2 pounds. They are perfect for smoking, as it will provide a nice amount of meat for the family. Of course it is possible to use a smaller or larger bird. However, be aware that the size of the chicken will affect the smoking time.
Whole or Cut in Half
Although typically chickens are smoked whole, it is also possible to cut the bird in half. This will reduce the smoking time a little bit, but not as much as you might think.
To split the chicken in half, cut it lengthwise in between the two breasts. Do it into the cavity and along the back/spine of the bird. It is important to place the half chickens ‘skin side up’ on the smoker racks.
Be Generous with Seasoning
A generous rub of seasoning prior to to smoking is a must. As a result, seasoning will infuse into the meat of the bird along with the smoke. On the top of that, it will give it a wonderful distinct flavour.
Below you will find a few different seasoning recipes and each are good for a 3-pound chicken. You can rub it right on the skin of the chicken and also spread a little oil or melted butter on the skin, just before rubbing on the seasoning.
Herb and Garlic Rub
All you have to do is to mix in a bowl two teaspoons garlic powder, two teaspoons dry oregano, one teaspoon dry thyme, one teaspoon dry parsley, one teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.
Sweet and Spicy Chipotle Rub
To prepare this rub, you’ll need two teaspoons chipotle powder, two teaspoons smoked paprika, one teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon coriander, one teaspoon salt and two teaspoons brown sugar.
Moroccan Spice Rub
For the Moroccan Spice Rub, just mix one teaspoon paprika and one teaspoon salt. Then, add 1/2 teaspoon of each one of these seasonings: cayenne, cumin, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and ground cloves.
Chickens seasoned, place them back in the fridge until the Bradley Smoker is up to temperature.
Choose Your Favorite Wood and Start Up the Smoker
Start up the Bradley using wood bisquettes of choice. Although almost any wood bisquettes will work great, my favourites for chicken include hickory, pecan, maple and whiskey oak.
A great temperature for smoking chicken is around 250 F. The aiming in the range of 250-275 F is best, since adding one or more whole chickens into the smoker will cause the temperature to dip a little bit at first.
When the smoker is in the 250-275 F range, it is time to place the chicken(s) on the smoker racks and into the Bradley.
A Digital Thermometer Helps Determine Doneness
Close the door and let the Bradley Smoker do the rest! The length of time it takes to smoke the chickens varies greatly on the size of the bird. Therefore, it is best to monitor the internal temperature of the bird to determine doneness.
Using a digital thermometer with a temperature probe, stick it probe into the thigh of the chicken. If you run the cable of the probe through the top vent of the Bradley, you will be able to continually monitor the temperature of the chicken, even with the door closed.
Let it Rest Before Serving
The chicken will be fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches 165 F. Now you can take it out of the Bradley. For a 3 1/2 pound chicken, this can take around 3-4 hours, and maybe a bit more.
Let it rest for about 5 minutes before carving. They can be quartered and served, or the meat can be sliced and used in wraps, on salads and so much more. The carcass of the chicken is awesome for making broths for soup as well!
By Steve Cylka