First thing to observe when buying your chicken is if they are enhanced. Most whole chickens are already enhanced. That means they’ve been injected with a brine solution. So, there may not be a need to brine. Look at the package label. If it states something like “Contains or injected up to 5% with sodium phosphate, etc.” there is no need to brine. The percentage can vary. If it states “contains up to 5% water”, and there are not other ingredients on the list, it could benefit from brining.
Woods that Go Well with Chicken
Apple, maple or pecan are my favorite woods for smoke flavor. Chicken takes on a lot of smoke, so you may want to start with one to two hours of smoke. Keep in mind that each bisquette burns for approximately 20 minutes. You will need 3-6 bisquettes for this recipe.
Smoke/roasting, for example, two 3-pound chickens, will give off a lot of moisture. So, you should keep your vent wide open, at least during the first half to the cook. The process I use is to air dry them uncovered in the refrigerator, for at least a couple of hours. Eight hours would be better. This helps improve the smoke flavor, and gives the skin a better texture. Now it’s time to decide if you want the chicken whole or spatchcocked (butterflied).
If you spatchcock the chickens, they will cook faster and take on more smoke. Therefore, if you spatchcock, you may want to use the lower end of the smoke time. Too little smoke is better than too much. Too little, you can always adjust the smoke time the next time. Too much smoke may be enough to make it inedible.
If You Are Not For the Looks
As a side note, if I’m not looking for presentation, I will quarter the chickens and place the dark meat on one tray, and the white meat on another. That way, I can take out the white meat when it hits a certain temperature, and continue to cook the dark meat.
Pro Tip: White meat, found in the breasts and wings, contains about 10% red fibers. This part of the chicken is lean and mild in flavor, and dries out easily if overcooked. Dark meat chicken contains around 50% red fibers and is found in chicken legs, which are more flavorful and juicy, and can be cooked longer.
I season with my favorite rub, and let them sit at room temperature for about an hour. During that time, I preheat the smoker to around 250°F. You can use a half opening on the vent to speed up the preheat time. However, just remember to widen the vent opening when you load the chickens. It’s a good idea to finish them on the grill or preheated oven (450°F) at the end, to crisp up the skin. As for the time, I go by internal temperature. I will measure the temperature at the thickest part of the thigh and it’s ready at 165°F. Cooks Illustrated recommends 175°F, for a better flavor of the dark meat. We hope you liked our Tips On Smoking A Whole Chicken for Newbies. Don’t forget to check out the Bradley Smoker Blog for more refreshing food smoking tips & tricks year-round for aspiring pit masters!