Crisp and juicy smoked chicken is as good as it gets. When done properly there is nothing better or easier to make.
In this recipe, I’ll show you how to prepare, season, and smoke the best chicken of your life.
Serve up your smoked chicken with Alabama white sauce. It’s easy to make yourself and then drizzle over the chicken to give it some zing and even more amazing flavor in each and every bite!
Smoking a whole chicken
Anytime I’m at the grocery store I pick up a whole chicken for the week. There are so many ways you can cook them and chicken goes great in just about everything. Plus when they are on sale, you grab two!
Additionally, if you are cooking a whole chicken for several people as I do with my family, there are different options to choose from. As for me, I like the dark meat but my wife prefers white. My kids eat a little bit of everything and we all fight over the wings!
If we have leftovers, we’ll heat it up with some rice, make a chicken salad, or sometimes we even make chicken noodle soup using the whole chicken carcass to make stock.
Alabama white sauce
If you’ve never tried Alabama white sauce, it’s a super tasty, tangy sauce made from mayonnaise, pepper, vinegar, mustard, and horseradish.
While you can serve it with pork, seafood, or even potatoes chips, it’s especially popular on chicken.
We have a full Alabama White Sauce recipe you can check out. If you don’t want to make your own sauce you can buy a bottle from most good bbq stores.
After trying most of them, our favorite store-bought white sauce is the Lilly’s Q Ivory sauce.
Preparing the chicken
There are a few things you can do ahead of time to make sure you have juicy chicken with crispy skin. Let’s be honest there is nothing worse than dried out chicken with leathery skin.
If you have the time, it’s worth brining your chicken for 24 hours.
If you are not familiar with brining, it is the process of submerging a protein in a water mix with sugar, salt, and sometimes other spices.
You can also dry brine by adding salt to the outside of the chicken and letting it sit refrigerated for 4-24 hours. Brining your protein will help enhance flavor, retain moisture and also tenderize.
Brining is especially helpful with lean proteins such as poultry or other meats that tend to dry out due to the lack of fat content.
It is important to rinse your chicken with water after brining and before seasoning to remove any excess salt. If you get nothing else from this article, brine your chicken people.
What kind of wood is best for smoking chicken?
Chicken and fish are the two types of protein that do better with fruitwoods. Woods such as hickory or mesquite can easily overpower the meat leaving you with too much of a smokey taste. I’m telling you this from experience.
For this recipe, I used cherry wood. I love the sweet flavor it gives to chicken and it also helps with color as well.
If you are finding that wood chunks are producing too much smoke and your meat is being overpowered, use wood chips instead. You can still get some smoke flavor onto the meat and continue to add more as needed.
How to get crispy skin when smoking chicken
Getting crispy skin on your chicken can be achieved in two ways.
- Remove moisture from the surface of the skin by patting it dry and letting it sit in your fridge on a wire rack so the excess moisture can escape. Dry skin equals crispy skin.
- Always finish your cook at a higher temperature. The high temps will help tighten up the skin, making it nice and crispy.
For this method, I like to go up to 400°F. Sometimes I even cook chicken between 300-400°F for the entire cook.
How to make smoked chicken
1. Preparing your chicken
Remove your chicken from the packaging and pat it dry with paper towels. Sometimes whole chickens come with the giblets which include the innards and the neck so make sure you remove those before cooking.
If you haven’t already brined your chicken, place it on a wire rack with a pan underneath and into your fridge for at least 2 hours. This gives you 80% of the benefit of an overnight brine, and allows the skin of the chicken to dry out which helps you get crispy skin.
Before seasoning the chicken I recommend spatchcocking it to ensure even cooking. If you don’t know what spatchcocking is, it’s the process of removing the spine of the chicken and flattening it out (check out ‘how to spatchcock chicken’ here).
It ensures that everything cooks evenly and also makes for nice presentation and the end. If resting in the fridge before seasoning, you can spatchcock it beforehand.
The rub on the chicken is yellowish but will darken as it smokes to be more of a brown color.
You really can’t go wrong with your rub choice here though, so feel free to experiment. Even simple salt and pepper works well, just be sure not to use salt or a rub with lots of salt if you have already brined your chicken.
2. Fire up the smoker to 300°F
Get your smoker set to 300°F and add some cherry wood.
Once your smoker is up to temperature, lay your chicken right on the grill grates and smoke at 300°F.
You could even go higher in temp if you are running short on time just make sure to monitor the temps in the breast to make ensure it doesn’t dry out.
Once the chicken hits an internal temperature of 165°F in the breast, remove it from the smoker and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.
Once you have separated the breast, wings, thighs, and legs, drizzle on some Alabama white sauce, or simply serve some to the side for dipping.
The white sauce really adds a zing of flavor to the chicken with the apple cider vinegar and cayenne pepper but doesn’t overpower. It’s one of my favorite sauces to eat with chicken and it works great with fish as well.
Poultry recipes that are big on flavor
- Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich
- Easy Smoked Chicken Breast
- Smoked Buffalo Wings
- Smoked Duck Breast with Cherry Orange Sauce
- Smoked Chicken Maryland
Smoked chicken with Alabama white sauce
- 5 lb whole chicken
- 4 tbsp bbq poultry rub
- Remove your chicken from the packaging and pat dry with paper towels. Then place in your fridge for 2 hours on a wire rack to let the skin dry out.
- Spatchcock the chicken as per instructions above.
- Season your chicken evenly with the poultry rub.
- Fire up your smoker to 300°F.
- Smoke your chicken until the internal temperature of the breast gets to 165°F, remove from the smoker and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
- Separate the breasts, legs, and wings and serve with Alabama White Sauce.