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How to: smoke a whole chicken on a pellet grill

If you’re looking for a smoky upgrade over store-roasted chicken, this is for you.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chicken seasoning
  • ½ lemon, sliced
  • ½ small onion, quartered
  • 3–4 rosemary sprigs
  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours
  • Servings: 6

Those rotisserie chickens you see at the supermarket just can’t hold a candle to the taste you get from smoking one on the pellet grill. A properly smoked chicken is a luscious upgrade over any store-roasted bird that’s been sitting under hot deli case lights. Plus, you get the bonus of smoky flavor.

This method uses a combination of both smoking and roasting to achieve a rich smoky flavor with browned skin.

Whole Chicken Smoking Tips

Ditch the giblets.

Most whole chickens come with giblets stuffed inside the cavity of the bird. Be sure to remove them before cooking.

Wash the chicken inside and out.

Often the giblets are wrapped in paper where juices collect inside of the bird’s cavity. Be sure to wash the inside of the bird including the tail area so you have a clean start to your cook.

Chicken is best when it’s both clean and dry.

Use a stack of paper towels to blot dry the inside and outside of the bird. It’s a good practice to eliminate any standing liquids or juices before cooking. The dryer the bird is when you start cooking, the more its skin will render, adding flavor.

Choose the right sized chicken.

A five-pound roasting chicken is about the optimal size for smoking because the light and dark meat is more uniform in size. Consistent thickness means even cooking and juicier meat.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. 1

    Prep the chicken and preheat the grill.

    Remove any giblets from the chicken, then wash and pat dry.
  2. Optionally, if you have time, place the chicken on a wire rack with a baking sheet underneath and allow it to dry in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours or overnight. This will further dry the chicken skin and promote browning.
  3. Preheat your pellet grill to 225°F.
  4. 2

    Seasoning the whole chicken.

  5. Brush the chicken skin with olive oil and lightly season the inside of the cavity, reserving the majority of the seasoning for the skin. Stuff the bird with lemon slices, onion, and rosemary sprigs.
  6. 3

    Truss the legs, tuck the wings.

  7. Cross the two chicken legs and tie them together using butchers’ twine to secure them in front of the cavity to promote even cooking. You can optionally also tuck the wings under the chicken by pushing the flats down toward the rear of the bird and tucking them underneath.
  8. 4

    Season generously.

  9. Season the exterior of the bird with the remaining chicken season so it’s well covered.
  10. 5

    Cooking instructions.

  11. Insert a digital meat thermometer or the grill’s thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken breast without touching any bone.
  12. Place the chicken on your pellet grill and smoke for one hour at 225°F.
  13. Increase the heat on your grill to 375°F and continue roasting until the white and dark meat reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
  14. 6

    Rest and serve.

  15. Remove the chicken from the grill and allow it to rest for 15–20 minutes. Snip and discard the butchers twine and enjoy.

What’s the best way to grill a chicken outdoors?

Using a pellet grill is one of the best ways to cook a chicken outdoors.

Grilling a chicken over an open flame with direct heat is challenging. Even with lots of micromanagement, grilled chicken often comes out dry and overcooked in some areas, and raw in the middle.

But the pellet grill is a chicken-cooking machine. Pellet grills are designed to cook foods like a whole chicken using indirect heat like your oven. However, the pellet grill has a huge advantage over your oven: smoke.

An initial smoke will add loads of flavor. But the magic happens when you increase the heat and finish the chicken by roasting it to lock in juices and get the skin nice and crispy.

Can you smoke a whole chicken?

You can definitely smoke a whole chicken.

Kingsford® Hardwood Pellets take the guesswork out of achieving the perfect amount of smoke flavor.

Fruit woods, like Kingsford® Cherrywood Pellets are an ideal fuel for chicken and other lighter meats. Kingsford’s Signature and Classic blends include cherrywood along with other woods like oak, mesquite, and hickory for a subtle but distinct flavor profile. With five wood pellet flavors to choose from, you can’t really go wrong smoking chicken with any of Kingsford’s offerings.

How long to smoke a whole chicken?

Whether smoking, baking, roasting or grilling, you want to achieve a safe internal temperature of 165°F.  Smoking a whole chicken at a lower temperature may take as long as five to six hours depending on how large the bird is.

What temperature to smoke a whole chicken?

Plan on smoking a whole chicken at 225°F for the first hour. Although you can smoke your chicken until it reaches the safe internal temperature of 165°F, it’s best to raise the cooking temperature after the first hour of smoking.

A pellet grill produces more smoke at lower temperatures, so smoking for the first hour or so is like an extra seasoning for your food.

When you finish cooking at a higher temperature, it serves a few purposes. Collagen and connective tissues in the meat will actually melt into a rich gelatin. This makes the meat even more flavorful, juicy, and less stringy. If you like crispy chicken skin, the higher finish temperature is where the magic happens. Some of the fats underneath the chicken skin will render. This not only bastes the chicken meat, but it makes the skin crisp and delicious for whoever gets to it first.

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