The Best Smoked Chicken Recipe You Will Ever Make

Aug 7, 2020 | Chicken and Poultry, Recipes

It’s a bold claim to say that this is going to be the best-smoked chicken recipe that you will ever make. I know that. But, this smoked chicken recipe is the best-smoked chicken I’ve ever eaten. And I’ve eaten a lot of smoked chicken. Before you send me a bunch of messages telling me how yours is better, try this one. I’m willing to bet that you won’t have much to say afterwards except maybe thank you. Of course, I’m always happy to be proven wrong. If you do think you have a better recipe, let me know about it in the comments at the end of this post.

Okay, that is more than enough chit chat, let’s get down to business.

Prepping The Chicken

The first step in making smoked chicken is prepping the chicken. Cutaway any extra fat and skin from the tail end of the chicken and discard it. Take the backbone out by cutting just inside the back legs, then down through the ribs. I did a whole post about this not too long ago. You can check that post out here. Once you have the backbone out of the chicken, cut it straight down through the breast bone so that you have two even chicken halves. Save the spine and everything to make stock.

Making the Seasoning Blend

Once the chicken is cut and ready to go, make the all-purpose seasoning blend. You can find the full recipe below, but the blend is essentially equal parts kosher salt, black pepper, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Add to that a half part each cayenne, and cumin. Mix all the ingredients, and you are good to go.

Best Barbecue Spice Blend

This is a great all-purpose spice blend for barbecuing meat, poultry, and game.
Total Time: 5 minutes
Course: Rub
Cuisine: American, Canadian
Keyword: Barbecue, BBQ, BBQ Spice, chicken recipes
Author: Chef’s Notes


  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • ½ tsp Cayenne Powder
  • ½ tsp Cumin Powder


  • Combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and mix well.
  • Use to season chicken, pork, lamb, turkey, rabbit, or just about anything else.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Seasoning the Chicken

Season the chicken generously with the spice blend. Make sure to season under the wings and legs and in any other hard to reach places. You want to make sure that the entire chicken gets coated in the spice blend. Put the chicken in a bowl or dish, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for two hours.

Prepping The Smoker

The chicken has been in the fridge for about an hour and a half, start getting your smoker hot. I have a cheap barrel-style smoker that works by lighting a charcoal fire in the bottom and adding wood chips. You know your smoker better than I do, and there are so many varieties out there that I’m not going to try to explain your smoker to you. All you want to do is get the smoker hot (275°) and smoking before you put the chicken in. For the wood chips, use mesquite and soak them in water for about half an hour before adding them to the fire. Add a bowl of water to the smoker too to help prevent the chicken from drying out.

Smoking The Chicken

Put the chicken in the smoker, set a four-hour timer, and do everything you can to maintain the temperature at 275°F. I find that my smoker doesn’t keep the heat very well; it could use another vent or two, so I have to adjust the fire, every thirty minutes or so. Again, you know your smoker better than I do. Keep the heat up and the smoke flowing.

Finishing the Chicken

At the three hour mark, start brushing the chicken with barbecue sauce every ten to twelve minutes until it is cooked through. Check to see the chicken is cooked by sticking a probe thermometer in it through the thickest part of the thigh. The chicken should reach a temperature of 170°f before you eat it. When you cook a chicken in an oven on a higher temperature, it’s okay to cook it to 167°f because the heat in the chicken will push the temperature past 170°f as it rests. But, because you are smoking the chicken at such a low temperature, there isn’t going to be enough residual heat for the temperature to keep rising. So, cook it all the way to 170°f.

At the three hour mark, my coals had completely died down, and I decided that rather than light another fire, I would finish the chicken on the barbecue. I turned one side of the grill on to medium, and I left the other side off. I put the chicken on the grill over the elements that were not lit. This indirect cook meant that there would be no flareups or scorch marks on the chicken. I did finish the chicken for the last few minutes on medium-high direct heat to get a little extra caramelization on the chicken. I found this worked well for me, and there was more than enough smoke flavour on the chicken. When I do it again, I will finish the chicken on the smoker.

Serving the Chicken

To serve the chicken, I made garlic mashed potatoes, white gravy, and grilled smoked paprika green beans. You can find the green bean recipe on my Instagram. For the gravy, I made a simple bechamel with poultry seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. I think the smoked chicken would go really well with just about anything, but this combination was perfection. It also made fantastic leftovers, which I used to make a sandwich, and my wife had in a salad.


Again, when I say that this is the best-smoked chicken recipe you will make, I know that that is a big statement. I don’t say it lightly. I am confident saying it because this was one of the best chickens I’ve ever had, let alone smoked chickens. And in all seriousness, I would love to know how you smoke your chicken. Tell me about it in the comments below.

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  1. Brion Bell

    5 stars
    It’s all good!
    However…. (There’s always a ‘however,’ right?)
    I do this a tiny bit differently… I prepare and season/rub the chicken as instructed, but at about the two-hour mark, while it is in the fridge, I take it out of the fridge and introduce it to a steamer, seasonings, and all. (Some will suggest to ‘par-boil’ it, but that completely removes the seasonings!) I steam it for about 15 minutes while finishing the smoker prep; timing it so that the chicken goes directly from the steamer to the smoker. It takes less time to smoke the chicken, and the finished product is even more moist, tender, and flavorful. Be sure to follow the temperature guidelines in the above article! Note: If the steaming process knocks too much of the seasonings off, just add more before smoking.

  2. Chef Ben Kelly

    Great tips Brion, thank you!

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