Smoking chicken in an electric smoker

How to Smoke a Whole Chicken in an Electric Smoker

Chicken is probably the most popular choice of non-vegetarian menu options around the globe. Every cuisine culture around the world incorporates their unique take on this tasty meat. But, one cooking style that transcends all culture is smoking the whole chicken in an electric smoker, or any preferred method. 

The bottom line is – the flavor of a whole chicken smoked in an electric smoker is preposterously delicious.

But, all these fantastic flavors come at a price...

You see, it is not a walk in the park to smoke a whole chicken. At least, not if you want to enjoy a mouthful of tender and juicy chicken

However, thanks to innovation in the field of smoking ovens, things have become easier. 

For one, you don't have to keep checking on your meat every minute to maintain the ideal temperature. The electric smoker automatically regulates the temperature and cooks the chicken to perfection. 

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Smoking the whole chicken in the electric smoker is also ideal for novice cookers. You get maximum results with minimal effort.

But, that does not necessarily mean it is as easy as throwing the chicken into a smoker. If you want to cook a perfectly tender, juicy, and smoky chicken, you should make sure to execute every intricate step.

Before we get too far into the guide, here are some useful tips and a simple recipe to help you smoke out the best whole chicken.

Tip 1: Choose The Right Smoke/Wood Chips Flavor  

Unless you are new to using electric smokers, you know that wood chips come in different flavor options. Since the wood chips are the primary element that provides the smoke, you must choose the right flavor. Some of the typical wood chips flavors are – 

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Apple

If you are unsure of the flavor option, Apple is the best way to go. Apple has a natural fruity wood flavor that compliments the taste of the chicken well.

However, you should note that applewood takes several hours to infuse the flavor.

Hickory

Hickory is a hardwood that tends to have a sweet and strong flavor. The taste is almost bacon (ish), and it burns hot and slow. You should, however, be gentle if you are smoking a small chicken as it can give a bitter flavor.

For a good balance of flavor, you can also combine hickory with cherry wood.

Maple 

Maple is the milder version of the hickory wood. It is the sweetest heavy wood and also burns hot and slow. 

Peach 

Peach has a distinct light and sweet flavor. It also burns hot and slow.

Note that peach wood tends to lose its flavor quickly, so it is best if you use a fresh cut peach wood.

Of course, you could also go with traditional charcoal. But, charcoal usually does almost nothing to improve the flavor. So, if you want some added texture and flavor on your smoked chicken, wood chips are the way to go.

Tip 2: Spatchcock The Chicken 

After you decide on the wood chips flavor, now it's time to prepare the chicken.

It is not hard to understand that merely sliding the chicken in the smoker does not cook it thoroughly. Thus, for best results, it is ideal for spatchcocking the chicken and flattening it out. 

To spatchcock the chicken you should – 

  • Use a sharp knife and remove the backbone of the chicken, all the way down from the neck to the tail. 
  • Now remove the breastbone using a paring knife (or anything available to you).
  • After you remove the backbone and the breastbone, flatten the chicken out.
  • Spatchcocking the chicken provides two distinct advantages – 
  • It makes the chicken easier to cook, and  
  • It allows the chicken to absorb the majority of smoke from the bottom pan. Hence, giving it an authentic smoky flavor.

Tip 3: Brine The Chicken 

Brining the chicken means to soak it in a mixture of water and salt to enhance its ability to absorb moisture. Brining, in return, will give the chicken a juicy and tender texture after you are done smoking. The recipe for the brine solution can differ from one person to another. You can add fruit juice, spices, or wines to help the chicken retain extra flavor.  

The rule of thumb is to let the chicken sit for an hour for every pound of weight. But, you should also be cautious since brining the chicken for too long will make it too soft. 

Tip 4: Let The Chicken Dry Before Smoking 

After brining the chicken, do not directly slide it into the smoker (obviously!). Instead, let the chicken dry off for an hour after you remove the brine. This will allow the chicken to absorb the smoke more efficiently due to the dry surface. 

Tip 5: Know The Ideal Temperature 

When smoking a whole chicken, the temperature is the most crucial aspect. It is not about how long you have to smoke, but smoking it to the ideal temperature that matters. 

The ideal temperature you are looking for is 165°F – that's the sweet spot. 

To do this, you have to first pre-heat the smoker to 225°F. The duration of smoking will vary with different chicken sizes. But, again, the cooking time does not matter as much as achieving the ideal temperature does.

Take an external temperature probe and insert it into the thickest portion of the chicken. Set the thermometer value to 165°F.

When the chicken's temperature reaches 165°F, the smoker will automatically turn off and switch to warm mode.   

Tip 6: Do Not Undermine The Importance Of A Good Seasoning 

Seasoning the chicken is the best way to ensure you enhance its natural flavor. Smoking the chicken is an intricate process, and losing the flavors isn't as hard as you may think.

With every drop of fat in the drip pan, you are losing a good amount of flavor. Applying a coat of extra seasonings can, therefore, help you restore/enhance the taste of the chicken.

So, for best results –

Apply a coat of spice rub after the chicken dries off (before you put it inside the smoker)

Just after your chicken reaches the ideal temperature (165°F), apply a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce (or your homemade sauce) before serving. 

Keep these vital tips to ensure you don't end up with a lump of a burned chicken. To help you get your whole chicken smoking cook started, here is a simple recipe.  

Note: The first recipe is for preparing chicken brine.

Recipes For Preparing Chicken Brine.

Recipe #1 Ingredients:

  • Water – 8 cups 
  • Kosher salt - ½ cup
  • Black peppercorns – 1 tablespoon
  • Honey – ¼ cup
  • Garlic – 5 cloves 
  • Dried bay leaves – 3~4
  • Rosemary, Thyme, Parsley – 1 tablespoon each 
  • 4 pounds whole chicken – 1 
  • Sliced lemon – 2

Instruction: 

  1. Take a large pot and put all the ingredients together. Boil the mixture over medium heat until the salt dissolves completely. 
  2. Turn off the heat and bring the solution to rest, or until cooled off completely.
  3. Submerge the chicken entirely in the brine solution and refrigerate it for about 24 hours.
  4. Take out the whole chicken and rinse it off with cold water. 
  5. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels before putting it inside the electric smoker

The second recipe is for preparing the BBQ sauce for your whole chicken.

Recipe #2 Ingredients:

  • Brown sugar – ½ cup
  • Smoked paprika – 1 tablespoon 
  • Paprika – 2 tablespoons 
  • Cayenne pepper – ¼ tablespoon 
  • Kosher salt – 1 tablespoon
  • Black pepper – 1 tablespoon 
  • Garlic, Mustard, and Onion powder – 1 tablespoon each

How to make the best smoked chicken in your electric smoker

Now that we've covered the recipes, all you need to do is to follow the steps below for mouth-watering smoked chicken.

  1. Take a medium-sized bowl and mix all the ingredients. Make sure the ingredients are mixed uniformly to ensure the best result. 
  2. Cover the bowl using a wrapper and keep it air-tight until it is ready for use.
  3. Now we will come to the part where you will smoke the whole chicken using your electric smoker.
  4. Preheat your electric smoker to 250°F.
  5. Depending on the type of flavor you want in your whole chicken, choose your appropriate choice of wood chips. Unless you know which flavor of wood chips you want, we recommend the applewood for the best result.
  6. Take the brined chicken that has already been pat dried and tie up the legs with the standard kitchen twine.
  7. Now, take the spice rub that is sitting in an air-tight container and apply the sauce evenly throughout the chicken. For additional flavor, you can also loosen up the skin and apply the sauce to the meat directly as well.
  8. Slide the whole chicken into your electric smoker and insert the thermostat probe into the thickest portion of the chicken. 
  9. Set the temperature to 165°F, which is the ideal cooking temperature of a whole chicken. You can set the timer to about 3-4 hours. But remember, it is not the cooking time, but the ideal temperature that matters.  
  10. Turn off the smoker as soon as your chicken's temperature shows 165°F. 
  11. Take out the chicken and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
  12. Garnish, or season to your liking, and serve the tender, juicy, and smoky whole chicken to your family/friends.

That's it guys, you've just made the best tasting smoked chicken on the planet! If you liked this guide feel free to share it. Or leave a comment!

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