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Published August 20, 2023. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Bring your favorite BBQ restaurant right to your backyard with this foolproof way to make a smoked chicken BBQ recipe. You will love how easy this is to do and how delicious it is.
I’m a massive fan of backyard BBQ get-togethers throughout the summer. From the food to the friendships and summer weather, There’s nothing quite like it. If you’re the same, then you should try out my smoked pork shoulder or Vinegar Coleslaw Recipe.
Smoked chicken is a delicious dish where you use a brine, wet rub, or dry rub that is applied to a whole chicken, a split chicken, thighs, breasts, or wings and is then smoked under a flavored wood. It is one of the easier meats to smoke and is popular at just about every BBQ restaurant in America, and now your backyard.
While every BBQ pitmaster and backyard smoker has their own method of smoking it, I must say that I really enjoy this recipe and believe if you are just beginning to use your smoker or have been doing it for years. If you are really in a pinch for time, simply split the breasts from the thighs before smoking.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Chicken – I used whole chickens that I cut in half and removed the backbone from.
- Oil – Olive or avocado oil is excellent to use to help crisp the skin.
- Spritzer – I use a combination of equal parts apple juice, apple cider, and water.
- Rub – You can use simple salt and pepper or a more complex spice blend like my BBQ Rub.
- Sauce – Any BBQ sauce will work for this recipe. In addition, what I usually do is add some of the remaining spritzer along with unsalted butter to the BBQ sauce to really elevate the flavors.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke Chicken?
Like smoking anything, the time it takes to smoke will mostly depend on the temperature with which you are smoking. Most would say to smoke this in between 225° and 250° with a general rule of thumb of 35-45 minutes per pound, so figure 2 to 2 ½ hours of total smoking time.
What Temperature Do You Smoke Chicken At?
Since chicken smokes much quicker than bigger proteins, I like to smoke chicken between 225° and 250°. If you want your chicken skin to be extra crispy, I recommend grilling it on high heat once it’s done smoking.
What is a Spritzer?
A spritzer is a liquid that is sprayed on smoked food to increase moisture and prevent meant from burning or drying out. Since smoked chicken cooks relatively quickly, many don’t believe that it needs a spritz. However, I am in the camp that adding moisture, acid, and flavor is a good thing.
I like to use the rule of a savory rub should use a sweeter spritz and vice versa, or a sweeter rub should mean higher vinegar content for the spritzer. I use the exact same spritz spray as I do in my Smoked St. Lous Ribs Recipe.
How to Smoke Chicken
- Place a metal pan filled up with ½ gallon of water under the grill grates and preheat the smoker using your favorite wood to 250°.
- Remove any giblets from the whole chicken and cut them in half, removing the back strap of the chicken.
- Pat it dry and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Make the rub and set aside.
- Coat the chicken on all sides with a small amount of olive oil. Use your hands to rub it in.
- Generously coat the chicken on both sides with the rub. There will be about 2 to 3 tablespoons left over.
- Place the chicken skin side up onto the smoker over the metal pan and smoke until it reaches an internal temperature into the thigh meat of 150° to 155°.
- Spritz it after 1 hour. then spritz every 20-25 minutes until it reaches 150° to 155°.
- Sauce it using your favorite sauce and smoke it until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°.
- let rest for 20 to 30 minutes and then serve with BBQ sauce on the side.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: The chicken is meant to be eaten as soon as it’s done resting. However, you can keep it warm in a pan covered in the oven at very low temperatures (175° to 200°) for up to 1 hour before serving.
How to Store: Store it in a container and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The chicken also freezes well for up to 3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator for 1 day before reheating.
How to Reheat: Place the desired amount of smoked chicken in a pan with ½ cup of water or chicken stock. Cover with a lid or foil and cook in the oven at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until warm.
Chef Notes + Tips
- You can absolutely use a standard charcoal grill to smoke food in, and if you like to grill and smoke, then look at pellet grills or even a stone-style grill, like the Big Green Egg.
- Feel free to use your favorite rub for this smoked chicken recipe, or you can even add additional ingredients such as chili powder or oregano or anything else you love and want to put in it.
- I like to use the rule that a savory rub should use a sweeter spritz and vice versa, or a sweeter rub should mean higher vinegar content for the spritzer.
- Seasoning Note: Season, do not cake the rub on it. It should not be a thickly coated rub.
- If you are in a pinch for time, split the chicken breasts from the thighs before smoking.
More BBQ Recipes
- Smoked Pork Shoulder
- Smoked Country Style Ribs with Mustard BBQ Sauce
- Kalbi Korean Short Ribs
- Smoked St. Louis Style Ribs
- Fall Off the Bone Ribs
Smoked Chicken BBQ Recipe
For the Rub:
- 4 tablespoons sea salt
- 2 tablespoons black pepper
- 2 tablespoon garlic granules
- 2 tablespoon onion granules
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
For the Spritzer and Sauce:
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup your favorite BBQ sauce
- 1 stick melted unsalted butter
For the Chicken:
- 2 whole chickens, cut in half and back strap removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Preheat the smoker to 250°.
- Rub: Combine all of the ingredients and set aside.
- Spritzer: Add the apple juice, cider, and water to a spray bottle and shake. Set aside.
- Sauce: In a small saucepot, add the BBQ sauce, butter, and 1 cup of the spritzer mix. Keep warm.
- Rub the olive oil all over both sides of the chicken, creating a thin layer.
- Next, generously season the chicken on both sides with the rub. There will be 2-3 tablespoons leftover.
- Add the chicken to the smoker and cook for 1 hour. Spray the chicken with 4-5 sprays each of the spritzer and do so after that every 20-25 minutes or until it reaches an internal leg temperature of 150° to 155°.
- Sauce the chicken using a brush and smoke until it reaches an internal leg temperature of 165°.
- Remove from the smoker and let rest for 20-30 minutes before serving.
- Serve alongside BBQ sauce.