Is there anything prettier than a browned bird?
I’ll never forget the first smoked whole chicken I ever tasted. It was on vacation and my father in law cooked it. When I saw how pink the meat was I first thought it was undercooked. Then I took a bite and realized it was pink from the 8 hours of smoke. It was the best chicken I had ever eaten. I was immediately addicted.
I’ve smoked more whole chickens than any other item, by a very large margin. You can usually find them for less than $1/lb, they don’t take a ridiculously long time, they’re relatively healthy, and holy wow are they good. This is an easy one for you to get really good at, really fast.
First and most importantly, brine the chicken – overnight if possible. Use my Basic Brine Recipe.
Chop the lemon, onion, apple and garlic cloves. Throw them in a bowl and mix together with salt, pepper and olive oil.
Take your chicken out of the brine and rinse with cool water. Set on a tray. Now take the happy mixture you just made and stuff it inside the chicken. This is going to add flavor and moisture from the cavity of the chicken in a way that you can’t believe.
Rub olive oil all over your bird. This will help give it a nice golden brown color. Then sprinkle salt and pepper all over, and a light dusting of paprika for color. You’re ready to light your coals. But first, wash your hands and go grab your favorite drink. You deserve it.
Set up your grill for indirect cooking (or use your smoker). Place your bird away from the heat, and throw a bunch of wood on your coals. Stick with fruit wood – apple is a good pairing with chicken. Feel free to mix it up to your particular tastes.
Assuming your grill holds its temp around 250, and depending on the weight, your chicken will cook for 3 – 5 hours. You want an internal temperature in the leg of 170. Obviously if the bird is bigger or your heat is lower, it will take longer to reach this temperature. Be patient. It’s worth it.
Let the chicken rest for at least 20 minutes before pulling apart or slicing. Oh, and when you pull the leg off, and it comes clean, and delicious juices pour out – it’s ok to giggle. Now please, enjoy.
And the leftovers can be put to such good use. My wife, Patti, has shared some of her leftover smoked chicken recipes. The tastiness she creates is illegal in 27 of the contiguous states. And when you’re all done, take that carcass and make Smoked Chicken Broth for a little slice of heaven next time you make soup.
Let me know how it goes when you try this recipe for your next smoked whole chicken. If you haven’t tried brining or stuffing the cavity before, I really think you’re going to be thrilled with the results. Now go enjoy browning that bird!