I’m not one to eat meat on bones, so to make a whole chicken was a new experience for me. But, with this smoker my husband bought for me this past Christmas, it was my goal to smoke at least one meal a week.
I was hosting a quiet Saturday night bonfire with a few family and friends and decided to throw dinner together as well. I figured whole chicken would not only be delicious, but affordable. These chickens were around $5.00 a piece at Aldi, and that wasn’t even on sale! Perfect for a large group without breaking the bank.
So here’s the trick to making the perfect smoked chicken — Brine it first! I brined both of these chickens in a cooler with water, garlic powder, sugar, and salt. This step is great for any poultry. I have brined turkeys and it makes for the best and most tender meat. One thing to be sure to add is ice, I didn’t have the ability to put this in the fridge so I added the ice to keep the correct temperature.
After the chicken brines over night, take it out and pat it down with paper towels to dry it off. I did A LOT of research on how to smoke a chicken and what I found is that the skin tends to become rubbery. I found a way around this…butter. For that crispy skin I achieved in the picture, I melted butter and then added my spices to create a wet rub. I added a lot of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, salt, and pepper. That was it. I wish I could tell you the amounts but to be honest, I have been cooking long enough I don’t measure. I do it by eye balling and we like our seasoning so I tend to be heavy handed. I can tell you I did about the same amount of paprika as the rest of the spices combined.
Now, as far as the smoker…I have found that my electric smoker tends to cook whatever I put in there faster than the recommended time. Instead of cooking the chicken at 225 degrees as recommended, I set it at 195 for the first few hours. The trick to a smoker is low and slow so I lowered the temp a little. I used cherry wood, which gave a great flavor. After the internal temp hit 140 I turned the smoker up to 205 for an hour and then 225 for the final hour. This is because the meat hit a plateau, which means it gets “stuck” at the same temp for longer than any other temp. Raising that temp up allowed it to get past that in time for my guests! The changing of temps may not be necessary for you or your smoker, but because my smoker tends to cook faster than it should I have adjusted for it.
Once the meat got to it’s correct internal temp of 165 I pulled it out and let it rest (as you should do for pretty much all meat) for 15 minutes. Now I will tell you I pulled those chickens out and put them on a cookie sheet. The skin on the top was nice and crispy but the bottom was soggy. So, I will put a cookie cooling rack on top of the cookie sheet to keep that more crisp next time.
After you let it rest…DIG IN!!! This was so tender, juicy, and gone in a few minutes!
One trick I can tell you is to use the carcasses (gosh that sounds gross) to make your own chicken stock. I took both and threw them in the crock pot with a little water, a chopped onion, and that was it. The flavor of the smoke comes through really well into the stock. I actually used my stock tonight to make a goat cheese risotto and you could really taste that smoke! It paired really well with the smoked pork tenderloin that was for dinner tonight!
Hopefully this will encourage you to go out and try some new recipes yourself!