Once the weather warms up it seems like we are usually smoking something or grilling something. I love being able to throw some sort of meat on the grill or smoker and not have to worry about it. This smoked whole chicken is exactly that kind of thing. Season it, throw it on the smoker and let it cook for a few hours… Easy as that!
Who doesn’t love a good rotisserie chicken? You don’t have to be a genius to figure out why they are popular, its quite obvious…they are a pretty healthy option for a ready made meal and they are freaking good! WIN WIN! But did you know that most rotisserie chickens come pre-seasoned before they are sent to the store so they can filled with preservatives, MSG and a lot of salt. Now obviously it’s still a healthy option (much better than a cheese pizza or cheeseburger and fries), but it’s healthier to cook a whole chicken at home!!! And I am here to tell you that if you have the time (it’s not really time consuming because you throw it on the smoker and check it 90 minutes later), making your own whole chicken is so much better, and a bit cheaper! $5 for a cooked rotisserie chicken is cheap but most of the rotisserie chickens I see at the store are around 2 lbs… so that’s roughly $2.50/lb and whole chickens are usually a bit cheaper (you’re not going to save that much…but it’s enough to get you a Diet Coke, which is worth it to me)…WIN! WIN! And not to mention the fact that when you cook them yourself you control the flavor, no preservatives are added and they are delicious!
Do I have you convinced? The meat is tender, juicy, flavorful, and it does not need sauces or dressings (if you know me, you know I love sauce on everything, so if I’m saying this, you know the chicken must be good!). If you have any leftovers, it’s delicious the next day in a sandwich, in a salad or just the chicken itself! I would suggest cooking more than one. I never have any meat leftover. A 4 pound chicken is perfect for my family of 5, and we eat it with baked potatoes or Hasselback Potatoes, a salad and some garlic bread. It’s the perfect “lighter meal”.
If you like the store bought rotisserie chickens, you are going to love this chicken just as much. The seasonings I use are pretty simple. I like the Traeger Lemon Shandy rub and a Traeger Poultry and Chicken rub (not getting paid to say that). But you can use any sort of rub that you want.
Whole chickens are usually on the small side. Mine are usually about 4 pounds but can range anywhere from 3 to 5 pounds usually. Sometimes they will come with giblets inside other times there are no giblets… But it doesn’t matter (if there are giblets we throw them away anyway).
So how do I cook mine? Let me tell you!
Get a cutting board to prepare your chicken on, a baking sheet works too. You will need to carry your chicken out to the smoker on it, so make sure it’s sturdy. I love my cutting board that has a “trench” around it. I’m sure you’ve seen them…it’s a little dip that goes all the way around it …and it’s not just a decorative touch. It’s to catch the juices from pouring on to your counter or tabletop! Your chicken most likely will have juices that will come off it, so keep that in mind. A cutting board with a trench or a pan/baking sheet with sides works best!
Heat your smoker on 225 degrees. If your chicken has giblets that are stored inside the cavity you can just throw those away. Rinse your chicken inside and out and pat dry with paper towels (inside and out). Check and make sure the skin is seperated from the chicken by running your fingers in between the chicken itself and the skin (without tearing the skin). You want it to be detached from the skin so we can rub some seasonings and butter underneath the skin for cooking. This will help make sure your chicken stays moist and tender instead of drying out. You can see in the pictures below, it’s easy to do. You should be able to slip your fingers under the skin by the neck and down below near the bottom, and should be able to reach pretty much the entire area.
Now take your softened butter and your Lemon Shandy Seasoning (or whatever seasoning you prefer) and mix it together so it becomes a buttery spread. Lift the skin gently and cover as much of the chicken meat as you can with the butter spread. You can put the butter under the skin the best you can then can press down the skin from above to gently move it around if needed too. You will then take your other seasoning, I used Traeger Pork and Poultry Rub (or you can use the same seasoning you did under the skin) and sprinkle it all over the outside and the inside cavity of the chicken.
If you are using a meat probe thermometer, place it in the chicken. I stick mine in the thickest part of the breast, making sure it is not touching bone. You also should check the thigh meat, just to make sure it’s done as well. Where exactly do you place it in the thigh? On the chicken find the point where its legs attach to it’s body, it will look like it is attached by a piece of skin. That’s where you put your thermometer, through the skin where the chickens leg is attached to it’s body. This should result in the thermometer being partially buried in the thigh meat. If you hit a bone, remove the thermometer and try again, or pull the thermometer out a bit so it’s not touching the bone. You can also place your meat thermometer in the breast meat (parallel, not perpendicular with the breast) and again make sure you are not touching bone. Either place will give you an accurate read. Check both places to be safe if you are worried.
On the smoker it goes. The smoker should be set to 225 degrees. Set the chicken directly on the rack. Sometimes if the legs seem to be super floppy, or if I stuff the inside, I will tie the legs together for cooking. Some of you may wonder … which side is “up” when placing it on the smoker?
Or which side is breast meat? You can see in the photo below, a chicken placed breast side down and a chicken placed breast side up. There is no right or wrong way to cook your chicken. The chicken is going to cook no matter what! Some people say that you should start out with it breast meat down, then flip the chicken to breast up part way through cooking to make sure it’s evenly cooked. I am lazy and just don’t want to be bothered with flipping it, so I leave it breast meat up and my chicken turns out amazing. So like I said, there is no right or wrong way, you decide or try it several ways and decide if you can tell a difference. The photos below show you breast meat/side down and breast meat up so you can get a visual of which side is which. (Note: the only reason the “breast side up” photo has grill marks on the breast meat is because I placed it breast meat down for the photo so you could see which side is which for those who don’t know. I don’t normally place my chicken breast meat down for cooking and I don’t flip it part way through cooking like I mentioned above, but you can if you want ….but I must admit the grill marks make it look totally professional).
Let the chicken smoke for 90 minutes then turn the heat up to 275 to finish smoking. If it’s smaller, turn the heat up at the hour mark.
After turning up the heat, check the meat temperature. Keep checking your meat often, after turning the heat up, until it’s reaches 165 degrees.
(Note: if not using a meat probe that stays in the meat, try to poke it in the same spot when you check the temperature so you don’t loose as many juices.)
The chicken typically smokes for 30-35 minutes per pound. NOTE: coming times can vary greatly… just watch the internal temperature! Once the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, remove it from the smoker (a baking sheet works great for this or a cutting board). Loosely place some foil over the chicken and let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. For carving, we remove the legs/thighs (I hate bone-in meat unless it’s a pork chop, and hate dark meat, so I stick with the breast meat), then slice the breast meat.
We serve our smoked chicken with Baked Potatoes or Hasselback Potatoes, a salad, garlic bread, or we slice them up and eat the chicken on fresh rolls for a juicy and delicious chicken sandwich.
The chicken can be stored in the fridge for 4-5 days or can be frozen for later.
Hope you enjoy!
Smoked Whole Chicken
- 4 lb whole chicken, giblets removed
- 1 1/2 tsp Traeger Lemon Shandy Rub or rub of your choice-see notes
- 2-3 tbsp Traeger Pork and Poultry Rub or rub of your choice-see notes
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- Heat your smoker and set temperature to 225.
- Remove any giblets from the chicken. Rinse your chicken, inside and out and pat dry with paper towels, inside and out.
- Run your finger under the skin, making sure it is seperated so you can season under the skin.
- Mix your softend butter and the 1 1/2 tsp of Traeger Lemon Shandy Rub making a butter spread. Rub the butter under the skin of the chicken, covering it the best you can.
- Season the outside of the chicken (the skin) and the inside of the chicken (the cavity) with the Traeger Pork and Poultry Rub. I use about 2-3 tablespoons, but use as much or as little as you like. You can also use the same rub for both applications (the butter under the skin and the outside and cavity of the chicken).
- Insert the meat probe or meat thermometer (make sure it is one that can stay in the meat the entire time of cooking.) Make sure your thermometer doesn’t touch bone or you will not get an accurate read. If you don’t have a meat probe or thermometer that can stay in the meat while cooking, you will check the meat temperature after it has cooked for a while.
- Place your chicken directly on the smoker. I prefer breast side up. Shut the lid and let smoke for 90 minutes. (one hour if it is a smaller chicken).
- After 90 minutes, raise the temperature to 275 and check the temperature of the meat. If you are smoking a 4-5 pound chicken, it shouldn’t be done yet. If you are smoking a smaller chicken, turn up the heat at the hour mark and check the temperature at the hour mark.
- Let the chicken smoke until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
- Remove the chicken from the smoker once it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Place foil loosely over the chicken and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- After it has rested, you can carve it and enjoy!
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