After years of barbecuing and grilling, I accidentally tripped on what’s now my favorite for the best BBQ chicken on the grill recipe! A few years ago I tried grilling salmon on cedar planks for the first time. Now I never grill salmon any other way.
So, one day I wanted to do something different with a whole chicken and since I didn’t have any beer for the usual beer can chicken, I thought I’d try grilling it on a cedar plank. WOW! was all I could say when I took it off the grill and took the first bite. Not only did the chicken get infused with that wonderful cedar flavor, but talk about moist. I didn’t even realize how juicy the chicken would be because it was cooked with indirect heat while sitting on the blank. Now I have a hard time grilling chicken, whether whole or quartered, any other way. It’s just too good!
RULE #1 SOAK THE CEDAR PLANK!
The whole purpose of using the plank is to get a good smoke. If you don’t soak the board for at least 30 minutes, it’s too dry and will burn up quickly. It’s not as important to soak it that long when you do Salmon since salmon really only takes a few minutes to cook. A whole chicken, on the other hand, needs about an hour to cook so you don’t want your board burning up before the chicken is done.
Cooking Time & Temperature: We will be cooking HOT, about 375°F to 400°F. (sometimes my grill gets hotter than that but I end up settling down around the 375 mark.
Proper BBQ Grill: You can use a smoker or any charcoal grill as long as it has a cover, decent vents for controlling airflow. Gas grill, hmmm, I’m not a fan of gas, but if you have a gas grill, okay. Needless to say, gas is easier to keep the temperature consistent but I think hardwood charcoal is the only way to go.
Charcoal: Hardwood Charcoal. It’s just the best, period. But do NOT use any lighter fluid of any kind. Use a chimney starter. I’ve been using these for years. Not only are they quick and easy, but you save the money on not having to buy starter fluid. And, most importantly, you never have the nasty smell or risk getting that starter fluid flavor into your food.
Prep the Chicken for Grilling
- Rinse the chicken and remove giblets etc. Rinse inside and out. I like my chicken really clean before I grill it.
- Be sure it’s fully thawed. In a rush, I’ve quick thawed a chicken before and put it on the grill to find out later that the outside is overdone but the very center is still cold and blood red. Not good!
- Rub. Coat the meat with your favorite BBQ spice rub. Inside and out! With a whole chicken, I make sure and coat the outside well AND coat the inside so you get as much flavor of the spice into the meat as possible. You can do a lot of flavor variation at this step. You can go with lemon and/or limes for a citrus flavor, go with an herb mix, or any rub recipe you like. My personal favorite happens to be a Sweet Mesquite Seasoning that I buy at the local Costco store which I’ve not duplicated with a recipe of my own yet. It has what I’d call a sweet southwest flavor. Here are a few spice rub recipes you can try or take a look at our wide selection of BBQ dry rub recipes.
Basic Dry Rub for BBQ Chicken on the grill
- 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground oregano
- 4 tablespoon paprika (the sweet kind — not the hot kind)
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 tablespoon celery salt
- 1 tablespoon salt
Here’s a more common Chicken spice rub. Has what I’d call a more Thanksgiving flavor because of the sage and thyme in the spice mix.
Basic Chicken Dry Rub Recipe
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons whole mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon sage
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
Grilling the Chicken
Once your grill is at the right temperature and all the coals are good and hot, put in the whole chicken, breast side up, on the cedar plank and put it in the center of the grill directly over the coals. You want good heat directly under the cedar plank so the cedar will smoke through the whole cooking process. I normally have the coals lowered so they aren’t too close to the grill. Otherwise, you can burn up the board if it’s too close. Chicken should be cooked (depending on size) 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. It all depends on the heat and size of the chicken. You can use a thermometer if you like, but I always use the “until the juices run clear” principle. I just cut into it and make sure it’s cooked to the center and no blood runs out. If you are using a thermometer, the chicken should bet to 170°F.