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How to Smoke Chicken

Want to know how to smoke chicken? Smoking a chicken is much like smoking any other sizable piece of meat.

It needs to be done fairly long and fairly slow, not underdone – the internal temperature of the breast meat must reach 170F  –  otherwise, there is a risk of food poisoning. Equally, it doesn’t need to be overcooked.

See this page on how chicken can be barbecued safely for more information.

How to Smoke Chicken – Preparation

Get a whole chicken around 3 or 4lbs or 1.5Kg.

Some people like to wash poultry under running water before cooking. I think this splashes raw chicken juices around the sink which has to be cleaned up and does nothing else to improve flavor.

You could marinate the chicken marinate the chicken – nothing too heavy; tandoori marinade would be too much and wouldn’t go with smoke at all.

Alternatively, BBQ rubs are a good choice and much quicker to do.

Or even make a basting sauce to mop on later in the smoking process. Try mixing up 2 tablespoons of runny honey and 2 tablespoons of mustard.

You could just brush it with olive oil and leave it at that if you prefer.

Making Smoke

First choose your smoking wood – maple, apple, cherry, a small amount of hickory may be, are all good. Put them in water to soak for 30 minutes or so

Time to light up  – lump wood is best. Get your coals lit and glowing nicely – use plenty, this will be burning for 90 minutes or so.

Barbecuing the Chicken

Whether you have a smoker or a standard barbecue with a lid now is the time to put the chicken in. If you have a standard barbecue, with a lid – you will be using indirect heat to cook with.

Once the chicken is in, either put your smoker box with wood chips or a suitable log of wood in the firebox or above the heat source.

And close the lid for an hour or so. If your barbecue has a temperature gauge keep an eye on it – adjust the air vents to keep the temperature around 240F – 250F i.e. around 120C.

After an hour open the lid and inspect it – if you have a meat thermometer check the temperature. Now is the time to baste it as well, daub it on and get it in all the nooks and crannies around the legs and wings.

Close the lid and wait another 20-30 minutes, check the temperature again. Is the internal temperature of the meat 170F (80C)? If not baste if again and try again in another 10 minutes.

IF the temperature of the barbecue has been kept at a constant 250F or so, it should really be done by now – or at least it won’t be far from done if the bird was larger.

Carve it up and serve it with fresh bread, coleslaw, marinated peppers, and olives.

4 Smoke Chicken Recipes

Smoked Champion Chicken Recipe


2-3 whole fryers, or 2-3 split or cut-up fryers
2 cups beer, white wine, Italian or Garlic salad dressing, lemon or limeade, ginger ale or any liquid you like

Fill water pan 3/4 full with liquid. Put the chicken in a heavy-duty plastic bag or deep bowl and coat with marinade. Close bag or cover bowl and refrigerate several hours or overnight, turning chicken in the marinade occasionally. Put on cooking grill or in rib rack on cooking grill. Add marinade to the water pan.

Cook until an internal temperature of 180° is reached, or until leg moves easily in joint. Use juices in the water pan to make sauce or gravy.

Serves 6 to 8

Smoked Italian Chicken Recipe

Italian dressing mix is the basic ingredient in this marinated chicken recipe.  The longer it marinates the spunkier the flavor.


  • 1 – 3 to 4 lb. chicken
  • 1 package Italian dressing mix
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine or lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed

Rinse chicken and pat dry.  Combine remaining ingredients in a jar and shake until well mixed.  Place chicken in a heavy-duty plastic bag with lock-seal, pour Italian marinade over chicken and seal bag.  Coat chicken thoroughly and marinate overnight turning occasionally to coat entire chicken well.  Remove from marinade (pour remaining marinade in water pan) and place on the smoker grid to smoke.

Charcoal:  Use 5 pounds charcoal, 3 quarts hot water, 2 wood sticks and smoke 2 ½ – 3 hours.

Electric:  Use 3 quarts hot water, 2 wood sticks and smoke 2 – 2 ½ hours.

Smoked Jamaican Chicken

A spicy sauce gives the chicken a special out-of-this-world flavor.


  • 2 – 2 ½ pound chickens, split
  • 1/2 cup chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Wash and dry chickens.  Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and marinate chickens for 3 – 4 hours in this mixture.  Remove chickens from marinade and place on smoker grid.  Brush with marinade sauce before cooking and just before serving.

Charcoal:  Use 5 pounds charcoal, 3 quarts hot water, 2 wood sticks and smoke 2 ½ – 3 hours.

Electric:  Use 3 quarts hot water, 2 wood sticks and smoke 2 – 2 ½ hours.

Serves 4 – 6

Smoked Seasoned Chicken


  • Four 2 to 3 lb. chickens
  • Vegetable oil
  • Seasoning salt

Fill water pan 3/4 full with liquid. Rinse chickens and pat dry. Coat thoroughly with oil and sprinkle generously with seasoning. Place two chickens on the middle grill and two on the top grill. A simple, economical and delicious way to feed a crowd.

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