Smoked Whole Chicken on a Charcoal Grill

We prioritize simplicity in our lives and that includes our cooking. So we own a basic Weber kettle charcoal grill instead of a fancier or trendier model. And I’ve learned over the past few years that our simple grill can smoke meats just as well as it can cook burgers, hot dogs and steaks.

I’ve smoked a few varieties of meat, but the whole chicken is easily my favorite so far. It’s easy to prepare and quick to cook at just a little more than two hours. We love a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store because it’s so versatile, and this Smoked Whole Chicken yields a dish that’s like a homemade rotisserie chicken with extra smoky flavor.

You’ve got to try this one if you’ve got the means. Feel free to ask us any questions before or during your cooking experience by commenting directly on this post or sending us a message on the #FoodieScore Facebook page. We’ll do our best to help you out!


Smoked Whole Chicken on a Charcoal Grill

What You Need:

1 whole chicken, approximately 5-6 pounds

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon pepper

2 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon garlic powder

4 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup cooking oil

grilling supplies (see directions below)

What You Do:

1. Open your chicken (which should be fresh or thawed in the refrigerator) and place on a four-sided baking pan or cooking sheet.

2. Use kitchen shears (scissors) to cut out the backbone of the chicken and remove any internal organs. This will help the chicken position flat on the grill for cooking. (This step is optional, but I like the way it simplifies things later.)

3. In a mixing bowl, add all seasonings and combine thoroughly with butter and cooking oil to create a dry rub paste, and then rub that onto the entire chicken, rubbing under the skin on the breast and anywhere else possible.

4. On your grill, bank your charcoal on one half. On the other half in a disposable aluminum container, add a cup or two of apple juice, cherry soda or just water to add moisture to the smoky air you’ll create. This will help keep the bird juicier as it smokes.

5. Light your coals and allow the flames to die down, and then add a couple chunks of smoking wood to the coals. (Alternatively, you can add a handful of wood pellets to a packet of tinfoil and close it up, poking holes to allow the smoke to penetrate. Then place the foil packet atop the coals. I prefer chunks over pellets because the pellets are messier, but a foil packet can help with that. Pellets are really meant more for a specific type of grill, but I’ve been using a large package of pecan pellets ever since I bought them not knowing the best use for them. I’ll switch to wood chunks for the future.)

6. Cover your grill cooking grate with olive oil cooking spray, and place it on your grill. Add the grill lid, and be sure the bottom and lid vents on the grill are open about halfway. You should see smoke exiting the top of the grill.

7. Get your chicken and place it on the half of the grill above the liquid mixture, opposite the half with the coals, breast side up (for indirect cooking). It’s also important that the grill’s lid vents are directly over the chicken. This setup will ensure that the smoke rises through the chicken and to the vent. Drippings off the chicken will drop into the liquid mixture in the pan below the chicken, and that moisture will help keep the chicken more moist.

8. Cook the chicken for an hour and then check it. You can baste it with butter and rotate it, but that’s not always necessary.

9. After two hours, the chicken will almost be done. Use a meat thermometer to check the chicken to make sure it’s at 165 degrees deep in the breast.

10. If a little more cooking is required, open the vents fully to speed up the process and return the cover. Cook for another half hour or so and check again. By that time, at two and a half hours, the chicken should absolutely be done cooking without being overdone.

Once the chicken has reached proper temperature, remove the chicken onto a clean surface. Allow the bird to rest for 15 to 30 minutes before carving.

You can remove the legs and wings first and then carve the breast if you’d like. There’s really no wrong way to deconstruct and eat.

We’ve enjoyed this as smoked chicken with sides. We’ve eaten the meat on sandwiches. We’ve enjoyed shredded chicken on tacos. There are so many ways to enjoy the meal! How did your chicken turn out, and how did you enjoy it?

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