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Easy Smoked Chicken

Easy Smoked Chicken is a great summer meal. The chicken turns out incredibly flavorful, tender and juicy. Perfect for BBQs or any time you want to cook a whole chicken but want to do something a little different than traditional roasting.

smoked whole chicken on baking sheet

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Traeger Smoked Chicken Recipe

Kevin and I love smoked meats. One of our favorite restaurants to go to near by is a BBQ place. Growing up in Houston, I have had plenty of brisket and ribs in my lifetime, but I had never learned how to cook those things myself.

My thoughts and heart have been been with Houston so much this past week. I have seen the neighborhood my mom lived in when I was in college completely flood and people I knew from growing up lose so much.

A few years ago, a new family moved in on my street. As I got to know Becca, I discovered that we had a mutual love for food and cooked and ate together many afternoons and evenings during the time we were neighbors. We often still get together for girls nights and will make dinner together. Becca and her husband had a Traeger Pellet Grill.

I thought this was the coolest thing ever because it seemed to demystify the art of smoking a little bit. The Traeger made smoking seem really easy, in fact. And I basically made it my mission to get one someday. The downside is that they are not an inexpensive purchase.

Well, I spent the better part of the last year trying to convince Kevin that we needed a Traeger. Our inexpensive smoker wasn’t giving us the results we wanted. It seemed finicky. Foods cooked too hot, or they didn’t taste smokey at all.

I knew that everything I had ever eaten that was cooked on a Traeger was really good. That just made me want one even more. We finally bought one this summer and it is hands down one of my most-used and most-loved purchases of 2017.

The only other items up on that list are things like a new camera for me, our backyard landscaping, and my car (though technically we bought that at the very end of 2016).

What finally convinced Kevin to get on board with purchasing a Traeger Pellet Grill had everything to do with saving money. We wanted to smoke Brisket and Turkey for our 1 year anniversary party as part of the menu. We had eaten at our BBQ joint so many times together over the last few years and both loved their smoked turkey and brisket. It only seemed natural that we would celebrate with those items on our menu.

I priced out the cost of catering from various places, our favorite place included, and compared that to the cost of buying the meats ourselves. The price difference was astounding. Brisket catered was around $20+ per pound. Turkey was around $15 per pound.

To illustrate my main arguing point for the Traeger purchase, you should know that a large Brisket at our Costco is only about $3-4 per pound. So, yeah, there was some money to be saved for sure in terms of a long-term investment.

Kevin is usually pretty interested in an argument if it involves “saving money.” So, we ended up buying a Traeger as an anniversary gift to each other.

We purchased it a little early so that we could practice before hand and get the recipes just right. I always recommend testing new recipes and cooking techniques ahead of time if you’re planning a holiday, dinner party, or other big event. We definitely had some learning and troubleshooting to do along the way before we came up with our perfect method for the results that we wanted.

We love the way this Rosemary Beer Brined Turkey turned out for our party and we use this brine recipe often on turkey breasts. Besides brisket and ribs, we’ve been cooking just about everything on our Traeger. I’ve actually only used our regular grill about twice since the purchase. Once was to cook Naan (something that cooks better on an incredibly hot grill or griddle).

One of the things I love to cook on the Traeger is this smoked chicken. You can usually get a whole chicken pretty cheap. It is a nice fix it and forget about it kind of thing to have for dinner, with a nice flavor difference to roasting a chicken.

I like to brine my chicken for this smoked whole chicken first to season it with salt all the way through rather than just on the surface. I think using a smoked chicken brine also helps the meat stay really juicy and tender. Then, I rub it all over with my Homemade BBQ Chicken Rub .

See? there was a reason that I posted that recipe the other week…building up to this and all.

I have probably made this smoked whole chicken about 5 times since getting the Traeger and I love the way it turns out. We made it again last weekend and I was reminded that I had taken photos the last time that I prepared the recipe.

I seem to do this a lot. I thought I should probably get it posted now. We usually just slice it up and serve the chicken as a main dish with some sides.

how to smoke chicken on traeger

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Smoked Chicken Ingredients

This Traeger smoked chicken requires very few ingredients. To make the smoked chicken brine, all you need is cold water and Morton’s kosher salt. And for the chicken itself you’ll need a whole chicken and some Homemade BBQ Chicken Rub.

Seriously, that’s it! The smoker adds so much flavor to the chicken that you really don’t need additional spices in the rub or brine.

For the complete ingredient list and detailed instructions, scroll to the bottom of this post for the FREE printable recipe card.

How to Smoke Chicken

Before smoking the chicken, you’ll need to brine it for a minimum of 2 hours. The smoked chicken brine is a simple combination of kosher salt and water, and you pour it over the chicken in a zip-top bag.

Once the chicken has finished brining, you should rinse it off and pat it dry. Then, rub the chicken inside and out with the BBQ rub.

Prepare your smoker to a low heat setting. This smoked whole chicken needs to smoke at 160ºF for 3 hours, then you need to increase the temperature to 225ºF and continue smoking the chicken until it registers and internal temperature of 165ºF.

Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes on your counter before slicing and serving.

How Long to Smoke a Whole Chicken

The chicken will need to smoke for 3 hours at 160ºF. Once you turn the heat up to 225ºF, there’s no set amount of time your chicken will need to smoke for before it reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF.

If you’re smoking a larger chicken, it’ll need to cook for longer at 225ºF. And a smaller chicken will require less time. There’s no exact science here, so monitor the chicken’s internal temperature and take it out once it reaches 165ºF.

smoked chicken on baking sheet with bbq rub

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Can I Use Another Seasoning Blend?

Of course! If you don’t like the flavors of the rub that I use in this recipe for smoked chicken, you can use whatever spice blend you like. Just be careful not to add too much additional salt if you do brine the chicken. Personally, I like the way the Homemade BBQ Chicken Rub creates a nice crispy crust. The heat causes the sugar in it crystalizes on top of the chicken skin.

Tips for Making Smoked Chicken

Don’t worry, if you don’t have a Traeger Pellet Grill, you can still follow the general instructions of the recipe using whatever smoker you might have. You may even try experimenting with one of those smoker boxes for a traditional grill if you’re able to keep the temperature down low enough.

Also note that depending on the brand of kosher salt you use, you’ll need different amounts of salt because the different brands available on the market have different densities. I use Morton’s kosher salt in this recipe, but have included conversions in the recipe card below.

And you can definitely use the chicken in other recipes. Take a look through all of my chicken recipe archives to see what looks good. I think the meat from this Traeger chicken would be great on Honey Pecan BBQ Sauce Chicken Sliders.

More Easy Chicken Recipes:

This Honey Mustard Baked Chicken is a family favorite! I make this all the time because it’s so easy to prep and it’s so flavorful.

If I have a little more time on my hands, I like to make a batch of Chicken, Black Bean, & Spinach Enchiladas. They’re easy to make but do require some assembling.

This Creamy Orange Almond Chicken and Rice is one of my favorite fall dinner recipes. It comes together quickly and tastes so comforting.

When I’m in a time crunch, I like to make this Sante Fe Chicken Salad Wrap. It’s hearty and filling and is a great on-the-go lunch option.

Have you ever made smoked chicken?

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Easy Smoked Chicken

Easy Smoked Chicken

Yield: serves 8
Prep Time: 4 hours
Cook Time: 4 hours
Additional Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 8 hours 20 minutes

Easy Smoked Chicken is a great summer meal. The chicken turns out incredibly flavorful, tender and juicy. Perfect for BBQs or any time you want to cook a whole chicken but want to do something a little different than traditional roasting.

Ingredients

Simple Brine

  • 2 quarts (8 cups) Cold Water, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Morton Kosher Salt

Chicken

Instructions

To Brine the Chicken

  1. Bring 1 cup cold water to boil. I usually do this in a 2 quart glass measuring cup in the microwave, however you can do this stovetop in a saucepan if you prefer.
  2. Add the 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of Morton Kosher Salt (not table salt!) to the boiling water and stir until dissolved. Stir in the remaining 7 cups of cold water so that you have 8 cups of water total.
  3. Place the whole chicken, giblets removed and discarded, in a gallon sized freezer zip top bag.
  4. Place the bag inside a large bowl.
  5. Transfer the salt water to the bag containing the chicken. Zip the bag to seal.
  6. Place the bowl with the chicken and brine filled bag in the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 8 hours.

To Smoke the Chicken

  1. Remove the chicken from the brine.
  2. Discard the salt water. Rinse the chicken inside and out.
  3. Place the chicken on a large baking sheet and pat dry.
  4. Rub the chicken inside and out with the Homemade BBQ Chicken Rub. I like to carefully separate the skin over the breasts from the meat so that I can put some of the rub under the skin.
  5. Let the chicken sit while you prepare the smoker.
  6. Prepare your smoker to a low heat setting.
  7. On our Traeger, we use the "smoke" setting (around 150-160 degrees F) and we either use Oak Pellets or the Gourmet Blend Pellets for our wood. Hickory or pecan would also work well for chicken.
  8. Transfer the chicken from the baking sheet and place it on the smoker, insert the probe of a digital meat thermometer that is safe for BBQing into the thickest part of the breast, and smoke on 150-160 degrees F according to manufacturer instructions at 160 for about 3 hours.
  9. Increase the temperature to 225 degrees F and continue to cook until the the meat thermometer registered 165 degrees F.
  10. Remove the chicken from the smoker and let rest, loosely tented with foil, on a baking sheet for 20 minutes before slicing.

Notes

Depending on the brand of kosher salt you use, you'll need different amounts of salt because the different brands available on the market have different densities. I use Morton's kosher salt in this recipe, however here are the conversions:

Diamond Crystal: 1/2 cup salt per 2 quarts of liquid.

Morton's Kosher: 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons salt per 2 quarts of liquid.

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Nutrition Information
Yield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 211Total Fat 11gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 7gCholesterol 76mgCarbohydrates 2gFiber 0gSugar 2gProtein 24g

GoodLifeEats.com offers recipe nutritional information as a courtesy and is an estimate only. This information comes from online calculators. Although GoodLifeEats.com makes every effort to provide accurate information, these figures are only estimates.

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Jen

Wednesday 27th of May 2020

I don’t even know how many times I’ve made this smoked chicken since I first found the recipe a couple years ago. It has become my go to for holidays, bbqs, or in my case today, a Thursday. It is so good and always a huge hit!

Katie

Friday 29th of May 2020

I'm so glad you love it as much as we do! Thanks for stopping by to let me know. :)

Drake

Sunday 7th of July 2019

What is the total cooking time usually?

Bishal Gupta

Monday 3rd of June 2019

I am so addicted now that I am into my 3rd round of smoking following this recipe. Chicken never tasted so good. Thanks you for the awesome recipe.

Bishal

Katie

Monday 3rd of June 2019

I'm so glad you like it and thanks for taking the time to come and let me know! :)

Ken

Tuesday 12th of February 2019

Making this tonight - The recipe looks great, and can't wait to try it. Not sure that I followed the directions completely - It looks like you are recommending to set the grill at 150-160 and smoke for about 3 hours. I followed this, and the meat temp only reached about 106 degrees. I wonder if I was supposed to start at 225 for the 3 hour cook time?

Katie

Tuesday 2nd of April 2019

Hi, please reference the instructions below for best results (copied and pasted from original recipe). Please note the bolded portions:

On our Traeger, we use the "smoke" setting (around 150-160 degrees F) and we either use Oak Pellets or the Gourmet Blend Pellets for our wood. Hickory or pecan would also work well for chicken. Transfer the chicken from the baking sheet and place it on the smoker, insert the probe of a digital meat thermometer that is safe for BBQing into the thickest part of the breast, and smoke on 150-160 degrees F according to manufacturer instructions at 160 for about 3 hours. Increase the temperature to 225 degrees F and continue to cook until the the meat thermometer registered 165 degrees F.

Lisa

Saturday 8th of December 2018

This chicken looks great. We got a 8 pound chicken. Does anything need to be adjusted? Thank you so much for great recipe.

Katie

Sunday 9th of December 2018

just make sure you cook until the internal temp of the breast reads 165 degrees F. The time may be slightly longer.