Smoking a Whole Chicken

June 26, 2011
by Curt

Okay, here’s how it’s done! Actually, it’s not done yet, because it’s still on the smoker as I’m typing. I put the chicken on the smoker this morning at 10:30. It’s 12:30 now, and the internal temperature at the center of the breast is at 140 degrees, and the temperature is at 250 degrees inside the smoker.

Okay, I’ll describe the entire process, and then finish this off in a couple hours with pictures of the finished bird!

I started the process with the brine yesterday. I cooked the brine around noon, and cooled it in the refrigerator before putting the chicken into it. For the brine recipe and instructions, you can find that on this site. I used the Apple Cider Brine. At 8:00 last night, I put the chicken into a large plastic container that fit the bird with just a little room to spare. I filled the container with the brine, completely covering the bird, closed the lid, and put it into the refrigerator for the night.

At 6:00 am this morning, I removed the chicken from the brine, and thoroughly rinsed the bird to remove any brine residue. I then used one of my favorite (purchased) sweet rubs, (mostly honey powder and garlic), and lightly rubbed the breast and legs underneath the skin. You have to work your hand under the skin, and slowly pull it away from the flesh, making sure not to tear the skin. I then pulled the skin back into place to make sure the entire breast was covered to avoid burning during the smoking process.

I then put 1/2 of a red onion (chopped), and the meat of (6) pecans inside the cavity of the bird. And back into the refrigerator it went until 8:30 a.m.

Okay, now for the smoker!

I got the fire started a little before 10:00 am, and watched the temperature until the smoker reached 230 degrees. For wood, I used 4 (fist sized) chunks of peach, and mixed that with approximately 25 – 35 charcoal briquettes.  And for the kicker, I placed (6) whole, (still in the shell), pecans into the center of the fire.

As I said at the beginning of this writing, I place the chicken on the grill at 10:30. It’s now 1:20 pm, and the internal temperature at the center of the breast is at 158 degrees, and the smoker temperature is at 240 degrees. It did hit 250 degrees for a short while an hour ago, but I moved the smoker into the shade, plugged one hole, and it’s been holding steady at 240 degrees.

Okay, I’ll be back soon with pictures. It’s coming off when it reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees. Can you feel the anticipation and excitement? I can! I smoked a bone-in turkey breast 2 weeks ago the same way, and it was absolutely delicious! Except without the onion and pecans in the cavity.

All done! I cheated and took it off at 169 degrees. I couldn’t wait! I took it off at 2:15, so it smoked for a total of 3 hours and 45 minutes at 240 degrees.

 

I let it set in the container on the counter loosely covered in aluminum foil for about 45 minutes before carving. With my first cut into the breast, it literally squirted at me!

Cooked to perfection, and the taste is absolutely awesome!

 

Okay, there you have it! If I left any important details out, or there was something particular you would like to know, don’t hesitate to ask by comment or contact form.

Happy Smoking!

Apple Cider Brine

This brine is simple, but very flavorful. To me, the cinnamon is the kicker. The finished bird is very moist, as all brined poultry is, but using apple cider gives a wonderful, mellow apple flavor that is very pleasing.

I’ve experimented with replacing the 1 cinnamon stick with 2 Tablespoons of ground cinnamon. If you try the ground cinnamon, be sure it’s completely dissolved, as it can clump on you, and leave nasty little cinnamon globs. If you like cinnamon like I do, the ground cinnamon can really give you a stronger cinnamon flavor. Nothing wrong with experimenting, you just want to be careful not to over-power the bird’s natural flavor!

1 gallon apple cider
1 cup kosher salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cinnamon stick

Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from the heat, and cool to room temperature.

  • Bring temperature down to around 40 degrees before introducing the bird to it. Add ice cubes if necessary.
  • Before smoking, remove the bird from the brine and rinse thoroughly with cold water.

Works well with salmon and pork also