Smoking is a world of myth shrouded in mystery for would be charcoal smokers. The complexities of barbeque cuisine with its die-hard devotees of grilling can be intimidating for first-time smokers. Others are simply confused by what goes into creating that elusive aroma drifting over from the charcoal grill.

6 Secrets To Smoking Chicken

There are a few things to remember if you’re going to experience the melt-in-your mouth smoke flavored roasted chicken you’ve been fantasizing about. Here are our six tips to great smoked chicken:




  1. Great chicken
  2. Fresh, fabulous spices
  3. The right tools
  4. Smart heat control
  5. Sublime Timing
  6. Sweet smoke

Great Chicken

Not all chickens are equal. If you were raised on a farm you know already what I am going to say. Happy, free-range birds make by far the best flavor. These yard-fed birds enjoy plenty of freshwater, lots of healthy exercise and supplement their grain food with grubs and greens – pure chicken heaven. For smoking purposes, free-range chickens are impossible to beat when it comes to flavor

If you can’t get your hands on a free-range chicken, opt for the freshest, plumpest three to five pound birds you can find. Did you mention frozen? Ah the horror, but give it a whirl anyway.

Fresh, Fabulous Spices

Use only the freshest spices you can find. You’ll discover there is a world of difference between the dried spices that have been hiding up the back of the pantry way too long and the fresh stuff, preferably picked straight from the garden or grind your own. Freshly ground spices really release all their flavors. Combine these in a dry rub, definitely the way to go with barbequing chicken.

For the best, most reliable results, try to stick with a proven ratio. All dry rub recipes used by top-notch competitors start with sugar and salt. You then add in spices in a ratio referred to as the 8:3:1:1 rub. A sample dry rub often looks like this:

  • 8 tablespoons light brown sugar densely packed
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (no salt variety)
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/3 teaspoon crushed thyme
  • 1/3 teaspoon onion powder

Optional herbs include:

  • Cumin
  • Oregano
  • Coriander
  • Sage
  • Rosemary

When preparing a chicken dry rub, you can reduce or omit the brown sugar.

Apply rub under the skin of your chicken for a couple of hours. If your rub has the chance to be absorbed for 24 hours your spices will mix with the chicken’s natural juices, completing marinade.

Wrap your rubbed chicken in plastic wrap and return to the refrigerator. Remove about an hour before you start cooking to ensure the chicken is a room temperature.

The Right Tools

You will find many good smokers on the market. The offset smoker is a classic smoker design and one of the most popular. Food smokes in a long horizontal chamber while charcoal and smoke wood burn in a firebox attached to one side.

Next you’ll need a good oven thermometer to ensure your oven temperature is consistent and an “instant read” thermometer to ensure your meat is cooked – no one appreciates undercooked chicken!

You will need a good pair of long, strong tongs and a pair of insulated food gloves. Or, say “hello” to burnt fingers!

Smart Heat Control

All the great barbeque recipes are based on smart heat control. Follow suggested temperatures and use good quality oven and instant thermometers to ensure your working at a safe minimum temperature.

Sublime Timing

Sublime timing is linked to temperature control. The lower the heat, the longer it will take to cook. Base the timing on your chicken’s internal temperature. Be patient and don’t fudge it or you barbeque chicken will come out undercooked and unloved!

Sweet Smoke

This is the ingredient that puts the “magic” into your barbeque. If you truly want the melt-in-your mouth smoke flavored roasted chicken you’ve been fantasizing about, get your smoke right and you are surely on the path to righteousness.

Always use seasoned hardwood chips or chunks from hickory, oak, mesquite, cherry or maple. Never, upon pain of being banished forever to barbeque purgatory give in to temptation and resort to softwoods such as pine, fir, spruce, or Cyprus. These are bitter and some are quite toxic.

Smokers Away

Remember to soak your hardwood chips for about an hour in water before draining and drying them. Next step on your barbeque chicken odyssey is to fire up your offset smoker and raise the temperature to around 235oF (113oC). Place the wood chips directly on the coals. Try to keep that temperature as consistent as you can and don’t over do it with wood chips. Too much smoke makes the chicken bitter! Maintain the temperature somewhere between 200 and 235oF (93-113oC) for the ideal smoked chicken.

Place your chicken in the long horizontal section of your offset smoker, breast side down initially. After one and a half to two hours, turn the chicken over to finish.

No peeking! Constantly raising the lid loses heat and smoke. Only raise the lid enough to turn the chicken. If you have maintained an even temperature, it should take four+ hours until the chicken is ready to serve.

Get Ready To Serve

Check the internal temperature of the chicken with an “instant read” thermometer in the meatiest part of the breast. Your magic temperature is 160oF (71oC). Remove the chicken and let it rest for 10 minutes to allow it to finish cooking in its own juices. Serve as required. Enjoy! I’d recommend a nice quick recipe so you can enjoy your delicious chicken as soon as possible see this page full of recipes.

Simply Delicious

Barbeque chicken is easy to overlook but done well it is a firm family barbeque favorite and one of the most forgiving meats to smoke. To complement, it try grilling some pineapple, mango or peaches on a skewer – delicious.

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