If you want to smoke a whole chicken on your pellet grill then I have you set with a great recipe. Let me show you all of my tips and tricks to get the most from your bird!
General Instructions For Smoking a Whole Chicken
Here are the general steps you will need to follow to smoke a chicken.
- Buy a chicken that weighs less than five pounds.
- Brine the chicken for at least four hours
- Pat the bird dry
- Season the chicken
- Smoke at 275F for a cook time of approximately two hours until the internal temperature of the breast is 165F and the thigh is 180F.
These instructions are based upon the excellent How to Smoke a Whole Chicken Guide at Extraordinary BBQ.
Brining the Chicken
I use the same simple chicken brine for whole chickens that I use for smoking chicken pieces like breasts, thighs and drumsticks but double the batch so there is enough brine to completely cover the birds.
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
Place the chicken into the brine and refrigerate for at least four hours but preferably overnight.
You want to brine the chicken to infuse the bird with seasoning and help protect it from drying out on the pit. One of the challenges of cooking a whole chicken is that the thighs and breasts do not always reach their target temperatures at the same time. You will often end up overcooking a part of the bird and the brine is a layer of protection to keep it juicy even it it does get overcooked in places.
After the bird has soaked you will need to pour off the brine and thoroughly dry the chicken with paper towels.
Stuffing the Chicken
This bird is going to get stuffed with aromatics and then will be securely trussed before smoking. You can get creative on your aromatics. For this chicken I used onion, celery, garlic and an orange. Another classic aromatic combination that works wonders with chicken is lemon and rosemary.
This is one of those chicken recipes that does not have a firm amount for how much of each aromatic to use. I cut them into pieces and just see how much I can fit inside of the bird. A slick trick is to thinly slice some of the citrus and slip it under the skin on the breast.
Once the chicken is stuffed you will want to truss it with some twine. Trussing the bird helps it cook more evenly, insures the stuffing stays in place and creates a prettier finished product than what you would get if the wings and legs were just flopping around.
The bird already is well seasoned with salt and sugar from the brine and is going to get a ton of flavor from the aromatics. Because of this I don’t mess around with an over the top dry rub for chicken. Instead I coat the skin with a little peanut oil and sprinkle it with black pepper before it goes on the smoker.
Smoke the Chicken on Your Pellet Grill
Set your pellet grill to a temperature of 275F using pellets made from oak/hickory. I used a Z Grills pellet grill for this cook but you could also do this on a Traeger or Pit Boss.
Place the chicken breast side up on the cooking grate and smoke for about 2.5 hours until the internal temperature of the chicken breast reads at least 165F and the thighs are 180F.
You should always use a digital thermometer to check for doneness but if you do not have one then a good test is that the leg and thigh should easily move and almost come off the bird when twisted.
The salt, sugar, smoke and aromatics combine to make this stuffed and trussed chicken pretty fabulous.
Note: If you are cooking on a Pit Boss pellet grill that does not have the 275F temperature setting then set the grill to 250F and extend the cooking time by 30-45 minutes.
Smoked Whole Chicken on a Pellet Grill
- 1 gallon Basic Brine
- 1 orange
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 head of garlic
- 3 celery stalks
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp black pepper
- 1 whole chicken About 4 pounds
- Brine the chicken in the refrigerator for at least four hours and overnight if possible.
- Roughly chop the orange, onion, celery and garlic.
- Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Stuff the chicken with the orange, onion, celery and garlic.
- Rub the chicken skin with peanut oil and lightly season with salt and pepper.
- Tightly truss the bird with twine.
- Set your pellet grill to 275F using hickory wood pellets.
- Smoke the bird, breast side up, for 2.5 hours or until the breast is 165F and the thighs are 175-185F.