If you want to smoke a whole chicken on your Pit Boss pellet grill (or Traeger, Z Grills, etc) 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 and a half hours until the internal temperature of the breast is 165F and the thigh is 180F.
- If you are cooking on a Pit Boss Smoker that does not have the 275F setting then smoke at 250F and extend the cooking time by at least 30 minutes.
These instructions are based upon the excellent How to Smoke a Whole Stuffed Chicken Guide at Extraordinary BBQ.
Brine the Whole Chicken Before Smoking
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 Before Smoking
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.
If you are using an older model Pit Boss that does not have the 275F setting then dial your grill in to 250F. This recipe will still work just fine but you will need to extend the cook time by about 30 minutes.
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.
I leave the chicken breast side up for the entire cook. There is a lot of heat radiating up from the grease tray on these cookers and I have found that by keeping the thighs closer to the hotter part of the smoker that they tend to reach their target temperature about the same time as the breast.
If the thighs do end up overcooking then it is not a big deal as they actually benefit from higher final temperatures. I love it when the thighs are fall apart tender and the breast still slices cleanly!
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.
Special Considerations for Using a Pit Boss Pellet Grill
If you are using a Pit Boss pellet grill that has the Flame Broiler option then I suggest you pay extra attention and closely monitor the temperature of your chicken the first time you try this method.
The grills with the Flame Broiler do not have a heat deflector over the fire pot so the temperature distribution is often quite uneven inside the cook chamber.
Just because the control panel is reading a temperature of 250F from the thermocouple on the left side of the grill do not assume that is the actual temperature in the location where the bird is cooking. This is true whether the grill has a standard control panel or is upgraded to a PID controller.
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.