To achieve a juicy smoked whole chicken, spatchcocking (butterflying) the chicken is a good idea. By removing the backbone and flattening the chicken we create a more even cooking shape. This also allows for easier penetration for the seasoning and smoke during cooking.
It is not difficult but you will need some kitchen shears or a good sharp knife. Smoking a whole chicken brought back a surprising memory. Back when I was working in the food business, I had the privilege of working with quite a few professional chefs – both customers and colleagues.
One colleague, in particular, was actually a Master Chef. Now to be clear, people use the term Master Chef quite inappropriately at times. Someone they know is a great cook so they are a “master chef”. A compliment to be sure, but the fact is that the Master Chef designation is a title given only to those who have many years of experience and apprenticeship. They must also have completed a rigorous course of testing and certification by the American Culinary Federation. In fact, there are less than 75 chefs in America with the designation of CMC (Certified Master Chef).
With that said, I was talking with our CMC, Steve, one day, and asked him what his favorite dish was. Keep in mind he had cooked thousands of dishes in his career, not to mention traveling the world and tasting some incredible food. To my surprise, his answer was – “A well-roasted chicken.” I don’t know if this one would meet Steve’s standards but I can tell you it was mighty tasty!
Dry brining the bird before smoking it will give you a better chance at a tasty and tender result. Learn more about dry brining (salting the meat). Choosing the right rub for your bird is a personal choice. If you need somewhere to start, consider the Penzies Northwoods Seasoning. It carries all of the flavors that will remind you of Thanksgiving dinner like rosemary, thyme, and sage. It will also add great color.
Consider using a smoking pan and rack to catch the drippings to reduce the mess in your smoker. It makes clean up much easier. You will also need an instant-read thermometer to ensure you are cooking your Juicy Smoked Whole Chicken to exactly the right temperature. This is not just about getting the doneness right, it is also about food safety as well.
A couple of additional things to consider here. The legs are always cooked before the breast meat correct? With the bird spatchcocked it is quite simple to remove the legs when they are done and return the bird to the smoker to finish the breast meat. Second is the – skin or no skin – question. A personal choice of course. Leaving the skin on, the salt and seasoning will end up on the skin, not the meat. If you remove the skin you will find the smoke creates a new skin on the bird that some people don’t enjoy. To soften up the exterior a bit, wrap the bird in foil as soon as she comes off the smoker. Then carve and enjoy.
Juicy Smoked Whole ChickenCourse: MainCuisine: SmokedDifficulty: Medium
All cooking times are approximate. Please use your instant-read thermometer and the internal temperature target as your guide.
Ingredients and supplies
1 whole chicken, skin removed, spatchcocked
Poultry rub (Penzies Northwoods Seasoning)
Smoking pan and rack
Vegetable oil or cooking spray
Wood pellets – hardwood blend
- SPATCHCOCK (BUTTERFLY).
Start by making your first cut as you see here along the right side of the backbone. The early part of the cut will go easily – as you approach the end of the cut it will require a bit more force.
- SECOND CUT.
As a second step, make the same cut along the left side of the backbone.
- SPLIT CARTILAGE.
With the backbone now removed, we are almost ready to flatten out the bird. Before doing so we need to make a shallow cut through some cartilage near the neck end of the chicken. Now flip the bird over and press down with steady pressure until she flattens out and your chicken is ready for the next step.
- DRY BRINE.
Coat the chicken with a light application of Kosher salt and place it in the refrigerator uncovered overnight. This will contribute greatly to a moist and tender outcome for your smoked chicken.
Before smoking, add a light coating of vegetable oil or cooking spray. Then season the bird on all surfaces and place it on a rack on a sheet pan as you see above. This Northwoods rub from Penzeys adds amazing color and flavor.
Preheat the smoker to 275 F | 135 C and smoke until the internal temperature reaches 160 F | 71 C.
- REST AND Serve.
Give the bird a rest for 10 to 15 minutes to let the juices settle then carve and enjoy!