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Basic Pellet Smoker Chicken

disco

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One of my blog followers just got a pellet smoker. They have little cooking experience and asked me for a basic, no fuss recipe for cooking a whole chicken.

I had an immediate problem. You can just put a whole chicken in a pellet smoker and get a decent result but you get a much superior result by one advanced technique, spatchcocking. Spatchcocking is just cutting the spine and breast bone out so the chicken lays flat on the grill and cooks more evenly. I discussed this with the follower he felt he would be able to do it and has since got back to me he has tried it without difficulty. If you want, do this recipe with a whole chicken cooked with the breast side up.

To make the chicken, preheat your smoker to 375 F (190 C). Spatchcock a 1.25 kg (2 1/2 pound) chicken. Sprinkle a rub over both sides of the chicken. You can use a commercial rub or make your own. For this cook, I used my Basic Barbecue Rub. How much to use is a matter of taste. I suggest you start with 15 ml (1 tbsp) a side and adjust to your taste with future cooks.

If you are cooking a whole unspatchcocked bird, rub the inside of the body cavity.

Basic Pellet Smoker Chicken 03.jpg


Put the chicken in the smoker, skin side up. It is really much easier if you have a remote thermometer. If so, put the probe in the thickest part of the breast. If not start testing the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast after 35 minutes. Do not cook by time as this usually results in an overcooked bird and that will be drier.

When the internal temperature of the breast is 160 F (71 C), brush the surface of the chicken with barbecue sauce. You can make your own or use a commercial sauce. Close the smoker up.

Basic Pellet Smoker Chicken 01.jpg


Cook for 10 minutes to set the sauce.

Take the bird out and let it rest for 10 minutes.

A note on chicken safety, chicken should be cooked to 165 F (74 C) to be food safe but I prefer closer to 370 F (76 C) in the thickest part of the breast for my tastes. The thighs and drumsticks will be a higher temperature but that is the way it should be as they are moister parts. Remember, the internal temperature of the bird will continue to rise when you rest the bird.

Basic Pellet Smoker Chicken 02.jpg


To serve the bird, cut it into pieces. Start by cutting the drumsticks from the thighs. Just put the point of a knife in the joint and wiggle it into the joint and then cut through.

Cut the wings from the breasts using the same technique.

Cut the breasts halves apart and then across the breast to get four white meat portions.

Basic Pellet Smoker Chicken 04.jpg


Basic Pellet Smoker Chicken 05.jpg


Basic Pellet Smoker Chicken 06.jpg


The Verdict

This was a delicious chicken. The meat was very moist. The skin was somewhat crispy, easy to bite through and very tasty. If I was served this in a restaurant I would be very pleased.

Of course, you could:

  • Brine the chicken to make it moisture.
  • Work rub under the skin to get more flavour in the meat.
  • Cook at a lower temperature to get more smoke flavour and crisp at higher heat at the end.
  • A myriad other techniques smokers have developed.
Yet, when my follower tried this he said his family and guests raved about it and I suspect he isn’t going to be trying something different for a while. I did encourage him to try one technique at a time to see if he likes it better.

So, if you want easy and delicious, here it is!

Disco
 

gmc2003

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Great color on that bird Disco. It looks nice and juicy also.

Point for sure
Chris
 

bill ace 350

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Looks great!

I would not consider spatchcocking to be an advanced technique though.
 

Humo18

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Great step by step directions Disco and great photography to showcase your cook. Doesn't get easier than that.

Most people do not know how to spatchcock a whole chicken; I think your post encourages us to learn how to do it.
 

disco

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Great color on that bird Disco. It looks nice and juicy also.

Point for sure
Chris
Thanks, Chris. I forgot how good a basic cooked chicken is.

Looks great!

I would not consider spatchcocking to be an advanced technique though.
Har! See the next quote! Thanks for the kind words.

Great step by step directions Disco and great photography to showcase your cook. Doesn't get easier than that.

Most people do not know how to spatchcock a whole chicken; I think your post encourages us to learn how to do it.
It is an easy technique. It has to be I do it. Here is a video showing how.
 

Colin1230

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Great post disco!
I had planned to cook a whole bird tomorrow afternoon. You talked me into spatchcocking. Many thanks.
 

Fueling Around

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Great tutorial and suggestion to a follower and others.

Spatchcock is my only whole chicken method after trying it a number of years ago. The crisp skin is so good. I fold the wings under so they don't get over cooked until the last 30 minutes or so.
It is a better (advanced) cooking method over whole bird roasting of drying out the breast into sawdust and leaving the thighs a chewy taste ... not a delicacy.

Spine goes in the freezer sack to join the other bones for wonderful home made stock. My stock is a gelatin after reducing
 

chopsaw

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Great looking bird bud !
I rarely spatch them , but I just did one last week . I completely remove the rib bones and the breast bone / wish bone .
Really nice color on that .
 

disco

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Great looking bird bud !
I rarely spatch them , but I just did one last week . I completely remove the rib bones and the breast bone / wish bone .
Really nice color on that .
I have never done that. It sounds interesting.
 

chopsaw

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I have never done that. It sounds interesting.
I think you would see a difference in the end result . You're the perfect guy to do it .
 

Jabiru

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disco disco , great tutorial. I always do mine hot and fast as per your Temps, can I run low and slow at say 180F for an hour or so to get more smoke into it then turn it up without turning the skin to rubber?
 

disco

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disco disco , great tutorial. I always do mine hot and fast as per your Temps, can I run low and slow at say 180F for an hour or so to get more smoke into it then turn it up without turning the skin to rubber?
There are several options. Yes, you could start at a lower temperature (I would go more like 220F) until the internal temperature is about 120 F then kick up the heat to 400 F to finish off.

However, If I want more smoke flavour, I generally prefer to cook at 220 F to an internal temperature of about 140 F and then put it on my gas grill cranked to high to finish it off. The sear really improves the skin.

Another option is to just do thighs. By removing the skin, scraping the fat off and using a butter bath, you can get great bite through skins at a lower temperature. See my post https://www.smokingmeatforums.com/threads/pia-bbq-chicken.286760/
 

jmusser

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Great step by step. Appreciate that. I still haven't spatchcocked by it is on my list to do!
 

Fueling Around

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Sorry disco disco
Saw a like got that got posted as "sad" What was I thinking?

To any lurkers, spatch cock is a cutting out the spine of the chicken. Open it from spine side and press flat so the thighs are outside
 

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