Whats the best whole chicken for smoking?

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Master of the Pit
Original poster
OTBS Member
Nov 18, 2010
Gainesville, FL
so i've smoked 2 chickens..one was probably 4-5 months ago and i think i bought a "while fryer" from publix...approx 4-5lbs for $5.  i smoked it at 225-230 for about 5 hours and it was delicious..pulled apart nicely and cook all the way through

so last night again i used a whole fryer,...smoked a little higher (got a new smoker since the last smoke) around 240-250 for 4 hours...the breast was at 165...but the thighs were still at about 155....normally this should be the other way around right? thighs should be hotter then the breast?

but i didnt want to over do the breast so i pulled it out..sliced up the breast and it was nice but i cut into the thighs and they were "watery"...water or liquefied poured out (chicken was rested for 30mins before any cutting)....and the thighs had some blood.  so i cut the breast off and continued to smoke the rest of it for another hour...meat looked "ok"....but i dont know what i did wrong?

maybe my first chicken wasn't a whole fryer? and this was? is this not a good chicken for smoking?

looking for advice..thanks
Not everyone will agree with me but I really prefer doing chicken at a higher heat for a shorter cooking time. Low and slow is great for fatty meats with a lot of connective tissue but chicken is obviously not that. I smoke chicken usually between 275 and 325. I started out cooking them at low heat and now I prefer to do them higher. I get a more evenly cooked final product that way. Moist and tender with none of the watery issue. This is just my opinion from my limited experience. You still get all the smoke flavor this way too so no worries there.
I'm with stevo on doing yardbirds at a higher temp- I do my poultry at 300°-325° for the simple reason that store bought yard birds are fairly young birds when sent to slaughter and do not benefit from the "low and slow" that brisket and butts need to break down the connective tissue.

I do mine at 250 because that is top end on the SmokinTex and I have not had any of the issues you experienced. You may have had clear juices run out of the thighs. This is an indication (normally) that the bird is done. I have baked many a chicken and had the thighs still have a pink color in the bones but the juices ran clear and the temps were OK
I agree with those who say yardbirds can be done at a higher temp.  I haven't found they benefit that much from low and slow.  Also, the skin does better at higher temps for those who plan on eating the skin.  I always cook to temp rather than looking for clear running juices or other antiquated methods of determining doneness. 

I have occasionally seen birds cooked properly to temp which showed just a touch of red around the thigh bone.  I read somewhere that a small amount of red near the thigh bone may be the sign of a younger bird.  If you are seeing a lot of red around the bone, be sure you are taking temps carefully and correctly.

Go with temps and experiment to find the way you like which is still safe. 

Good luck and good smoking!
A previously frozen bird, even when cooked ta temp can show some red round the bones.  Just the way they be.  If the bird is cooked ta temp an the juices be clear, should be no worries.

I generally do chickens in the 300° range. 
Tip is spot on about the redness. That goes for high heat too. I start my chickens at 425° for 90 minutes, then drop the temp to 350°. Really gets the skin crispy... if that's the texture you want on the chicken. It's all good my friend. 
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Chickens that are previously frozen and thawed will have red to black bones; blood that normally stays inside the bone cells ruptures from freezing and thawing and stains the carcass; it doesn't harm the bird at all.  Chickens that are 'hard-chilled' (kept @ 32° for shipping - many prepackaged parts, quarters, splits, and whole birds are shipped this way) can also show evidence of this.  Only fresh birds and parts never frozen remain with clear bones.

Also, cooking releases moisture from the bird; when technically done @ 160°, some pink juices may still be present, plus previously frozen birds emit more juices.  How fast the breast cooks vs. the thigh can depend on many factors; size of smoker, how close one part is to a wall vs. another, etc; to eliminate pink raise internal to 180° or higher, but it may me too dry for your liking in the breast.

Skin at 220° is rubbery, at 300°+ is crispy.

Hopes this helps!
Like the others said smoke at a higher temp. with chicken. I like the broad breasted roasting chickens.

I have to agree with most of theses guys and say I smoke my birds around the 300° mark too.
Not much new info here from me...I also agree about the higher temps. My MES will only hit 275 so that's what I do my birds at. I found that the lower temps just make rubber out of the skin. Next bird I may use my charcoal and let the temps get about 300 and get a nice crispy skin. Pops is the man..he is definitely an omniscient meat master. 
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