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Light up the smoker this weekend and enjoy this juicy and crispy smoked whole chicken recipe. The flavorful BBQ rub is truly the hidden secret that will turn your backyard into an aroma that will tickle the neighbor’s noses for hours!

a smoked whole chicken on a white platter with lemon half and rosemary sprigs.

There’s nothing easier than throwing chickens in the smoker and letting the smoker do the work for you!

Add my quick and easy Red Potato Salad and these Easy Baked Beans to round out your picnic. Then throw in something like this delicious Peach Cherry Cobbler and you’re good to go. 

Why you’ll love this Smoked Whole Chicken Recipe!

  • Tender and Juicy Meat. The slow cooking process allows the flavors to permeate the chicken while keeping it moist and succulent.
  • No-Brine Chicken Recipe. That means quick prep time and the quicker you’ll enjoy this scrumptious fave.
  • Smoky Flavor. As the wood chips smolder, they infuse the meat with a smoky flavor and character that can vary depending on the type of wood used.

Ingredient notes

  • Chicken — The size of the bone-in chicken really doesn’t matter. Just make sure to check that “use by” date so it’s nice and fresh.
  • Dijon mustard —  Any mustard from your grocer works just fine. Try stone-ground, yellow, or spicy brown mustard.
  • Smoked paprika — If you’re out of smoked paprika but have regular paprika, use 2 parts paprika and 1 part cumin as a substitute.
  • Kosher salt — Coarse sea salt or Himalayan pink salt works well, too. 
  • Garlic — This recipe calls for granulated garlic, but you can interchange it with garlic powder. You’ll need to decrease it by half if so.
  • Black pepper — Did you know black pepper increases your metabolism and helps relieves cough and colds as well? Pretty cool.  
  • Lemon zest — Zest or lemon peel is the same. It’s the shavings from this citrus fruit.

 Equipment needed

  • Electric Smoker — No need to go big or go home on a smoker. Several less expensive ones will give you that moist and juicy flavor you’re expecting. 
  • Wood chips — These darlings come in a variety of flavors, so check the label when you’re looking and choose your faves. See tips for suggestions. 
  • Digital Probe Meat ThermometerAn easy-to-read digital probe specially designed for your smoker will prevent you from needing to open the door, which allows you to easily read it from outside.
ingredients for smoking a chicken on a table.

How to smoke a whole chicken

Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees so it will be ready to go when you’re ready to go.

STEP 1 | Make the lemon paprika rub

Prepare the BBQ rub before moving on to the smoked chicken. That way it will be ready to go when you get to that point. 

In a small bowl, combine the smoked paprika, kosher salt, garlic, and black pepper together. Add the fresh lemon zest and mix well with a fork until blended.

STEP 2 | Prep the chicken

Remove the chickens from the packaging and remove the neck bones and giblets from their cavities. Discard the neck bones and giblets. Pat dry the inside and outside of the chicken with paper towels before placing it on a baking sheet. 

prepping a whole chicken for the smoker by massaging spice rub under the skin.

STEP 3 | Add the dry rub

Gently loosen the chicken skin around the breast. Then insert a tablespoon of the lemon paprika dry rub underneath the skin and massage it in to distribute it evenly. 

brushing a whole chicken with dijon mustard and sprinkling a rub on top.

STEP 4 | Baste with mustard

Using a basting brush, apply a generous layer of Dijon mustard over the outside of the chickens. The remaining dry rub should be sprinkled over all the sides of the chicken until completely coated. 

STEP 5 | Place the chicken in the smoker

Once the smoker has reached the desired temperature, lay the chickens on the rack breast side down to start. This will keep the breast meat juicy and tender. Cook time is 1 hour for this step.

STEP 6 | Add wood chips

After 1 hour, add wood chips to the wood chip box. Turn the chicken breast side up, and continue cooking for another 2 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

smoked whole chicken on a baking sheet with lemons and rosemary.

STEP 7 | Remove chicken and let stand

Take the chickens out of the smoker and place them on a cutting board to rest. Cover them with loose aluminum foil that is tented at the top. Allow the smoked chickens to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing or shredding.

From the crispy skin of this dry rub recipe to the dripping juices of the moist meat, every bite will be a delectable delight that will keep you coming back!

tips

  • If you need to thaw a frozen whole chicken, thaw it in the refrigerator on a rimmed plate or in cold water. For food prep safety, you never want to thaw on the counter or under running water in the sink.
  • Proper placement for the meat thermometer is into the thickest part of the chicken which is deep into the front of the breast. Insert about three-quarters of the way in.

Frequently asked questions

What are some favorite wood chips used for smoking chicken?

Apple and cherry wood are two of the most popular because of their milder and lighter flavors. 

What is the difference between paprika and smoked paprika? 

The short answer is flavor. Smoked paprika is used more for barbequing because it brings out smoky flavors. Smoked paprika also has a range of mild to intense and paprika does not. 

Can I use regular table salt if I don’t have kosher salt?

Only if there’s no other option. Then only use half of what is called for 1 Tbs. becomes ½ Tbs. 

Looking for more Smoked Chicken recipes?

Be sure to check out these other tantalizing smoked chicken recipes: Best Tips for Smoking Chicken Wings and Smoked Chicken Thighs

Serving suggestions

Serve this tender and moist smoked chicken either sliced or pull and toss it with BBQ sauce for sandwiches. My EASY Homemade BBQ Sauce will take that juicy meat to another finger-licking yummy level. 

It’s absolutely perfect with any of the classic picnic sidekicks. Maybe this buttery Grilled Corn in Foil with Parmesan Butter even the kids will love or the Tangy No Mayo Coleslaw. Another delicious potato option is this tangy Lemon Dill Potato Salad

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a smoked whole chicken on a white platter with lemon half and rosemary sprigs.

Smoked Whole Chicken

Light up the smoker this weekend and enjoy this juicy and crispy smoked whole chicken recipe.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 10 servings
Calories 14 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 4 to 6 lb. whole roasting chicken
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard

Lemon Paprika Rub

  • 4 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium lemons zested

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees.
  • Remove chickens from the packaging and discard the neck bones and giblets from their cavities. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels and place on a baking sheet.
  • Gently loosed the skin around the chicken breast, then insert a tablespoon of the lemon paprika dry rub underneath the skin and massage to distribute it evenly.
  • Use a basting brush to apply a layer of Dijon mustard all over the chickens. Evenly sprinkle the remaining dry rub all over all sides of the chickens.
  • When the smoker has come to temperature, lay the chickens on the racks breast side down. Cook for 1 hour.
  • After 1 hour, add wood chips to the wood chip box. Flip the chickens breast side up and continue cooking for another 2 hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  • Transfer the chickens to a cutting board to rest, loosely tented with aluminum foil, for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing or shredding.

Lemon Paprika Dry Rub

Notes

  • If you need to thaw a frozen whole chicken, thaw it in the refrigerator on a rimmed plate or in cold water. For food prep safety, you never want to thaw on the counter or under running water in the sink. 
  • Proper placement for the meat thermometer is into the thickest part of the chicken which is deep into the front of the breast. Insert about three-quarters of the way in.

Nutrition

Calories: 14kcalCarbohydrates: 3gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 998mgPotassium: 64mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 404IUVitamin C: 11mgCalcium: 13mgIron: 1mg

Life Love and Good Food does not claim to be a registered dietician or nutritionist. Nutritional information shared on this site is only an estimate. We recommend running the ingredients through an online nutritional calculator if you need to verify any information.

Keyword baked chicken, dry rub, lemon zest, smoking recipe
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was.

Beyond the recipe

While grilling can be dated back thousands of years, up until the 1940s, it was mostly connected to camping and picnics. Then in the ‘50s, it became all the rage and grew like wildfire from there.

The history of the word “barbeque” actually has been traced to the Arawak people of the Caribbean. “Barbacoa” meant a wooden structure that meat was roasted on. So there’s your history lesson for the day — You’re welcome!

Why not reach out and invite the neighbors over for a cookout? It’s easy to get busy and wrapped up in life, but nothing speaks more neighborly than this irresistible smoking chicken!

If it’s a holiday like the 4th of July, these Bite-Size Cherry Tartlets are the ideal fit. So grab the grill and lawn chairs and enjoy!

Sheila Thigpen, blogger

About Sheila Thigpen

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

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