If smoked chicken is on your family’s dinner menu this weekend, everyone is in for a real treat. Not only is poultry an excellent option for smoking, it can be seasoned and customized in a vast array of flavors. Even better, it’s one of the easiest and most forgiving cuts of meat to work with. This is great news if you have never smoked a chicken before.
Continue reading to learn how to smoke a chicken, as well as, some tips that can guarantee fantastic, high-quality results, every time!
Start With a Fresh Cut of Meat
The most basic tip you can follow when it comes to excellent smoked chicken is to always choose a fresh cut. Avoid frozen chickens at all costs, and go for a fresh, never-frozen product. If you have to use a frozen chicken, you can still get good results if you use it in time and thaw it properly. When choosing a fresh chicken, be sure it is within its freshness date, and has a good look and healthy color.
Furthermore, you do not want to see a lot of juice, or “solution” packed inside with your bird. These reddish solutions are chemical brines that are often added to packaged chicken to make them look plump and appealing. Although these chemical brines make a chicken look great, they greatly reduce the quality of flavor.
Get Enough Bird
Chicken goes fast when it hits the table, so be sure to avoid one of the most common mistakes made when smoking chicken: not buying enough to feed everyone. Look for a 4 or 5 pound whole chicken if you are feeding just one or two people. This will be enough for dinner and some lunch sandwiches or salads the next day. If you are serving more than 4 or 5 people, you should prepare two whole chickens to plan for enough food.
Get Your Temperatures and Times Right
There are literally thousands of recommendations for temperature and time when it comes to smoking chicken. As you grow along the learning curve of smoking meats, you will gain your own preference and perspective of proper times and temperatures. These will vary from person to person depending on a wide variety of factors, like oven settings, type of equipment, and more.
As for a basic guide, smoke your chicken at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes per pound of meat. Your chicken is done when an internal meat thermometer reads 185 degrees Fahrenheit at the center of the breast, and 195 degrees Fahrenheit in the thighs.
Since chicken skin can act as a barrier to smoke and heat, it is a great tip to increase the temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour during the smoking process so that the skin is crispy and can be bitten through with ease. If you do not do this step, you risk having rubbery skin.
Choose a Favorable Wood
There are woods to avoid when smoking meats, and there are various popular woods for smoking meat. Just be sure to know the difference and choose a wood that compliments your choice of meat. For smoked chicken, a sweeter wood is usually the best choice. This includes varieties like apple, cherry, or any other fruit woods. These woods will provide great smokiness without overpowering the gentle meat with too much flavor. DO NOT USE Eastern cedar, cypress, elm, eucalyptus, liquid amber, pine, redwood, fir, spruce, and sycamore. These trees are high in resin and oils that cause a thick smoke when lit.