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How to Slow Cook a Whole Chicken on a Charcoal Grill

Updated on July 9, 2018
Helena Ricketts profile image

Helena Ricketts loves cooking from scratch and sharing her recipes with anyone who wants to try something new in the world of food.

A Smoked Chicken Dinner is Always a Hit!

Smoked chicken fresh off the grill.
Smoked chicken fresh off the grill. | Source
5 stars from 1 rating of Smoked Chicken!

A Meat Chicken

The Cornish Cross is the most commonly raised chicken breed for meat in the United States.
The Cornish Cross is the most commonly raised chicken breed for meat in the United States. | Source

Smoked Chicken

What would you say if I told you that smoking your own chicken on a charcoal grill is not as hard as a lot of people think? We are lucky enough to have the ability to raise our own cornish cross chickens for meat and every year one of the first things that we do after processing and rest time for the birds is smoke one of the chickens whole for dinner the following Sunday.

We usually start the fire with charcoal to heat up the grill and get the coals going then switch over to wood to get a nice bed of wood coals before putting the chicken on the grill. The grill is maintained at a 300 to 350 degree temperature and the chicken is left until it reaches the 170 degree mark which tells us that it is done.

The amount of time that it actually takes to fully cook the chicken will depend on the size. The one that we did here was 5.2 pounds so it took longer than normal but it was well worth the wait. Any size chicken can be smoked with this method, even something as small as cornish hens or even quail. You'll want to adjust your cooking time accordingly. The most reliable way to tell when your bird is done is when the thermometer inserted into the thigh reads 170 degrees.

What you end up with when you follow my recipe is a flavorful, juicy, crispy skinned chicken. The meat literally melts in your mouth. It is well worth the grilling time, which is the longest part and you too will look forward to making this again and again.

Smoked Chicken is What's for Dinner Tonight!

Smoked chicken dinner.
Smoked chicken dinner. | Source

Ingredients for Smoked Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 large white onion, 1 quartered, 1 sliced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 pound real butter
  • salt to your taste
  • pepper to your taste

Cook Time for Smoked Chicken

Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 3 hours
Ready in: 3 hours 30 min
Yields: 1 whole smoked chicken

Smoked Chicken Fresh off the Grill

How to Make Smoked Chicken on a Charcoal Grill

  1. Prepare your grill by building a small charcoal fire over to one side. You want indirect heat so only 1/2 the grill's cooking surface should have coals. Once the charcoal fire has died down and the coals are hot, start adding wood. You can use any type of wood that you want but woods like hickory and apple will add even more to the flavor of your chicken.
  2. We used a 5.2 pound chicken as our example for this recipe. Rinse your chicken off inside and out and remove any pin feathers and extra skin. Dry the chicken with paper towels.
  3. We used a large iron skillet but this can also be done in any metal pan. A roasting pan will work as well as any metal baking pan. I would suggest staying away from anything glass. Slice an onion into 1/4" slices and line the bottom of your pan.
  4. Put the chicken in the pan breast side up.
  5. If you haven't already prepared what you are stuffing into the bird's cavity, now is the time. We used a large white onion, 2 cloves of garlic and 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary. I have also heard of people adding sweet apples to the mix and next time, we are going to be trying that.
  6. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the rosemary, onion and most of the garlic. Make sure you mix it up so the flavor goes throughout the chicken. Leave some of the garlic pieces for putting under the breast skin.
  7. Cut a few small holes in the skin on the breast of the chicken and slide a piece of garlic into each one. You'll want to remember to remove those prior to serving the chicken.
  8. Liberally smear some of the butter on the skin of the chicken. All over the bird. Put the rest of the butter in the pan on top of the onions. Don't worry about being technical here, just glop it because you are going to be using it for basting later.
  9. When the grill has a nice bed of hot coals, it's time to put the pan holding your chicken on the grill. Place it on the opposite side that the fire is on. Close the lid and if your grill has a thermometer, watch to keep the temperature between 300 and 350 degrees. Adjust the lid height to accommodate. If your grill does not have a thermometer, you will want to keep a closer eye to make sure the outside of the chicken does not cook too fast and start to burn because the temp is too high.
  10. Check the chicken every 10 to 15 minutes and baste with the butter.
  11. After it has cooked for at least 2 hours, start taking the temperature in the thigh to see how close you are to being done. You'll want to stoke the fire with more wood as needed, and it will be needed.
  12. Sometime between the 2 and 3 hour mark, depending on the size of your chicken, the meat will come up to the needed 170 degrees and your chicken will be smoked, cooked and done.
  13. Remove the chicken from the grill and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before carving and devouring. Believe me when I say, you will devour.

How to Smoke a Whole Chicken on a Grill in Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
I use a heavy cast iron skillet.  Put a layer of onion down.  This provides flavor as well as keeps the chicken from sticking to the pan.Put the chicken in the pan, back side down.Prepare your seasonings.  I used 2 cloves of garlic, hacked up, 1 large onion, and 3 large sprigs of rosemary.Stuff the chicken with the onion, garlic and rosemary but save a few of the garlic pieces for putting under the breast skin.I created a few small cuts in the breast skin and slide a garlic piece under there for extra flavoring.You'll be able to tell where you put them and will want to remove them later.After the bird has been stuffed with all the goodies, tie the legs together to keep the chicken in a manageable position.  If you don't do this step, the legs will go all willy nilly on you while the bird is cooking.Using REAL butter, NOT margarine, coat the entire outside of the chicken with a nice layer of butter.  Put a glop of butter in the pan, you'll use that for basting.  Make sure you salt and pepper the outside to your liking.Place the pan on the opposite side of the grill from your coals.  You are smoking this guy so you want him to cook slowly.This gives you a better view of what I mean by indirect heat.  You'll want to close the top of the grill and check on your chicken and fire every 10 to 15 minutes.Once the thigh temp has reached 170 degrees, your chicken is done, and should be beautifully browned like this one.
I use a heavy cast iron skillet.  Put a layer of onion down.  This provides flavor as well as keeps the chicken from sticking to the pan.
I use a heavy cast iron skillet. Put a layer of onion down. This provides flavor as well as keeps the chicken from sticking to the pan. | Source
Put the chicken in the pan, back side down.
Put the chicken in the pan, back side down. | Source
Prepare your seasonings.  I used 2 cloves of garlic, hacked up, 1 large onion, and 3 large sprigs of rosemary.
Prepare your seasonings. I used 2 cloves of garlic, hacked up, 1 large onion, and 3 large sprigs of rosemary. | Source
Stuff the chicken with the onion, garlic and rosemary but save a few of the garlic pieces for putting under the breast skin.
Stuff the chicken with the onion, garlic and rosemary but save a few of the garlic pieces for putting under the breast skin. | Source
I created a few small cuts in the breast skin and slide a garlic piece under there for extra flavoring.
I created a few small cuts in the breast skin and slide a garlic piece under there for extra flavoring. | Source
You'll be able to tell where you put them and will want to remove them later.
You'll be able to tell where you put them and will want to remove them later. | Source
After the bird has been stuffed with all the goodies, tie the legs together to keep the chicken in a manageable position.  If you don't do this step, the legs will go all willy nilly on you while the bird is cooking.
After the bird has been stuffed with all the goodies, tie the legs together to keep the chicken in a manageable position. If you don't do this step, the legs will go all willy nilly on you while the bird is cooking. | Source
Using REAL butter, NOT margarine, coat the entire outside of the chicken with a nice layer of butter.  Put a glop of butter in the pan, you'll use that for basting.  Make sure you salt and pepper the outside to your liking.
Using REAL butter, NOT margarine, coat the entire outside of the chicken with a nice layer of butter. Put a glop of butter in the pan, you'll use that for basting. Make sure you salt and pepper the outside to your liking. | Source
Place the pan on the opposite side of the grill from your coals.  You are smoking this guy so you want him to cook slowly.
Place the pan on the opposite side of the grill from your coals. You are smoking this guy so you want him to cook slowly. | Source
This gives you a better view of what I mean by indirect heat.  You'll want to close the top of the grill and check on your chicken and fire every 10 to 15 minutes.
This gives you a better view of what I mean by indirect heat. You'll want to close the top of the grill and check on your chicken and fire every 10 to 15 minutes. | Source
Once the thigh temp has reached 170 degrees, your chicken is done, and should be beautifully browned like this one.
Once the thigh temp has reached 170 degrees, your chicken is done, and should be beautifully browned like this one. | Source

How to Carve Your Smoked Chicken

© 2014 Helena Ricketts

Comments

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    • Helena Ricketts profile imageAUTHOR

      Helena Ricketts 

      5 years ago from Indiana

      Thank you so much Patsybell! Please let me know what you think about it because it is yummy.

    • Patsybell profile image

      Patsy Bell Hobson 

      5 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

      This looks so good. I am going to do this over the weekend. Voted up, useful, sharing, Pin.

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