How to Smoke Chicken at Home / by jared

First things first, Alice and I have found it incredibly difficult to come up with a post that could possibly follow after our epic interview with Chef Curtis Duffy. It felt like we just set the bar for blog posts even higher for ourselves. We couldn't go back to just posting recipes from our midweek meals and especially not without some knockout food photography. We briefly considered shutting down our blog- I mean you gotta finish on a high note, right? Kidding kidding. So, we took our time and finally decided that this smoked chicken recipe and this set of photos just barely made it over the high jump. Enjoy!
This Memorial Day, I had it easy. The usual affair includes me helping with the prepping and grilling at the in-laws, but this year the sis-in-law got a new fancy grill so they decided to host this year's festivities. With so much time on my hands, I decided to try my hand at slow smoking some chicken at home for lunch before our BBQ feast.

I originally planned to have the chicken brined for roasting, but after watching an episode of BBQ universityon PBS, I was inspired. Steve Raichlen prepared a smoked pork tenderloin on his charcoal grill. Since I had all the ingredients and equipment, why not give it a shot? I had previously smoked meat before, but the outcomes were far from stellar. Whether it was trying to smoke the meat on a gas grill (I know I know) or my bad habit of wanting to check on the meat every 5 minutes all led to mediocre results. This time I was going to do it right.So I decided to bring out my trusty Smokey Joe. This grill has been with me through thick and thin. From the days of living in central Illinois, it was old Smokey that kept me company. And with it, it has brought me many friends and memories of great cookouts. Seriously, I've cooked for 12 people on that baby before. After dusting off the lid, I found large chunks of wood charcoal on the inside. We had previously used it for our late night bonfires on our rooftop. The charcoal was perfect and much better suited for smoking than the charcoal brisket I had in the garage, as the natural wood would provide more natural wood taste. I also soaked a pan full of mesquite wood chips for extra oomph.

Using the indirect grilling method, I smoked the chicken low and slow as they would say it in BBQ lingo. The hardest part was to fight the urge to open the lid every few minutes to check on the progress, since doing so would release the smoke and heat. I did open the lid a few times to replenish the mesquite wood chips when the smoke was low. After 1 hour in smoke sauna, the skin on the chicken developed this beautiful mahogany hue. I was jumping for joy and knew I was doing it right.

After letting it rest for a few minutes, we anxiously sliced up the chicken and took our first bite. Wow, the meat was tender and the smokey taste and aroma was intense. I had images of autumn, campfires and smores running through my head. We both giggled with each bite of skin, fat and meat as we usually do when tasting something wonderful. It was truly delicious. Although the next time around, I would wash off the thyme off before smoking it and maybe use a little less wood chips for a milder smoke taste. Especially since we could taste the smoke in our mouths hours later, much like smoking a whole box of cigars. Ok well maybe it wasn't THAT intense.

Here's a bonus story- I took the leftovers to work for lunch the day after. While I was heating the chicken up in the microwave room, someone walked in and asked why it smelled like a campfire. I quickly grabbed my food and darted out of the room. I am pretty sure people thought I was having a campfire in my cubical the rest of the afternoon as well. I wonder what would happen if I brought in some durian...

Ingredients: 1/2 of a whole chicken 1 clove garlic crushed 2 bay leaves 1 tsp of thyme 2 tbs salt 1 tbs sugar


  • Add all the ingredients in a container just large enough to hold the chicken for brining
  • Add a little warm water to dissolve the salt and sugar
  • Add enough water to submerge the chicken
  • Cover the container and let the chicken brine overnight
  • Remove the chicken and rinse the herbs off, then pat it dry with paper towels
  • For indirect grilling, place a drip pan on one side of the grill and lit charcoal on the other side
  • Place a handful of soaked wood chips of your choice. You can use maple, cedar, mesquite....
  • Place the 1/2 chicken on the grate above the drip pan
  • Put the lid on and position the air opening on the opposite side of the charcoal. This way smoke must travel around the meat before exiting
  • Smoke the chicken for 1 1/2 hr or until the meat registers 165°F
  • Add more charcoal or wood chips during the smoking when the heat or smoke level is low.