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There is no better winter meal than smoked chicken as the main dish, along with a side of mashed potatoes or gravy. A lot of people think that keeping it in the microwave would get you the perfect smoked chicken, but that is technically just baked. There is a lot to do with the internal temperature of your chicken when it comes to smoking it.
Read on to know the best temperature if you’re going to smoke a whole chicken and for how long to smoke it!
What Is The Ideal Temperature for Smoked Chicken?
My smoked chicken recipe takes at least 3 to 4 hours of preparation time to fully cook and for the flavor to settle. The ideal internal temperature at which you can cook the chicken for this amount of time is 225 Degrees Fahrenheit. After the time has passed, allow the meat to reach an internal temperature of 160 – 165 Degrees Fahrenheit (in the plump part of the chicken, like chicken breast).
You can also do this the other way around by smoking it first at a low temperature and slowly letting it rise to a higher temp like 325 – 375 Degrees Fahrenheit. The following is a quick table that can help you understand how long you should allow the chicken to rest and at what temperature to smoke the chicken.
|Type of Chicken||Whole Chicken||Quarters||Wings||Chicken Thighs||Breast|
|Temperature Begining||250 F||250 F||250 F||250 F||250 F|
|Temperature Finishing||165 F||165 F||165 F||165 F||165 F|
|Time||30 – 45 minutes per pound||4 hrs||1.5 – 2 hrs||2 hrs||30 – 45 minutes per pound|
After the chicken is taken out of the grill, it will continue to cook for a few more minutes during resting time. Hence, it is important to take it out at a certain temp in order to avoid overcooking.
How to Know If Chicken Is Smoked?
A lot of times, even if food appears cooked, once you bite into it, you will soon realize that it was just the exterior. This happens a lot with meats, as it can be hard to get to the insides, which will feel tough. Hence, when we are smoking chicken it is always better to go low and slow.
If you are a beginner at cooking and don’t know how to tell whether the chicken is cooked, I suggest testing these methods.
The first thing you will notice after putting the entire chicken in the smoker is that the outer chicken skin will become golden brown and slightly flaky. When you cut it up, the insides are supposed to look white rather than the general pink color of raw chicken.
The outermost part of the meat near the edges will also appear to have a pink-colored region known as the smoke ring. This is a good indication that the chicken has been smoked well!
Another indicator of nicely smoked chicken is to do the finger test, which is very helpful with smaller bits of meat. This is basically comparing how soft the meat feels by comparing it to a spot on your thumb.
When your hand is in a resting position and you press onto the flesh directly below the thumb, the feeling you get is how raw meat is like.
But if you join the thumb and the tip of your last finger, and then feel the same spot below your thumb, you will know what well-cooked meat is supposed to feel like.
I personally don’t recommend this method as it can get confusing at times.
Get A Meat Thermometer
If you cook meat often, it is a good idea to get a thermometer designed specifically for cooking meat.
All you have to do is insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat, touching no bone as they are good heat conductors and may give an incorrect reading. This will allow you to check the temperature of the thickest part.
When the chicken is smoked well, the internal temperature reaches 165 Degrees Fahrenheit or more, which is what is recommended by the USDA as well! This method is the most well-suited for a whole smoked chicken.
Poke The Chicken
After taking out the cooked chicken from the smoker, you can use a knife or a fork to poke it. Raw, uncooked meat will let out red or pinkish juices while a well-smoked one will let out clear juice.
However, I don’t suggest this for huge pieces of meat as these liquids are better off inside the chicken for moisture.
Additional Tips to Make Smoked Chicken
Smoking meat for the first time can get complex as it is tricky for experienced chefs as well, let alone beginners.
It is difficult to tell how well-cooked meat is, especially if it’s whole. Since a lot of it depends on the target temperature, getting a digital thermometer is highly recommended for smoking chicken.
Apart from that, here are a few of my favorite tips to follow if you are worried about smoking chicken for the first time!
Use Simple Seasoning
You do not need to make a special BBQ sauce for keeping your chicken on the grill.
Simply chop up some salt, garlic, pepper, and butter/olive oil to blend them together and apply it over your chicken. If you put in too much, the flavor has a chance of not spreading equally everywhere.
Select Good Wood
Mild hardwood is a great type of wood for cooking light meat like chicken and fish. It allows the smoky flavor to settle in without being overwhelming, which is why it works perfectly for delicate meat like chicken.
Other kinds of wood that work great in the smoker are pecan, applewood, or hickory. Since you need to smoke chicken, which is a delicate meat, try and get wood chips instead of logs. You can also make use of an electric smoker.
Do Not Peek Until The End
When you cook your chicken, you might check it repeatedly since smoking meat always brings this subconscious fear of burning it! However, after you place the chicken, give it at least 30 minutes – 1 hour at least before you check on it so that the moisture is not lost.
This is why a digital thermometer will come in handy – it allows the temperature to remain consistent. Only remove the chicken when the thickest part, like the smoked chicken breast, reaches 157 Degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove Backbone From Whole Chicken
To prepare a smoked whole chicken, use the Spatchcock way. This is done by removing the backbone and snapping the bones in the middle around the breast. Then, you cut the chicken in half. Finally, smoke chicken properly in the smoker.
This allows the meat to cook well even on the insides, and gives you ingredients to make chicken broth/stock.
Is It Better To Smoke Chicken Fast Or Slow?
It is always better to cook any kind of meat slowly and on a low flame rather than quickly in a microwave. Also, it allows you to get a juicy chicken, letting flavors mix easily with the tinge of smoke.
How Often Should You Flip Chicken When Smoking?
Flipping completely depends on the size of the meat as bigger ones take longer to cook and chopped portions need to only be flipped once. You would not want to flip too much, so two or three flips after long cooking on one side are enough!
What Type Of Wood Smokes The Most?
Mild hardwood is the best kind of wood to smoke chicken as they are very good for delicate meats. Other woods you can use are oak, ash, hickory, or beech, but some like eucalyptus, poplar, and elm should be avoided as they let out a lot of smoke which overpowers the taste.
It is much easier to put your chicken into the microwave and let it cook on its own with a timer. But if you want to take your culinary skills to the next level, remember to smoke chicken for as many hours as its size requires. Also, cook until the internal temperature of the chicken is proper.
You may get done quicker if you use the initial method, but it is much more satisfying when your cooking brings content and a craving for more!