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How to Brine and Smoke a Whole Chicken

How to Brine and Smoke a Whole Chicken! It’s easier than you think and will be the juiciest and most delicious chicken you have ever tasted! 

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Brining chicken is a very simple process that will ensure that your chicken is tender and juicy, rather you are smoking, grilling, baking or frying it.

My mother has been telling me that brined chicken was the only way to go for ages. Did I listen? Of course not! I’m always in too big of a hurry. I might also be the worst at thinking ahead to what I’m making for dinner. Listen to you mother, right?


A chicken brine is simply a salt solution . You can also add in sugar and herbs. My favorite is a ratio of 4 quarts of hot water and 1 cup of kosher salt. Table salt can also be used, you’ll need 3/4 cup for 4 quarts of water. Whisk until salt dissolves.

Salt Water Brine for Chicken

I also like to add the peel of 1 lemon, fresh garlic, a tablespoon of peppercorns and a some fresh rosemary. Bay leaves are also a great option but you can use any fresh herbs you have on hand or prefer for a basic brine recipe.

Best Brine for Chicken

This is the best chicken brine recipe with herbs works well for a whole chicken, whole turkey or chicken pieces including chicken breasts, chicken thighs or legs and even pork chops.

How to Brine a Whole Chicken

Submerge chicken, cover and refrigerate chicken until you are ready to cook . I recommend 2 hours – 4 hours for the best results. When you are ready to cook it, remove the chicken from the brine and let it drain in a colander bit. Discard the brine solution.

I have to say that I am not likely to ever grill, fry or roast chicken without brining it first. You just can’t believe the difference that the brining process makes! It’s the best way to ensure that the chicken stays tender and juicy throughout the cooking process.

The salty liquid will break down the muscle fibers to tenderize the chicken parts and lean cuts of meat, like pork chops and it really doesn’t take much time. It’s worth a couple of hours of planning for a fantastic meal.

A dry brine can also be used for grilled chicken. Using this method, chicken is rubbed down with spices and refrigerated 24-72 hours before cooking. The skin dries out and is a great way to achieve crispy skin.


  • Brine your chicken for at least 2 hours.
  • Prepare grill with hickory wood chunks for a medium – hot fire. We use an offset smoker on our charcoal grill.

Smoking whole chickens

  • Pat chicken dry with paper towels.
  • You can apply a dry rub or mix ½ cup butter and 2 tablespoons of blackened seasoning (or your favorite grilling seasoning) and rub under the skin and in the cavity of the chicken. This is optional.
  • Place whole chicken on grate with indirect heat. We like to do 2 at a time, it’s just as easy and has endless recipe possibilities.
  • Smoke chicken over indirect heat 300-350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 ½ hours until internal temperature reaches 165°.
  • Remove chickens from grill and allow to rest 10 minutes before carving and serving.

How to Smoke a Whole Chicken


  • Let chicken cool slightly, until it is no longer steaming.
  • Wrap whole chicken in a deep dish and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate up to 3 days.
  • You can also remove chicken from the bones and store in a zip top bag for up to 2 days.
  • Leftover chicken makes great sandwiches! Try substituting leftover chicken in our favorite Turkey Salad!

Two whole smoked chickens on a baking sheet

We often grill or smoke a little extra chicken on the weekends and it makes dinner time so much easier for the week. Monday’s are especially hectic and having the main dish already cooked makes dinnertime a snap.

If you are grilling or smoking chicken, you have to give this White Barbecue Sauce a try. Just brush or drizzle it over your cooked chicken. It’s tangy and all kinds of delicious!

We have also used this same method for Smoked Chicken with our Mustard BBQ Sauce, it is out of this world!

Smoked Whole Chickens on a tray

We enjoyed this smoked chicken with roasted potatoes and almond green beans. A simple dinner with amazing flavors. The entire family loved it.

We are loving this BBQ Spatchcock Chicken on the grill, it’s so simple and delicious and for busy weeknights, this Chicken Drumsticks recipe is amazing.

How to use leftover smoked chicken ~ Smoked Chicken Tacos

We had enough of our smoked chicken leftover that I made Smoked Chicken Tacos for dinner the next night. Best idea to change up Taco Tuesday! Just add your favorite toppings to the shredded chicken served on flour tortillas.

How to use leftover chicken ~ Smoked Chicken Chili

We just couldn’t get enough of this smoked chicken. I immediately picked up another chicken and we brined and smoked it as well.  I had this Smoked Chicken and Black Bean Chili in my mind that I just couldn’t wait to try.

These Philly Chicken sandwiches are another favorite when we smoke chickens. They are filled with delicious sautéed onions and peppers and topped with lots of melted cheese.

There are endless possibilities for smoked chicken, I’m actually adding to my recipe idea list as we speak. Let me know if you have ideas that you would like to see. I’m alway brainstorming recipe ideas.

Be sure to save your chicken carcasses and make a batch of homemade chicken broth. It is incredibly flavorful and budget friendly. Perfect for your favorite soups and casseroles.

Smoked Chickens

The simple brining method was so good that we always use it for our Thanksgiving Turkey and we made a video for Easy Smoked Turkey! Add it to your holiday menu!

Delicious Dishes to Complete Your Meal:

More Chicken Recipes to Try:

Add this wet brine to your list to try the next time you have chicken on the menu. Rather you grill, fry or roast, this simple brine is going to add tons of flavor and you’ll never have dry, bland chicken again.

If you love this Recipe as much as I do, please leave a comment and a five star review, and be sure to help me share on Pinterest!

Smoked Whole Chickens on a tray
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4.63 from 27 votes

How to Brine and Smoke a Whole Chicken

How to Brine and Smoke a Whole Chicken! It's easier than you think and will be the juiciest and most delicious chicken you have ever tasted! 
Prep Time2 hours 15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time3 hours 45 minutes
Course: Chicken
Cuisine: American
Keyword: best chicken brine, chicken brine, grilled whole chicken, quick brine, smoked chicken
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 1260kcal
Author: Milisa


  • 5 pound whole chicken
  • 4 quarts warm water
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 garlic cloves sliced in half
  • peel of a fresh lemon
  • 1/2 cup butter *optional
  • 2 tablespoons blackened seasoning *optional


  • Add water and salt to a large bowl or deep pan. Mix until salt is dissolved.
  • Add peppercorns, rosemary, garlic and lemon peel.
  • Carefully lower chicken into water.
  • Cover and refrigerate 2 hours- 4 hours.
  • Prepare grill with hickory grilling wood for a medium-hot fire.
  • Smoke chicken over indirect heat 300-350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes - 1 1/2 hours until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
  • Remove from grill and allow to rest 10 minutes before carving and serving.



Store leftover chicken in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Shred chicken and reheat over medium heat in a skillet with a bit of olive oil or mix into your favorite soups or casseroles.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 1260kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 125g | Fat: 80g | Saturated Fat: 29g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 43g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 448mg | Sodium: 1461mg | Fiber: 1g


    1. Make sure to look up the conversion from kosher salt to table salt. Since kosher salt has much bigger crystals, you can’t simply sub the same amount or it’ll be way too salty. I’d use between 2/3 and 3/4 cup of regular salt in place of 1 cup of kosher salt. I always err on the side of too little rather than too much since a weker brine is better than overbrowning since you can’t take salt back out once it’s in.Also, kosher (and pickling) salt tend to not have iodine or anti caking agents like table salt. Some people can detect a slightly metallic taste when using table salt for soaking, pickling or brining but others don’t.

    2. If you use table (regular salt) rather than kosher decrease the amount by a third. The volume of fine regular salt is greater than coarse kosher salt and can result in a salty tasting cooked product.

  1. Yes thanks, my question is how would apple wood chucks taste instead of hickory wood chucks. That’s what I have on hand. Or should I go purchase hickory wood chucks? Thank you

  2. I was thinking about using this recipe in a BBQ cookioff that’s is coming up in about 3 weeks would you have any other suggestions the problem may be the cooking time since there will be other meats on the pit and the chicken hast to be turned in first so I will not be able to have a 300 degree pit maybe a 200 Thank u for a reply

    1. Hi Mike,
      Good luck with your cookoff. We use a reverse flow smoker so your cooking time may vary at a lower temperature. I think you will be fine as long you watch the internal temperature. It might take an additional hour to cook at 200.

    1. Hi Kevin,
      If you can fit them in the same pot and the water covers them, that will work fine. I generally do separate pots and double the brine.

      ~ Milisa

    1. Hi James,
      You don’t have to. I’ve done it with our blackened seasoning but I mixed it with butter and rubbed it under the skin and all over the outside.


  3. G’day, you seem to use a bit more salt than other recipes, is that cause no sugar? Do you tgink that if I was to add sugar I would have to back off the salt or maybe it doesn’t really matter. Should the water have been cold before adding the chook?

  4. I haven’t tried this but I have used Kosher salt only. Sprinkle liberally over the bird (and under the skin), wrap and put in fridge overnight.Rinse off the next day before smoking.BTW, I Spatchcock my birds

  5. Your recipe looks great, however with all the ads it takes my iPad forever to scroll to find the recipe at the bottom! It keeps glitching to load all the ads and no matter how many I close they just keep popping and slowing everything down. Recipe= delish. Overload of unwanted ads= 2 thumbs down

  6. Looking forward to trying this this weekend. Did I read something about Spatchcock on this page..?? Do you recommend? if so, how to adjust the cooking time…??

    Thank you,


    Full disclosure: I am very good in the kitchen… I am very good on the BBQ… and I am very good on my RECTEC Smoker. I followed the very simple recipe down to the letter. Not at all impressed with the result. The skin was soft, and the flavor was barely there. Kept thinking I did something wrong, but I did not. My RecTec holds temp w/i a few degrees of set point and the brine was a full 24 hours. Its a mystery…

  8. Bill, I don’t brine my birds that way. Sprinkle liberally with Kosher salt all over and under the skin. Wrap up the bird. I use a Walmart plastic bag!! Next morning rinse off. Set out to get room temp, cover bird with a light coat of olive oil and apply your dry rub. Let sit about an hour. Heat up smoker to about 230-240*. I use pellets…Pit Boss’s Competition Blend. I got a temp probe but I just eyeball my birds. I smoke 2 at a time..Spatchcocked. Spritz with apple juice now and then. Last 10 minutes of the cook, apply your favorite BBQ sauce..Good Luck Bill

  9. So I want to smoke a chicken on Sunday. I have smoked quite a few before but I have never brined any. We went to a restaurant and had smoked chicken and it was amazing, it didn’t seem to have had any rub on it. Can I brine and not do a rub? Would you just recommend butter or olive oil all over and under skin?

  10. Yummy! I won’t need to buy the rotisserie chicken from costco any longer… this was so easy to make and tasted infinitely better. Takes a bit of planning ahead, but that’s absolutely doable. Thanks for the great instructions too. This is a total winner winner chicken dinner lol!

4.63 from 27 votes (27 ratings without comment)

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