Grilling hoofed mammals receives a lot of attention, but let’s not forget about our feathered companions!

Grilling and smoking are terrific ways to cook a bird, from a big turkey for the holidays to smokey drumsticks for any time.

For cooking chicken, many “safe” temperatures are provided:

  • According to the USDA, all poultry products are safe when cooked to a minimum temperature of 165 ℉.
  • In the United Kingdom, the government recommends cooking to a temperature of 180 ℉.
  • Canadian guidelines (of course) run both ways – 165℉ for poultry chops and 180℉ for complete birds.

Salmonella is a danger to poultry.

According to the Center for Disease Control, salmonella causes a million illnesses in the United States alone yearly, mainly due to contaminated food.

Among all food-borne diseases, this ranks second only to Norovirus. Moreover, even though Norovirus occurs five times as commonly as salmonella, more people are hospitalized and die from salmonella each year.

What is the best way to prepare a whole chicken?

You’ll need to do a few things to prepare a chicken for the smoker. The first step is to tuck the wings underneath the chicken’s front legs.

This will prevent the wingtips from burning. The second step is to bind your legs together with kitchen twine.

The legs will be less likely to burn if they are close to the bird, making for a more appealing presentation. If your chicken came with giblets, remove and discard those as well.

Temperatures and times for smoking chicken

I always tell people who buy a new spit or smoker to roast a bird. It’s the cheapest and simplest cut of beef to learn how to cook, and it’s also tasty! You’ll need a thermometer, a chicken, and a smoker to get started.

Cold smoking and hot smoking are the two types of smoking. To be clear, I’m referring to heated smoking, in which the smoker’s body temperature is at least 100 degrees.

You could use a gas smoker and add wood chips to create the smokey flavor if you’re starting, but I prefer to use charcoal and wood in what’s known as an offset smoker or a stick burner.

Cold smoking is commonly used for cheese, fish, and nuts, among other things.

Once everything is in place, the trick is to keep an eye on the smoker’s temperature and the interior temperature of the chicken. You don’t want to give your family food because of undercooked chicken.

You’re aiming for a temperature of 75 degrees.

Turkey breast, whole turkey

It is recommended that when smoking a complete turkey, you only smoke a bird that weighs 13 to 14 pounds overall.

This is because if it is larger, it will take so long to cook that it will sit in the food danger zone for too long, allowing bacteria to develop, and resulting in disaster.

If your bird weighs more than 14 pounds, spatchcock it, roast it flat, or chop it into smaller pieces.

A reasonably sized turkey for smoking can weigh anywhere from 6 to 14 pounds, and you can smoke it at temperatures ranging from 250F to 300F. Thus, the time can vary greatly.

If you smoke at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, it will take about 25 minutes per pound. If you smoke at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, each pound will take roughly 15 minutes.

So, weigh your bird, select a pit temperature, and multiply the two to find your average time. Take care to keep your smoker temperature steady, and then you’re ready to go!

At roughly 300°F, you may expect to smoke a turkey breast for about 25 minutes per pound; a bit more if the temperature is 275 degrees Fahrenheit, a little less if the temperature is 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

I strongly advise washing your turkey breast before putting it in the smoker. This is the best method to get moist turkey breast without feeling like you’ve licked a carpet with each bite! Along with using the best wood for smoking your turkey.

  • Serving Size: Allow 1 pound of raw weight per person.
  • Total smoking time: 4-6  hours
  • Per pound smoking time: 30 – 45 minutes
  • Finished internal temperature: 170°F
  • Rest after smoking: 20 minutes

Wings, turkey legs

I advocate cooking turkey drumsticks at slightly higher temperatures than others. Turkey drumsticks can be huge, and you want to make sure they’re cooked all the way through.

Furthermore, cooking at a higher temperature should leave the skin crispy but the inside delicate and juicy.

  • Servings: Plan for 1 leg or 2 – 3 wings per person
  • Total smoking time:  2–3 hours
  • Smoking time per pound: N/A
  • Finished internal temperature: 170°F
  • Rest after smoking: 20 mins

Whole chicken

The generally regarded ‘low and slow’ smoking temperature is 225°F. However, if you cook ‘skin on chicken’ at this temperature, the skin turns rubbery and a little disgusting, and the chicken tends to dry out due to overcooking.

So, for chicken, we set our smoker temperature to 275°F.

  • Servings: Plan for 1 pound of raw weight per person
  • Total smoking time: 2 – 3 hours
  • Smoking time per pound:  30 – 45 minutes
  • Finished internal temperature: 170°F
  • Rest after smoking: 20 minutes

Chicken breast:

As we all know, chicken breast tends to dry up if not cooked properly, so keep an eye on the temperature and nail it!

If the meat is skinless, smoke it at 275°F; if it has skin, smoke it closer to 350°F to crisp it.

When it comes to breasts, remove them from the smoker when it reaches roughly 160F and not a degree higher! Rest in foil for at least 5 minutes, or until the interior temperature reaches 165F or above, you can serve it.

If you keep it on the smoker until 165°F internal temperature is reached, it will increase to 170F while resting and may dry out a little.

  • Smoker temperature – 250°F
  • Smoking time – 30 to 45 minutes/pound
  • Finished temperature – 165°F

Chicken quarters, thighs

In comparison to the white meat of the breast, you want to raise the internal temperature of the darker flesh of the legs to assist in rendering out the fat and connective structures and crisping the skin more.

For the best outcomes, aim for an internal temperature of about 175F for the legs.

  • Servings: Plan one quarter, two thighs, or four to six full wings per person.
  • Total smoking time: one to two hours (less for smaller pieces)
  • Smoking time per pound: N/A
  • Finished internal temperature: 170°F
  • Rest after smoking: 10 minutes

Chicken wings

The best chicken wings have a smokey flavor with textured crispy skin, which is difficult to achieve at the low temperatures of typical smoking.

To get the nicest wings, do the following: Smoke them between 275 to 350F for 45 minutes, then hit them with some 450F+ heat by bumping up your smoker temperature, or moving them to a grill or oven, until they reach approximately 170F, so they increase to 175F to 180F while resting.

You can smoke them at a lower temperature the entire time, but you won’t get that great crispy exterior.

  • Smoker temperature – 250°F
  • Smoking duration – 1 1/2 to 2 hours
  • Finished temperature – 165°F


  • Smoker Temperature: 225°F
  • Cook Time: 1 Hour
  • Safe Finished Meat Temperature: 165°F
  • Chef Recommended Finish Temperature: 165°F

Cornish hens

Cornish hen has a gamey, powerful flavor, but in a good manner! It’s similar to a ‘chicken concentrate.’

  • Smoker Temperature: 240°F
  • Cook Time: 2 Hours
  • Safe Finished Meat Temperature: 165°F
  • Chef Recommended Finish Temperature: 165°F

Tips: Whole turkey

The cooking duration for a turkey is typically 4 – 5 hours at a continuous smoking temperature of 275 – 325 °F. Instead of smoking a full turkey, I prefer to smoke turkey flappers. They’re like huge chicken wings, but better.

Tips: Chicken, whole

The whole chicken takes about 2-3 hours to smoke. While you should still strive for low and slow, the chicken cooks at greater temperatures than other pieces of meat to achieve a crispy exterior.

If your chicken comes out a touch dry, you could always try bringing or injecting it.

Tips: Chicken thighs

To mold the thighs into precise shapes, use a cupcake baking pan. If you leave the bone in, it transforms into little handles for you to hold.

Scrape the back of the skin to get rid of any excess fat. Then puncture the skin with a meat tenderizer. You can create good crispy skin by eliminating the extra fat, poking tiny holes in the skin, and cooking at higher than normal smoking temperatures.

If you’re having trouble getting lovely crispy skin, a tip is to place a grill over the firebox and then broil the chicken thigh for a couple of minutes after it’s cooked.

How do you take a temperature reading?

To check the temperature, you’ll probably need to invest in a nice digital meat thermometer. The ThermoPro thermometer is highly recommended.

It contains two probes, one for piercing the chicken and the other for piercing the grill on your smoker. The beauty of this thermometer is that you can set maximum and minimum alarms so that you are notified when the temperature of your smoker drops/rises and when your meat is done.

A digital thermometer is more accurate than a smoker’s gauge, which gives you a “guesstimate” of the ambient temperature within your smoker.

Keep in mind that this is only a general guide. Other factors that can influence how your meat cooks in the smoker include:

  • The thickness of the meat
  • If the meat has been deboned
  • The amount of fat in the meat
  • How hot/cold it is outside and how well insulated the smoker is
  • The type of smoker
  • The usage of wood charcoal and the type of wood used impact the flavor of the meat.
  • Whether or not the meat was brought to room temperature.

Important! Check the temperature in different spots.

Don’t rely entirely on your smoker’s meat-temperature probe or a remote meat thermometer to determine when to stop smoking the chicken.

Verify that all sections of the chicken have achieved the desired temperature using an accurate portable thermometer.

Check the temperature in several places, particularly the junction where the thigh bone attaches to the back. When you’re certain that the entire chicken or chicken portion has achieved the desired temperature, remove it from the oven, cover it with foil, and set it aside for the needed period.

What if the smoking chicken’s internal temperature stops rising?

The interior temperature of the smoked chicken refused to rise above 145° on several occasions. I figured it was a problem with the temperature probe, but a quick check with my handheld revealed 145 degrees as well.

The culprit could be the evaporation of juices from the chicken’s surface. However, if the chicken remains at 145° for 8.4 minutes, it is safe.

Is it necessary to brine a chicken before smoking it?

You don’t have to brine your chicken, but it’s the best method to ensure that it’s seasoned all through. If you only season the skin of your chicken with a spice rub, the meat will not be seasoned underneath.

A soak in salt water, herbs, and spices infuse all that wonderful taste into every bite of chicken.

How long does smoking a chicken take?

Its size determines the length of time it takes to cook your chicken. An entire chicken takes around 3-5 hours to smoke, or 45 minutes per pound at 250 degrees F.

When is the smoked chicken done?

The smoked chicken is ready to eat when a thermometer put into the thickest portion of the thigh registers at least 165 degrees F. I propose using an electric probe thermometer that can be left in the chicken.

At the same time it smokes, it monitors the temperature continuously.

What is the best wood for smoking chicken?

I like to smoke my chicken with applewood chips because they offer a delicate, sweet flavor that complements the meat wonderfully. Other excellent choices include cherry, mesquite, hickory, and maple woods.

Should you smoke chicken in a water pan?

This is entirely optional. A water pan reduces the likelihood of crispy skin throughout the cooking process. Just make sure you understand the right procedures for the best results.

What is the best chicken part to smoke?

With excellent results, you can smoke any portion of the chicken. Smoked whole chickens and chicken quarters are favorites of ours. The thighs are also really tasty.

But what exactly are we saying? They’re all delectable!

Should you flip chicken while smoking?

Turn the smaller parts, such as wings and drumsticks, numerous times. Just turn or rotate halfway through the process for larger pieces like thighs, breasts, quarters, and whole chickens.