This recipe is cooked on one of my favorite things, a smoker. I use an electric pellet smoker, but you can use any type you have. Even a BBQ grill-based smoker attachment or gadget. I created this recipe by combining a couple of different ones I saw in a book and online and then subtracting and changing to match tastes in our household plus dietary needs (allergies). If you use the correct ingredients, this recipe should be completely allergen-free, but is specifically made to be gluten-free and peanut-free.
I am working on a simpler version for chicken breasts and thighs, but it’s more complicated as the smaller cuts are more difficult to handle. Once I have that perfected, I’ll post a recipe for that too.
This particular recipe, though, makes my girlfriend think of the expensive smoked meats available at the deli counter and my kids will eat carved chicken breast from this recipe all day if I let them.
To get started, you’ll need a few things and about 12 hours’ time to brine the chicken(s). I usually do two at a time as the all natural chickens at Sam’s Club are in two packs, but this recipe is written specifically for one and can be doubled/tripled/whatever as needed.
Take the chicken out of its packaging and thoroughly rinse clean. It should be thawed, but if not, you can add about four hours to the brine time and use the chicken frozen. For the brine itself, you’ll need:
- 1 whole chicken
- 1 gallon of water (or enough to completely submerge your chicken)
- 3/4 cup salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon of lemon pepper
- 1 tablespoon of cayenne, chipotle, or chili powder
- A very large bag (two gallon zipper-style or food storage is good) or a large container of about the same size.
I’ve done this in both a food storage vacuum bag (without vacuuming) and in a large Tupperware-style container. I like to clear out one of the veggie drawers in the refrigerator as well, as a backup in case of leaks as the drawer will contain those within the fridge.
Add ¼ cup of salt to water and bring to boil. Add other half cup of salt, stirring, until all salt is dissolved into the water. Add sugar slowly, stirring, until dissolved. Turn off heat and add lemon pepper and cayenne/chili powder. Stir to incorporate. Let cool (or add ice) to bring water down to under 120ºF or until cool enough that you can place your hand in it without feeling uncomfortable.
Place chicken in bag or container for brining. Add brine mixture, making sure to shift chicken in container to allow air to escape from its cavity so it fills with the brine. Once chicken is entirely covered, cover/seal the container and refrigerate for 12+ hours. Time can be cut into ⅓-½ if a vacuum seal is used, but I have yet to perfect that method.
When brining is done (i.e. the next day), get the smoker started per its instructions then set for 375°F. As smoker heats, prepare the rub by mixing ingredients into medium-sized or large bowl. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry, making sure to also dry the cavity.
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup soy sauce or coconut aminos
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 1-2 tablespoons cayenne pepper or chili powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder or 2 crushed garlic cloves
- 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
The rub can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or made at the time the chicken is to go into the smoker. That’s up to you. The rub’s ingredients can be lowered or raised to make for a rub of your desired consistency. The above recipe makes for a relatively thick, but still somewhat runny mix. Subtract liquids as desired for a thicker rub if you’d like.
Slather rub onto chicken liberally, making sure to coat the cavity and all of the exterior (including under the wings). Once the chicken is thoroughly coated, it may be tied (preferable) or left open (shown).
Place rubbed chicken directly onto rack in smoker for indirect cooking at 375ºF. Cook for 45 mins to 1 hour (shorter for lighter birds, longer for heavier) to set the rub. Skin/rub will be crispy and tight on the chicken and a dark brown color. Turn temp down to smoke (less than 160ºF) and leave for 2-3 hours, or about half an hour per pound, until internal temperature at center of breast and thigh reaches 120ishºF consistently. Turn heat back up to 365-400ºF and cook until internal temperature reaches 165ºF at center of breast.
Let rest for five minutes and begin carving. Enjoy!