Cooking a whole smoked chicken on the Traeger grill is a great way to get a tasty dinner on the table with minimal work.
I live for a juicy whole roasted chicken, and that includes making them on my Traeger Grill. By dry bringing the chicken, we seal in the moisture for a perfectly tender and moist whole chicken dinner. It's the preparation that counts with this recipe. Not much active time required.
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The ingredients couldn't be any easier. All we need is a whole chicken, a good spice blend or rub, and some butter. I found this Traeger rub at Costco. It's versatile enough to use on beef, chicken, or pork.
However, I have two other recommendations for the chicken rub. Traeger has a Citrus and Black Pepper rub that is just fantastic. I love the bright flavor from the citrus and the slight kick of heat from the black pepper.
Lastly, if I was all out of alley favorite rubs, I would make a small batch of my own. The basic spices include: salt, brown sugar, granulated garlic, onion powder, smoked paprika, and white powder.
The preparation and dry brine is really what makes this whole smoked chicken recipe a great recipe. Set up your work station close to your kitchen sink. You'll need:
- large cutting board
- sharp knife
- sheet pan with wire rack
- kitchen string
- food safe gloves (optional but recommended because raw chicken is a lot to handle)
Not pictured is the Traeger Grill. I love my Traeger and I use it several times a week. Read more on that below. If you don't have a Traeger, you can use an alternate smoker or oven. The Traeger is the way to go if you want that great smoky flavor and consistent cooking temperatures.
Now that you have your supplies and ingredients ready, we can move on to the dry brine and get this bird prepped for deliciousness.
Why to Dry Brine a Whole Chicken
The process of brining is important for any whole chicken recipe. And you have two methods to choose from: wet brine or dry brine. I prefer a dry brine because I always a crispy skin and the best results for seasoning the thickest part of the breast.
Dry brining is the process of seasoning meat and allowing it to rest. This can be done on just about any kind and cut of meat. It allows for the salt to penetrate several layers down rather than only seasoning the outside. The process goes like this:
- Use paper towels to pat the outside and inside of the chicken dry.
- Season the meat and place on a wire rack so air can circulate all sides.
- Place in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours, uncovered.
- Remove from refrigerator and finish preparation for cooking.
During step #2, the salt will pull moisture from the meat, dissolve in the liquid that is pulled, and soak back into the meat.
Dry Brine Transformation
Check out the pictures below and notice what happened to the chicken after a day of dry brining.
The chicken flesh and skin has completely changed in color. The skin has become slightly translucent in several spots. The whole bird is also much drier and firmer than when we took it out of the packaging.
That extra dry exterior is going to easily crisp! Woohoo for extra crispy chicken skin.
Cooking on the Traeger Grill
Now that the chicken has properly brined, we can get it on the grill. To start, preheat your Traeger, alternative pellet smoker, or electric smoker to 225F and allow it to heat for 15 minutes. When it is time, place the chicken or chickens, directly on the grill grates and close the lid.
How do you know when the whole chicken is cooked?
Mom, when is dinner ready?
Lastly, before you get cooking, let's talk internal temperatures for these lovely ladies. The internal temperature of the chicken breast must reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit and the legs/thighs must reach 180 degrees F. You will make sure of this by using an instant read thermometer, temperature probe, or a wireless meat thermometer such as Meater+.
On the one hand, chicken can be difficult to gauge doneness, especially if you are concerned with food safety (as you should be!). But, with an easy to use meat thermometer, I think it's actually easier because there is no guesswork and no wiggle room. The internal temp of a chicken breast is set in stone. No debates.
When you remove the whole chicken from the pellet smoker, place it in a large cutting board or plate and cover it with aluminum foil. This chicken is hot and she needs to rest! A general rule of thumb, is to let meat rest for half of the time it took to cook. However, we are not waiting an hour to cut in to this dinner. A 20 minute rest time is sufficient to allow all of the juices to redistribute throughout the meat and maintain the best moisture content possible.
Time To Cook
Alright, grasshopper. You are ready. I have shared the best chicken spice rub, technique, and pro tips that I have. Use the printable recipe card below and make yourself one of best and easiest recipes I know.
Whole Smoked Chicken Recipe
Traeger Whole Smoked Chicken Recipe
- 1 Traeger Grill
- 1 sheet pan with wire rack
- 1 large cutting board
- 1 sharp knife
- kitchen string
- 1 whole chicken
- 2 tablespoon Traeger Gill seasoning
- 3 tablespoon unsalted butter
Dry Brine the Chicken
- Line a sheet pan with paper towels and place wire rack inside. The paper towel is only meant to catch any liquid that drains off the chicken. We don't need chicken juice moving around on a sheet pan.
- Prepare the whole chicken by removing it from all packaging. Remove any pieces from inside the chicken such as the neck or extras if those are packaged inside.
- Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel.
- Gently loosen the skin around the chicken breast, legs and thighs.
- Sprinkle seasoning under the skin and rub into the breast meat, legs, and thighs. Lightly sprinkle seasoning on the outside skin of the chicken.
- Tuck the wings behind the back. Pull the legs together and tie with the kitchen string. We will undo this when it's time to spread the butter, but this step helps the chicken hold together while it dry brines. Dry brining will firm up the whole chicken.
- Place the chicken on the sheet pan fitted with a wire rack. Put in the refrigerator, uncovered, overnight.
Smoking the Whole Chicken
- Remove the dry brined chicken from the refrigerator and leave on the counter to come to room temperature for 20 minutes.
- Preheat the Traeger Grill to 225F.
- Untie the legs. Spread room temperature unsalted butter underneath the skin and on the outside of the whole chicken. The skin will have dried quite a bit and that makes spreading butter over the meat easier.
- Tie the legs back together.
- Place the chicken on the rack in the center of the Traeger Grill. Close the lid. Cook at 225F for 3 hours.
- Increase the temperature to 325F and cook for an additional 30 minutes. This will allow the skin to get extra crispy and ensures doneness all the way through.
- Using an instant meat thermometer, take the temperature on the chicken breast. The chicken is fully cooked when the temperature of the breast meat reads 160-165F and the thighs read 180F.
- Remove the cooked chicken to a large cutting board. Cover the chicken with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 20 minutes before cutting.
Did you make this recipe? Tag me on Instagram @fancy_apron 🙂 or leave a comment below.
A Traeger Whole Smoked Chicken
The reason I love cooking the whole chicken on the Traeger Grill is because of how low maintenance the process can be. The only steps are setting the temperature, getting the bird on the grill, and checking the final temperature of the chicken for doneness.
Any Traeger Grill will work for this recipe. Here is my link for a medium sized Traeger Grill that will do all of the things you need from smoking to grilling. You'll also need some wood pellets. I tend to use wither the Traeger Signature blend or Kirkland Signature wood pellet blend by Costco. If I was choosing a wood flavor specifically for a whole chicken on the Traeger, I would go with apple.
Frequently Asked Questions
30-45 minutes per pound and until the internal temperature reaches 165F. Chicken should cook at 30 minutes per pound if dry brined for more than 12 hours.
To be effective, dry brine your chicken for at least 12 hours.
NO! Just make sure you season it to taste from the beginning.
Great Recipes to Serve with the Smoked Chicken
This chicken needs some tasty side dishes and maybe a good sauce. I love eating it with twice baked potatoes and creamed corn or classic iceberg salad with ranch dressing. That roasted poblano and bell pepper rice is also a personal favorite because of the sweet and spicy combo from the peppers and corn.
But the number one favorite dish for my family is that potato salad. It is bright, fresh, and everyone will be asking you for the recipe.