Craving juicy, smoky chicken that’s sure to impress at your next cookout? Smoked half chickens are your ticket to backyard barbecue fame. This cut gives you the best of both worlds: tender white meat and succulent dark meat, all bathed in an irresistible smoky flavor.

Top view of two whole chickens being grilled on a circular metal grill with a red exterior.

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Smoking chicken can seem daunting, we get it. Rubbery on the outside, burnt tips, and undercooked on the inside.

Well good news, chicken’s cheap (comparatively), and our dependable chicken recipe with detailed smoker-specific instructions simplify the process. This is our go-to every single time we test a new grill, so we’ve got it on lock. So much so, that this recipe will help you achieve perfectly smoked chicken with minimal work.

Our foolproof recipe breaks down how easy it is to get that coveted crispy skin and crazy juicy chicken. The trick? We like to run our grill a little hotter than traditional smoker recipes. Just like when we smoke a whole chicken, it cooks it quickly, keeping it moist while also giving the skin some bite-worthy texture.

Hungry? Well, get ready to become the pit master your neighborhood deserves.

Two raw whole chickens halves on a wire rack in a baking tray with bowls of seasoning and salt on a black surface.

Ingredients for these smoked chicken halves

  • 2 chicken halves – if you’re starting with a whole chicken, check out our guide for how to cut up a chicken to easily make two halves (and faster cook time).
  • Kosher salt
  • Your favorite chicken rub (we recommend GirlsCanGrill Chicken Rub)
  • BBQ sauce, Aji amarillo sauce, chipotle crema, or Alabama white sauce, depending on what flavor profile you’re craving.
  • Minced cilantro for a fresh finish to garnish

How to Make Smoked Half Chickens

Level up your grilling game with these simple steps to smoking half a chicken that will have everyone asking for seconds.

Prepare the Chicken:

  • Thoroughly dry the chicken with paper towels to ensure the skin crisps up nicely.
  • Season generously with salt and your chosen dry rub.
  • Let the chicken sit on a wire rack in the fridge for 2 hours to overnight, which helps the skin dry out for extra crispiness.
Two raw chicken halves covered in seasoning sit on a wire rack placed on a black baking sheet.

Set Up Your Smoker:

  • Clean and oil the grill grates.
  • Preheat your smoker for indirect heat with a steady temp of 300 – 325 degrees F. See our notes in the recipe card for a charcoal grill, gas grill, or pellet smoker.

Smoke the Chicken:

  • Place the seasoned chicken, breastbone down on the cool side of the grill, using indirect heat, and close the lid.
  • Let the chicken smoke until it reaches the perfect internal temperature at about an hour on the grill. If your grill has hot spots, you may need to rotate the chicken once or twice, keeping the meat side up, for even cooking.

Rest and Serve:

  • Let the chicken rest for a few minutes after smoking to keep it juicy.
  • You can serve these halves whole or break them into chicken breast, thighs, and legs for serving. We don’t baste our chicken with sauce while grilling (cuz we want the best skin) so drizzle with your choice of sauce, then sprinkle with fresh cilantro for a burst of color and flavor and dig in.

Girl Carnivore Expert Recipe Tips

Checking Doneness: Use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken is perfectly cooked to the safe internal temperatures—165°F for chicken breasts and 170-175°F for thighs.

Skin Perfection: Patting the chicken dry and letting it sit in the fridge are key for achieving that desired crispy skin. We also brush the chicken skin with oil around the last 15 minutes of smoking just to lock in BBQ rub and add extra crispiness.

Add extra smoky flavor: Use one to two wood chunks or a handful wood chips in a smoker box to add a little extra flavor. We think hickory is the best wood for smoking chicken when you want classic barbecue.

Two grilled chickens stuffed with vegetables are placed side by side on a black tray, with green leafy plants partially visible at the top right corner. The wooden table surface is visible underneath.

How to Serve this Juicy Smoked Chicken

This smoked chicken is a showstopper on its own or can be sliced and served on a platter with assorted sauces for dipping. Pair with simple sides like pickles, grilled vegetables, crispy fries, or a garden salad to let the smoky flavors shine.

Leftovers

For easy leftovers, we pick the meat from the bones before storing it wrapped in foil or in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. We love to use up leftovers in easy chicken salad, as chicken tacos, piled over nachos, grilled paninis, or as a simple stir fry.

A seasoned grilled chicken half cooking on a round barbecue grill.

This smoked half chicken recipe delivers an easy finger-licking meal for when you have a big appetite but don’t want to work too hard. Fire up your smoker, and get ready for your backyard to be the new favorite neighborhood eatery!

Have you tried this recipe? Do us a favor and rate the recipe card with the  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ and drop a comment to help out the next reader.

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Smoked Half Chickens

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Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Resting Time: 5 minutes
Total: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 4
Top view of two whole chickens being grilled on a circular metal grill with a red exterior.
Make smoked half chickens with insanely juicy meat and actually crispy skin, perfect for when you need a simple chicken dinner. This recipe covers just how simple this meal can be with tips for a variety of grills.

Ingredients  

For the chicken

For garnish:


  • BBQ sauce, aji amarillo sauce, chipotle crema, or Alabama white sauce depending on the flavor profile you want.
  • Cilantro minced

Instructions 

  • Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. Make sure to dry all sides and below the fold of the chicken wings.
  • Season the chicken on both sides with the salt and chicken rub.
  • Place the chicken on a wire rack over a baking sheet, skin side up, and let sit in the fridge for 2 hours to overnight.
  • Clean and oil the grill grates and preheat the smoker to 300 – 325 degrees F.
  • When the grill has preheated, place the chicken on the grill grates and close the lid. 

  • Allow the chicken to smoke until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F in the breast and 170 – 175 in the legs and thighs with a digital meat thermometer, about 1 hour.
  • Carefully transfer the chicken havles to a baking sheet and let them rest for 7 to 10 minutes before serving.
  • Serve the chicken halves whole or cut them in half, separating the leg and thigh from the chicken breast.

Notes

Cutting whole chickens: You can easily make chicken halves by spatchcocking a chicken with kitchen shears and then cutting once more through the center of the breastbone to separate the two sides into halves. See our guide for how to cut up a chicken for step by step instructions.
Checking Doneness: Use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken is perfectly cooked to the safe internal temperatures—165°F for chicken breasts and 170-175°F for thighs.
Skin Perfection: Patting the chicken dry and letting it sit in the fridge are key for achieving that desired crispy skin. We also brush the chicken skin with oil around the last 15 minutes of smoking just to lock in BBQ rub and add extra crispiness.
Add extra smoky flavor: To add a little extra flavor, use one to two wood chunks or a handful of wood chips in a smoker box. We love hickory for its classic barbecue taste.
For a Charcoal Grill: 


  • For a traditional charcoal grill, set up your coals for a 2-zone fire by pouring lit charcoal on one side of the grill. Clean the grill grates. Adjust the air vents and cover the grill to allow the grill to preheat. 
  • When the grill is ready, place the chicken halves on the cooler side of the grill. Cover with the lid and allow the chicken to cook as directed. 
  • For a ceramic grill, like shown above, use the diffuser plates to create a smoking environment for the chicken.
  • We recommend Cowboy Lump charcoal and hickory wood chunks. 
For a drum smoker: 
 

  • Light the coals and add them to the bottom of the drum when ready. Preheat your drum smoker by adjusting the air vents. Clean and oil the grates. 
  • With a drum smoker, you have two options for the chicken. You can arrange the chicken on the grill grate (set to it’s highest position) or hang the chicken halves. We love this method for crazy good barbecue flavor. 
For a traditional Pellet Grill (Traeger)
  • For a pellet smoker, preheat the grill to 300 – 325 degrees F. Clean and oil the grill grates.
  • When the grill is preheated, add the chicken to the grill, close the lid and cook until it reaches 165-175 degrees F.
  • Because most pellet smokers don’t have a cooler or hot side of the grill, you may want to rotate the chicken halves for even cooking. 
  • We recommend Jack Daniel’s Charcoal Pellets
For a gas grill: 
  • Set up your gas grill for indirect heat by first preheating the grill with all the burners on high. Clean and oil the grill grates. Then turn off 1 of the burners, this will be your cool side. Adjust the other burners to medium heat and maintain a temp of 300-325 degrees F. Don’t be shy with flavor and consider smoking on a gas grill by adding wood chips in a smoker box or foil packet to really amp up the taste. 
  • When the grill is preheated, cook the chicken halves as instructed over the cooler side of the grill. 
Helpful articles:

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 80kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.5g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 36mg | Sodium: 1.812mg | Potassium: 239mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.3g | Vitamin A: 29IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, barbeque
Author: Kita Roberts

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FAQs

How long does it take to smoke chicken halves?

Because we run our smoker hotter, around 300-325°F, our chicken havles cooks in about an hour. It doesn’t get as much smoke flavor as a lower temp, but it does help the skin to keep a good texture and the meat juicy.

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Well, Hey, Y’all.

Kita is a multi-talented individual, boasting numerous accomplishments such as being an award-winning recipe developer, world-traveled professional photographer, and journalist. As the lead creative force behind Girl Carnivore®, she is widely recognized as an authority on all things meat.

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