For Thanksgiving last year, I roasted/smoked our turkey. It turned out so crispy and delicious that lately I’ve been smoking our chickens using the same method. This recipe isn’t terribly different from that turkey post, but I wanted to make sure it had its own dedicated post so that visitors can quickly find it.
I did a little experimenting and found that the combination of lemon and dill – traditionally used in baked salmon – creates a tangy, fresh tasting bird. Because I smoked this chicken during our January Whole30 Challenge, I tried rubbing clarified butter all over the chicken instead of regular butter – I found it easy to work with (the butter quickly became solid again once in contact with the chicken skin), and it produced a golden protective outer “shell” around the chicken, leaving the meat inside perfectly succulent.
1 whole chicken
1/2 cup clarified butter (ghee), softened or melted
1/4 cup (small handful) fresh dill, chopped coarsely
2 lemons, cut into quarters
1/2 cup sea salt (for the brine)
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1 big handful of hickory wood chips
Brining is an important part of grilling chicken, since it helps infuse the chicken with more liquid and keeps it from drying out during the smoking process. Additionally, the salt helps break down the chicken’s proteins to act as a barrier to keep the liquid from escaping. To brine, place the chicken in a large stockpot and fill with water that’s been mixed with 1/2 cup of sea salt, enough to cover the chicken. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours. If you don’t have room in your fridge, you can put ice in the water – just keep the brine at 40 degrees.
At the same time, you’ll want to prepare your wood chips for smoking. Soak the wood chips in water for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, drain the wood chips and set them in a smoker box or make a small container using tin foil like in the picture above.
To prepare your chicken, take it out of the brine and rinse it in cold water, patting it dry with paper towels on the outside and inside cavity of the bird. Stuff the chicken with the lemon wedges, reserving one wedge for later. Mix together the butter and dill, and rub it all over the bird. Lastly, sprinkle the salt and pepper all over the bird. Place the chicken breast-side-down on a v-rack. You may also need to put the v-rack on a grill pan so it stays stable on your grill.
Preheat your grill on high heat for 10 minutes; as you start the grill, place your wood chips on the grill so they can start warming up as well. After 10 minutes, turn all of the burners off except for one (leave that one on high), and place the wood chips on the burner that’s still on. Place the chicken on the unheated side of the grill and roast for 45 minutes. The temperature of your grill should be around 300-350 degrees. After 45 minutes, carefully flip the chicken so that it’s breast-side-up (you can use a few paper towels wadded up in each hand so you don’t burn your hands). Roast for another 45 minutes, and then rotate it so that the other side of the chicken is facing the hot side of the grill (keep the chicken breast-side-up). After 30 minutes, check the breast and thigh temperature with a meat thermometer; they should register at 165 degrees. If not, keep checking them every 10 minutes until they’re done.
Allow the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving. Using the reserved lemon wedge, squeeze a little lemon juice over the carved chicken pieces.
Here’s a video I made a while back showing how I carve chickens: