How to Brine and Smoke a Chicken

How to Brine and Smoke a Chicken

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One of our favorite ways to prepare a chicken is to smoke it, so I’d love to share with you the steps we use to brine and smoke a chicken for our dining enjoyment. Bonus: this recipe will also work for a turkey!

(Don’t want to read all the words? This blog post is also a podcast—just press the triangle play button on the little black bar at the top of this post!)

Why do you brine a chicken before smoking it?

I mean…can’t you just toss a fresh chicken in the smoker and let ‘er go? Well, I wouldn’t. It won’t be as tasty—and it’s probably going to be d-r-y.

Brining is the process of letting meat soak in a water/salt solution before you smoke it. The meat soaks in the liquid and salt during the brining process and it helps to keep the meat moist while smoking.

There are many brine recipes out there, and once you figure out what you like, you can add many spices and herbs to your brine—however the salt and liquid are essential to the process. Our brine is very simple. It’s just a gallon of water, 1 cup of canning salt, and 3 Tbsp minced garlic.

How to brine a chicken before smoking

You can brine a whole chicken or pieces of chicken. Our most recent smoking episode had us brining the breasts, legs, and thighs from four large chickens. The reason we did pieces is 4 whole chickens will not fit in our smoker, but 4 pieced out chickens will. Here’s how we brined the pieces, which also works for whole chickens:

Heat 2 quarts (1/2 gallon) of water to boiling. Add the salt and garlic, stir, and let cool a bit. 

Add the water/salt/garlic solution to a food grade bucket. Add 2 quarts (1/2 gallon) cold water and stir to help bring the temp of the brine down even further. You don’t want to put your raw meat into super hot water. We don’t want it to cook, we want it to brine.

If you find that you don’t have enough brine for the amount of meat you’re using, just increase the brine recipe—doubling or tripling as needed.

Place the meat (pieces or whole bird) into the five gallon food grade bucket.

One of our favorite ways to prepare chicken for dinner is to smoke it! Here are the steps we use to smoke and brine a chicken. (This also works for turkey!)

Cover the bucket and place in the fridge. Let sit for at least 24 hours. You can also let your meat sit in the brine longer if you wish. 

When you are done brining the meat, take the meat out of the brine, rinse briefly in cold running water, towel the meat off (clean flour sack towels or paper towels) and then let the meat sit on drying racks for a bit to further dry off. Although this dry time is optional, a dry surface on your meat will help the smoke flavor adhere better to the meat.

One of our favorite ways to prepare chicken for dinner is to smoke it! Here are the steps we use to smoke and brine a chicken. (This also works for turkey!)

How to smoke a chicken after brining

We have a Masterbuilt electric smoker. We have no complaints about it other than the size! It has served us well. We plan to build a smokehouse in the future to keep up with all the smoking we do here of our home raised meat.

Your smoking situation may differ, but with our smoker:

We turn the power on and set the temp of the smoker to 180

Set the timer on the smoker to 24 hours — we do this because we have found if the smoker takes longer to get the meat to temp for some reason, (if it’s a cold day, etc), the smoker will turn off when it hits the time you’ve set it for. So we set ours to 24 hours and watch the temp of the meat, not the timer on the smoker.

Fill the wood tray with wood chips.

We give the smoker ten minutes or so to warm up.

Load the smoker up with meat.

One of our favorite ways to prepare chicken for dinner is to smoke it! Here are the steps we use to smoke and brine a chicken. (This also works for turkey!)

Insert a meat thermometer into the meat. Set the alert temp on the meat thermometer. (Our meat thermometer has a poultry setting of 175 degrees.)

Let the smoker do its thing.

After an hour of smoking chicken, we bump the temp of the smoker to 200.

Every hour of smoking requires another load of wood chips to the smoker.

Be attentive to your smoker.

When the temp of the meat is correct (175-180 on our meat thermometer) it’s time to take the chicken out.

Remember it will be hot as you’re loading up your tray with all the smoked goodness!

One of our favorite ways to prepare chicken for dinner is to smoke it! Here are the steps we use to smoke and brine a chicken. (This also works for turkey!)

The breasts, legs, and thighs of four large chickens (6-7 pounds each) took 2.5 hours to smoke on a 40 degree day. We have found if we smoke on a particularly cold day (near zero or below) the smoking time is increased.

What can you do with smoked chicken?

I love the flavor of smoked chicken! We often dice or shred the breast meat to use in various ways.

One of our favorite ways to prepare chicken for dinner is to smoke it! Here are the steps we use to smoke and brine a chicken. (This also works for turkey!)

The leg and thigh pieces can also be deboned, or they can be left whole. The great thing about smoking the meat is that you can then re-freeze it. Smoking chickens is a way for us to get closer to meal prep. Containers of smoked chicken in the freezer bring us that much closer to our dinners being ready, so it’s a big tasty help to us!

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One of our favorite ways to prepare chicken for dinner is to smoke it! Here are the steps we use to smoke and brine a chicken. (This also works for turkey!)

How to Brine and Smoke a Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup canning salt
  • 3 Tbsp minced garlic
  • (other spices as you see fit!)

Instructions

  1. Heat 2 quarts (1/2 gallon) of water to boiling.

  2. Add the salt and garlic, stir to dissolve the salt, and then let solution cool a bit. 

  3. Add the water/salt/garlic solution to a food grade bucket. Add 2 quarts (1/2 gallon) cold water and stir to help bring the temp of the brine down even further. You don’t want to put your raw meat into super hot water. We don’t want it to cook, we want it to brine.

  4. Place the meat (pieces or whole bird) into the five gallon food grade bucket.

  5. If you find that you don’t have enough brine for the amount of meat you’re using, just increase the brine recipe—doubling or tripling as needed. It is important the meat stays completely submerged in the brine while it is brining!

  6. Cover the bucket and place in the fridge. Let sit for at least 24 hours.

  7. When you are done brining the meat, take the meat out of the brine, rinse briefly in cold running water, towel the meat off (clean flour sack towels or paper towels) and then let the meat sit on drying racks for a bit to further dry off. Although this dry time is optional, a dry surface on your meat will help the smoke flavor adhere better to the meat.

  8. Smoke meat using instructions for your smoker. Chicken should be smoked to an internal temp of 175-180 degrees.

Recipe Notes

 ** The breasts, legs, and thighs of four large chickens (6-7 pounds each) took 2.5 hours to smoke on a 40 degree day. We have found if we smoke on a particularly cold day (near zero or below) the smoking time is increased.

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