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Traeger Smoked Whole Chicken (Two Ways)

This Traeger Smoked Whole Chicken can be marinated or seasoned with a dry rub. The result is always tender, juicy, fall off the bone chicken loaded with flavor. This recipe works for any smoker or pellet grill. 

whole chicken on a Traeger pellet grill smoker

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Smoking a whole chicken can sound intimidating, but I process it’s not! This recipe will show you how to make a standard chicken or how to remove the backbone and spatchcock it. It also includes 2 methods for seasoning the chicken with either a dry rub or a zesty marinade.

raw whole chicken on a cutting board

How to Thaw Whole Chicken

I recommend thawing in the refrigerator or in cold water. If using the refrigerator, keep the chicken in it’s original packaging and place a sheet pan underneath to catch any juices that may leak out.

Once thawed, it can stay in the fridge, safely, up to 2 days.

Do You Have to Spatchcock the Chicken?

No. But here’s what it means. Have you seen all of those photos of beautiful whole chickens and turkeys on social media and in magazines? The breasts are perfectly cooked and the poultry’s legs look perfectly crafted. Spatchcock chicken allows the chicken to cook more evenly on a level surface.

To do this, you will have to remove the backbone from the chicken. This will open it up and allow it to lay flat. I like to use these cooking shears from Amazon. You can also use a knife, be careful!

You will usually save time with the spatchcock method (usually an hour or so), so if you’re in a hurry I recommend it.

collage photo showing how to spatchcock a chicken and remove the backbone
person holding backbone of chicken
raw whole chicken on a cutting board
raw whole chicken on a cutting board

Tie the Legs with Butcher’s Twine

If you aren’t spatchcocking and removing the backbone of the chicken, you should tie the legs with butcher’s twine. This will help ensure the chicken cooks at an even and consistent temperature and the legs don’t burn.

How to Season the Chicken

You can use a dry rub or a liquid marinade for the chicken.

My Dry Rub for Chicken recipe works great for this recipe and is also what I use for my Dry Rub Chicken Wings. A dry rub is a blend of dry spices and herbs that is applied and rubbed onto the surface of the food to add flavor before cooking. This helps amplify the flavors of the spices and herbs. You can allow the chicken to rest in the rub (refrigerated for 30 minutes to overnight) if you want the flavor to really penetrate into the chicken. This is completely optional.

The purpose of a dry rub is to create a crust around the chicken or meat. A dry rub will enhance the flavor of the chicken without using moisture or a liquid marinade. Rubs are usually a little more coarse than simply adding seasoning. The recipe card below outlines the spices you will need for the rub. You can also use your favorite store-bought rub.

You can also use a liquid marinade or brine. The main difference between a dry rub and a marinade is the absence of moisture. A marinade will tenderize the meat. A dry rub does not. I love to use the marinade from my Pollo Asado Recipe. It’s a combination of citrus juices and spices like chipotles in adobo sauce, cumin, and smoked paprika. This marinade is known for its zesty flavor.

If you aren’t looking to make the pollo asado version, you can marinate the chicken using soy sauce. Soy sauce will tenderize the meat.

seasoned and marinated raw whole chicken on a cutting board

How to Prep the Chicken

You will need to remove the contents of the inner cavity. Giblets are typically inside. Giblets are the little bundle of parts and usually include the neck, the gizzard, which is a muscle that grinds up food before it enters the digestive system, the heart, and the liver. Some people save these and cook them up or make gravy. You can discard if you wish.

How to Make Traeger Smoked Whole Chicken

Detailed measurements and full instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  1. Marinate or season the chicken.
  2. Place the chicken in the smoker. Smoke until the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  3. If you like crispy skin, when the chicken reaches 150 degrees of internal temperature, adjust the heat on the smoker to 350 degrees and cook the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
seasoned and raw whole chicken on a Traeger pellet grill smoker
seasoned and raw whole chicken with a probe on a Traeger pellet grill smoker

What Type of Wood/Pellets to Use

The best type of wood and flavored pellets to use are cherry, apple, alder, oak, and hickory. The Traeger Signature blend also pairs well with anything.

How Long to Cook it/How to Tell When it’s Done

The total time to cook will vary based on the size of your chicken. This 4 1/2 pound bird took about 4 hours. You will need to use a meat thermometer for accuracy. It will need to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Chicken is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.

whole chicken on a Traeger pellet grill smoker

Smoker Temperature

I like to start with the temperature low at 225 degrees for a few hours, that will allow the smoke flavor to penetrate the meat. Then I turn the temperature up to 300 degrees until the chicken reaches 165 degrees internal temperature.

Let the Chicken Rest Before Slicing

Let the chicken stand for 15-20 minutes before slicing to allow juices to set. You will wind up with dry chicken if you slice too soon.

smoked whole chicken on a pan

How to Store Leftovers

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge tightly covered and sealed for 3-4 days.

Freezer Tips

You can freeze cooked chicken for up to 4 months. It’s best to slice the chicken before freezing it. Once sliced, you can wrap it in foil, bag it up and then place it into the freezer.

Reheating

Reheat on 325 degrees in the oven until warm. You can also place it in broth to keep it juicy while it bakes. You can use the microwave if you wish.

sliced smoked whole chicken on a pan

Pair with These Recipes

Bow Tie Pasta Salad
Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad
Broccoli Salad with Cheese and Bacon
Chipotle Cilantro Lime Rice
Instant Pot Black Beans

Oven Baked Roasted Corn on the Cob

More Traeger Chicken and Turkey Recipes

Traeger Smoked Chicken Wings
Traeger Smoked Chicken Breast

Traeger Smoked Turkey
Traeger Smoked Turkey Breast
Smoked Turkey Wings

More Traeger Recipes

Traeger Smoked Salmon
Traeger Smoked Bacon
Smoked Mac and Cheese
Smoked Salsa
Smoked Lobster Tail
Traeger Smoked Brisket

whole chicken on a Traeger pellet grill smoker
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5 from 2 votes

Traeger Smoked Whole Chicken (Two Ways)

This Traeger Smoked Whole Chicken can be marinated or seasoned with a dry rub. The result is always tender, juicy, fall off the bone chicken loaded with flavor. This recipe works for any smoker or pellet grill. 
Save this recipe here.
Course dinner, lunch
Cuisine American
Keyword how to cook whole chicken on Traeger, smoked whole chicken, Traeger smoked chicken, Traeger smoked whole chicken, Traeger whole chicken
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 20 minutes
Servings 5 servings
Calories 340kcal

Ingredients

Option 1: Homemade Dry Rub or any Store-Bought Rub

Option 2 Chipotle Citrus Marinade

  • 7 oz Chipotles in Adobo Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice I juiced an orange.
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Preheat smoker to 225 degrees.
  • Pat chicken dry. Remove all of the contents from the inner cavity.

Dry Rub Chicken Instructions

  • Drizzle the chicken with olive oil or I like to use this oil spray bottle that I load with olive oil. It makes it easier to coat the chicken by spraying it on.
  • Season the entire chicken and rub the spices into the skin.
    If you aren't spatchcocking the chicken and removing the backbone of the chicken (see instructions below), you should tie the legs with butcher's twine. This will help ensure the chicken cooks at an even and consistent temperature and the legs don't burn.

Chipotle Citrus Marinade

  • Add all of the ingredients for the marinade to a blender, food processor, or a large bowl to use with a handheld immersion blender.
  • Blend the ingredients until it creates a thick sauce.
  • Brush the marinade over the chicken. (Marinating overnight is optional and not required).
    If you aren't spatchcocking the chicken and removing the backbone of the chicken (see instructions below), you should tie the legs with butcher's twine. This will help ensure the chicken cooks at an even and consistent temperature and the legs don't burn.

Smoking/Grill Instructions

  • Place the chicken in the smoker. Smoke until the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Cook time will vary based on the size of your chicken and can range from 3-6 hours.
  • If you like crispy skin, when the chicken reaches 150 degrees of internal temperature, adjust the heat on the smoker to 350 degrees and cook the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  • You will need to use a probe or meat thermometer to test. You always want to test the thickest part of the chicken, which is typically between the thigh and leg or breast. Ensure it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees. I usually test several areas of the chicken to be sure.
  • Allow the chicken to rest for a minimum of 15-20 minutes prior to slicing to allow the juices to settle. If you slice too soon it will result in dry chicken.

Spatchcock Instructions (Optional and performed prior to seasoning the chicken)

  • Place the chicken, breast side down and locate the backbone of the chicken. It runs down the middle of the back and below the neck.
  • Glide your sharp cooking shears or knife along the side of the backbone and cut to remove it. Do this for both sides of the backbone to remove it completely.
  • Flip the chicken over and flatten the breasts of the chicken you should hear a crack. Turn the drumsticks so that they are positioned properly. I like to tuck the wings back below the breast. This helps keep them from browning quickly and is great for presentation.

Notes

  • Feel free to season the chicken with any of your favorite rubs.
  • Ensure the chicken is fully coated with spices. Add additional spices if necessary.
  • The best type of wood and flavored pellets to use are cherry, apple, alder, oak, and hickory. The Traeger Signature blend also pairs well with anything.
  • You will need to let the chicken rest for at least 15 minutes prior to slicing. While the chicken rests, moisture is redistributed. back into the meat. If you slice into it immediately, the juice will run out and you will end up with dry chicken.
     
     
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Nutrition (displayed with net carbs)

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 340kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 22g
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Recipe Rating




Brandy

Thursday 10th of November 2022

I can't even tell you how much we enjoyed this smoked chicken. It was so flavorful and juicy. There were no leftovers! I will be using this method again!

staysnatched

Thursday 10th of November 2022

So glad to hear it!

Phoebe

Wednesday 9th of November 2022

I am definitely trying the Spatchcock method the next time I make this! Thank you for the great instructions.

staysnatched

Wednesday 9th of November 2022

I hope you love that method!