Learn how to smoke a whole chicken using a Pit Boss pellet grill, and why it is one of easiest, and tastiest, ways to smoke a whole chicken!
We take you step-by-step through preparing your whole chicken, setting up your Pit Boss for the cook, and smoking your chicken to perfection.
So for that reason we love smoking chicken around here.
But we thought, what could be easier, and tastier, than a simply smoked whole chicken right on our trusty Pit Boss pellet grill?
So let’s jump in!
How to Prepare a Whole Chicken for the Pit Boss Pellet Grill
Clean and Trim the Whole Chickens
Take some time to clean, rinse and dry your whole chicken(s) with paper towels after removing them from the packaging.
Remove any giblet bags or other items stuffed into the cavities.
There should not be too much trimming to do but it doesn’t hurt to clean the chickens up a bit before you start seasoning and cooking on the beer can chicken roasters.
How to Get Crispy Skin on your Pit Boss Smoked Whole Chicken
The problem with “most” smoked chicken is that while the meat inside gets tender and delicious, the skin is usually a little rubbery and unappetizing.
Smoking your whole chicken at a high enough temperature to render out the fat underneath the skin is important, but so is the seasoning and the way you do it.
So if you want the crispiest skin possible at the end, it all starts with dry brining at the beginning.
This is what will separate you from all the chicken smoking amateurs out there.
It works on all cuts of chicken…and turkey too.
Dry Brine the Whole Chicken to Smoke on the Pit Boss
After cleaning and trimming, simply coat the inside and outside of your whole chicken with kosher salt, or your favorite BBQ rub.
Do NOT use oil to help the rub adhere. As you apply the rub the skin will start to get more wet as the salt in the rub pulls the moisture up to the surface.
This is all the moisture you need to get the salt and rub to adhere.
Store the whole chicken(s) it on a wire set on top of a baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight.
We like this wire rack and baking sheet combo because you want maximum airflow around every side of the whole chicken.
This overnight seasoning does 3 things:
- That salty moisture that formed on the surface will work its way BACK into the meat to help flavor the interior of the chicken.
- The salt inside will help the whole chicken retain moisture and not dry out while it smokes on the Pit Boss.
- It pulls moisture OUT of the skin allowing it to dry out before you smoke it and therefore crisp up better while it cooks.
Moist meat, and dry crispy skin.
Exactly what we want.
The next day the skin should look kind of powdery and very dry.
This is good.
It means the salt has penetrated into the meat where you want it to be and has taken all the moisture with it.
The skin will now crisp up nicely on the Pit Boss while the inside meat stays moist.
In the morning, if there is still A LOT of salt or seasoning on the outside, wipe it off with a dry or only slightly damp paper towel.
If you need to add MORE BBQ rub, go ahead and do this before putting it on the Pit Boss.
Pro Tip: DO NOT use cooking oil to help additional rub adhere to the chicken skin. The more oil you apply, the less the skin will crisp up when it cooks.
If really are having a hard time getting your BBQ rub to adhere, use the smallest amount of cooking oil possible to make it stick.
The Best Rub for a Pit Boss Smoked Whole Chicken
We have a great BBQ Chicken Rub recipe from scratch below, but if you want something easy right off the shelf, check out Three Little Pigs Kansas City Championship BBQ Rub.
Its got a great flavor of not only typical BBQ seasonings but also onion, garlic, and vene a little cayenne for some heat.
We love it on chicken!
The Best Wood Pellets for Smoking a Whole Chicken on a Pit Boss Pellet Grill
You have a little freedom when it comes to choosing the right wood pellets to smoke a whole chicken on a Pit Boss.
Mesquite and hickory will give a very aggressive smoke flavor.
If that’s not your thing, you can also go for a milder smoke flavor by choosing oak or fruitwood pellets.
Pecan, apple, beech, alder, and cherry all give great results on chicken.
For fun, you can choose your woods seasonally, using beech and cherry in spring and summer and pecan and apple into the fall and winter.
Also no reason you can’t mix a few different kinds together in your Pit Boss!
For the best results, store your unused pellets in a sealed room temperature container like this 20 lb pellet container rather than in the Pit Boss hopper outside.
Pellets do not last forever, but will definitely last a LOT longer if stored indoors in a quality airtight container.
How to Smoke a Whole Chicken on a Pit Boss Pellet Grill
We have previously covered how to season a Pit Boss, how to start a Pit Boss, as well as how to troubleshoot the smoke level of your pellet grill.
So if you need a more in-depth review on how to use your Pit Boss for the first time, check those articles out first!
But below is a brief overview of how a Pit Boss pellet grill works and how to start it up properly to prepare to smoke your food.
How a Pit Boss Pellet Grill Works
In order to cook ANYTHING well on a Pit Boss pellet grill, you need to first have a basic understanding of how a pellet grill works.
***Completely New to Using a Pellet Grill? No Worries!****
Hop over and check out this Complete Guide to Understanding How a Pellet Grill Works if you are interested in learning more in depth. We’ll be here when you get back!***
Add your Hardwood Pellets
First, you add hardwood pellets into the side hopper.
The Pit Boss pellet grill automatically feeds these small wood pellets via an auger mechanism to a fire pot where they are burned up, providing both heat and smokey flavor.
The pellet grill automatically controls the flow of pellets depending on your temperature setting so that you maintain an even temperature throughout the entire cook.
How to Start up the Pit Boss Pellet Grill
- Fill your hopper with pellets as described above.
- Make sure the fire pot is cleaned out from the last cook and not full of ashes. You can remove it from the bottom and dump or vacuum it out and then put back and clip into place.
- Plug in and start up the pellet grill, keeping the lid open. Set the temperature dial to “Smoke” and press the “Power” button.
- If there are no pellets in the auger or firepot yet, only in the hopper, you need to now hold the “Prime” button until you hear pellets begin to drop into the firepot.
- The “Prime” feature on a Pit Boss pellet grill speeds up the auger so that pellets fill it quickly and get to your fire pot before the pellet grill “times out” from a lack of pellets coming into the fire pot.
- Once pellets are in the firepot, stop holding the “Prime” button and wait about 5-7 minutes with the lid open for a torchy burner lighting sound. This means the fire rod has come up to temperature and has ignited the pellets. At this point, a more significant amount of smoke will begin coming out of the pellet grill. This means the pellets are ignited and the pellet grill is working. Now you can close the lid.
- Close the lid and change the temperature setting to 350°F. Pit Boss recommends always preheating to this temperature FIRST, even if you are eventually going to cook at different temperature.
- This will take about 10-15 minutes to preheat the grill.
- Using a good bristle free grill brush, clean off the grill grates.
- Now adjust the temperature to where you need it to cook your food.
Why Bristle Free Grill Brushes?
Check out our Ultimate Guide to How to Keep your Family Safe by using ONLY Bristle Free Grill Brushes, along with a selection of some of our favorites!
What Temperature do you Smoke a Whole Chicken on a Pit Boss Pellet Grill?
Set the Pit Boss temperature to 325°F, and let the grill come up to temperature.
While “Traditional BBQ” is cooked low and slow in the 225-250°F range, you will never get crispy skin on smoked whole chicken cooking at this temperature on your Pit Boss.
This is because the fat underneath the skin will not render at those low temperatures before the meat is finished cooking.
Also, avoid using BBQ rubs with lots and lots of sugar if you are going to cook any higher than 300-325°F because the sugar can burn and carbonize.
If you used a rub or seasoning combination with NO sugar, feel free to bump the temperature to 350° or even 375°F for extra crispy skin.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke a Whole Chicken on a Pit Boss?
Put your whole chicken in the cooking chamber with the breasts pointed up legs pointed to the right (the hotter side) and let the Pit Boss do its thing!
Place temperature probes, if you have them, in both one of the thighs and one of the breasts of the chicken.
Otherwise, you can spot check later with an instant read thermometer.
Always use good insulated grill gloves when rotating or moving the chicken around.
There really is no need to flip the chicken over as the pellet grill provides indirect heat like an oven.
You are welcome to experiment and try cooking it “upside down” if you want through, but you may lose some of your BBQ rub on the breasts against the grill grates.
A 4 lb whole chicken will take between 1-1.5 hours on a Pit Boss at 325°F.
It may take up to 2 hours or more if you have a really large chicken, or it is cold outside and you open the lid a lot during the cook.
Pro Tip: If you want the crispiest skin possible, avoid basting or spraying the chicken with anything while it is cooking on the Pit Boss.
Keep the lid closed as much as possible, and use the temperature probes to tell you when the chicken is done.
How Do You Know When a Whole Chicken is Done Smoking on a Pit Boss?
You’ll want to monitor the internal temperature of both the chicken breast AND chicken thigh for doneness.
Your Pit Boss smoked whole chicken is ready to eat when the breast meat hits an internal temperature of 165°F and the thigh meat hits 175°F on your instant read thermometer.
These usually occur at about the same time.
If you don’t yet own an instant read thermometer, it’s going to be hard to really know exactly when that chicken is done cooking on the pellet grill.
One of our go-to and very affordable favorites is this affordable one from ThermoPro.
If you prefer a leave-in thermometer you can just monitor from your phone while visiting with guests or doing other stuff, then check out our newest favorite, the MEATER leave in thermometer.
It is extremely accurate and has an incredible 165 foot bluetooth range and works right with your smartphone so you don’t need to carry a separate controller around with you like many other remote thermometers require.
It’s got a great free app that is constantly being updated and even has an algorithm to predict how much longer your type of meat will take to cook based on cooking temperature, target temperature, and current internal temperature.
It’s like a GPS for your meat!
Anyways, back to our chicken…
Carving and Serving a Pit Boss Smoked Whole Chicken
Let the smoked whole chicken rest for about 20-30 minutes before carving and serving so that the juice stays in the meat where you want it.
First pull the leg and thigh away from the rest of the bird and cut at the thigh joint. Repeat on the other side.
Now slice each of the breasts off the breastbone, remove the wings, and you are ready to eat!
Smoked chicken is great on its own, or you can pair it with our maple bourbon smoked pineapple for a Hawaiian theme.
If you want something a little richer, check out our Sticky Smoked Sweet Potatoes to cook and serve alongside your Pit Boss smoked whole chicken.
What Else Can I Smoke on my Pit Boss?
So glad you asked!
Check out some of our other favorite recipes below that can all be easily modified for a Pit Boss if not done so already.
- Spatchcocked Chicken on a Pellet Grill
- Pellet Grill Smoked Turkey Breast
- Pellet Grill Turkey
- Spatchcock Smoked Turkey on a Pellet Grill
- Easy Smoked Turkey Legs
- Smoked Chicken Leg Quarters
- Beer Can Chicken on a Pellet Grill
- Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a grill or smoker but one of the most fun ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours!
More Pit Boss Specific Recipes
- Pit Boss Pulled Pork
- Pit Boss Smoked Baby Back Ribs
- Pit Boss Smoked Pork Loin
- Pit Boss Smoked Beef Tenderloin
- Pit Boss Smoked Prime Rib
- Pit Boss Smoked Chuck Roast
- Traeger Baby Back Ribs
- Pellet Grill Smoked Pork Chops
- Smoked Fresh Holiday Ham
- Spiral Sliced Smoked Hot Dogs
- Smoked Bratwurst with Beer Braised Onions
- Gas Grilled Bratwurst
- Pellet Grilled Bratwurst
- Roasted Pig in Your Backyard
- Traeger Smoked Pulled Pork
- Traeger 3-2-1 Pork Ribs
- Masterbuilt Electric Smoker Boston Butt
- Masterbuilt Baby Back Ribs
- Traeger Smoked Pork Loin
- Camp Chef Pulled Pork
- Pit Boss Smoked Chuck Roast
- Traeger Prime Rib
- Pit Boss Beef Brisket
- Perfect Smoked London Broil
- Smoked Ribeye Roast
- Hot and Fast Pellet Grill Beef Brisket
- Smoked Corned Beef
- Smoked Ribeye Steaks
- Smoked Filet Mignon
- Pellet Grilled Steak
- Perfect Grilled Hamburgers
- Smoked Eye of Round Roast Beef
- Easy Smoked Flank Steak
- Traeger Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Cream
- Smoked Chuck Roast for Pulled Beef
- Traeger Smoked Beef Brisket
- Traeger Smoked Chuck Roast
- Masterbuilt Beef Brisket
- Honey Smoked Salmon
- Smoked Oysters in a Garlic White Wine Sauce
- Smoked Scallops with Lemon Butter Sauce
- Smoked Lobster Tails
- Honey Smoked Tilapia
- Perfect Smoked Halibut
- Smoked Mahi Mahi Fillets
- Smoked Swordfish Steaks
- Smoked Crab Legs with Cajun Clarified Butter
- Smoked Mackerel with Maple Balsamic Glaze
- Smoked Catfish with Cajun BBQ Rub
- Smoked Red Snapper with Blackening Rub
- Smoked Leg of Lamb with Guinness Marinade
- Smoked Lamb Chops with a Balsamic Butter Sauce
- Smoked Rack of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary or Smoker
- Smoked and Pulled Lamb Shoulder with a Turkish Spice Rub
- Smoked Lamb Shanks
Other Odds and Ends
- Smoked Gouda Cheese
- Smoked Asparagus
- Easy Smoked Broccoli
- Smoked Cauliflower
- Sticky Smoked Sweet Potatoes
- How to Steam Tamales
- Maple Bourbon Smoked Pineapple
- Masterbuilt Smoked Cheese
Pit Boss Smoked Whole Chicken
- Pit Boss Pellet Grill
- Wood Pellets Hickory, Oak, or Fruitwood
- Large Cutting Board
- Paper Towels
- Large Baking Sheet with Wire Rack
- Internal Meat Thermometers
- Carving Knife
- Insulated BBQ Gloves
- 2 Whole Chickens
- Your Favorite BBQ rub or our "In a Pinch BBQ Rub" below
- 4 Tbsp Kosher Salt
- 1 Tbsp Fresh Course Ground Black Pepper
In a Pinch BBQ Rub
- 2 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Paprika
- 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
- ½ Tbsp Course Ground Black Pepper
- ½ Tbsp Chili Powder
- ½ Tbsp Garlic Powder
- 1 Tsp Onion Powder
- ¼ Tsp Cayenne Pepper optional
Clean the Chicken
- Clean, rinse, and pat dry the whole chickens well with paper towels.2 Whole Chickens
- Trim any excess pieces of skin or fat off of the chickens.
Dry Brine the Chicken Overnight
- Place the chickens on a wire rack placed on top of a baking sheet.
- Mix together the 4 Tbsp Kosher salt and 1 Tbsp pepper, or use your favorite BBQ rub, and sprinkle generously over the tops and bottoms of each chicken. DO NOT use cooking oil to adhere or skin will not get crispy.4 Tbsp Kosher Salt, 1 Tbsp Fresh Course Ground Black Pepper
- Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight or for at least 4-6 hours.
Remove the Next Day
- Take the chickens out of the refrigerator and wipe off any excess salt still remaining on the outside with a damp paper towel.
- If you only used Salt and Pepper to Dry Brine, mix the In a Pinch BBQ Rub ingredients together and apply some to all sides of the chickens. Or add a little more of your favorite BBQ rub for chicken2 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar, 2 Tbsp Paprika, 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt, ½ Tbsp Course Ground Black Pepper, ½ Tbsp Chili Powder, ½ Tbsp Garlic Powder, 1 Tsp Onion Powder
Start the Pit Boss Pellet Grill
- Remove the fire pot from the bottom of the Pit Boss and clean out any ashes left over from the last cook. Replace it and make sure it is secured in place with the clips on either side. Also, wrap the drip tray in aluminum foil to limit cleanup needed later.
- Add your chosen pellets to the hopper, start the Pit Boss pellet grill and put it on the "Smoke" setting.
- If there are no pellets in the auger, hold the "Prime" button until you hear pellets begin falling in the fire pot. This will speed up the auger to prime it full of pellets before you start preheating.
- Once the Pit boss begins to produce thick white smoke, let it run for about 5-7 minutes until the smoke turns more of a clearish blue color. This means the fire rod has fully heated up to burn the pellets more cleanly.
- Next, set the temperature to preheat the Pit Boss pellet grill to 350°F. We will drop this temperature before we start cooking.
- Fill an aluminum pan with water pan if you want to add extra moisture, and place it on the far left side of the Pit Boss pellet grill. Place a disposable bucket liner in the grease bucket as well if you want to limit cleanup later.
- Once the Pit Boss has come up to 350°F, drop the temperature on the control panel to 325° and clean the grill grates with a good grill brush and close the lid.
Smoking the Whole Chicken on the Pit Boss Pellet Grill
- Position your seasoned whole chickens on the grates breasts up and the legs pointing to the hotter RIGHT side of the grill.
- Place an internal temperature probe if you have one into the center of one of the breasts, and another one, if you have one, into the middle of one of the thighs.
- Close the lid. Rotate occasionally for even cooking.
- When the internal temperature of the breasts has reached 165°F, and the internal temperature of the thighs hits 175°F, carefully remove the chickens from the Pit Boss.
Rest and Carve
- Let the chickens rest for 15-20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to distribute.
- Carve, plate, and serve immediately.