Learn how to smoke a whole chicken using a Masterbuilt electric smoker, 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 Masterbuilt electric smoker for the cook, and smoking your whole chicken to perfection.
But we thought, what could be easier than a simply smoked whole chicken right in the good old trusty Masterbuilt Electric Smoker?
You can really use any electric smoker, it doesn't have to be a Masterbuilt, and follow our instructions below!
How to Prepare a Whole Chicken for the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
Clean and Trim the Whole Chicken(s)
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 whole chickens up a bit before you start seasoning and smoking.
How to get Crispy Skin on your Masterbuilt 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.
Typically we would cook the whole chicken at 350°F in order to render out the fat underneath the skin, but many electric smokers, including those made by Masterbuilt only go up to a 275°F cooking temperature.
So rather than using HEAT to get crispy skin on a smoked whole chicken, we need to use CHEMISTRY.
And 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.
Crispy Smoked Whole Chicken Skin Secret #1: Baking Powder
Mixing a little baking powder into your smoked whole chicken rub will go a long way to give you crispier skin, even at the lower temperatures of an electric smoker.
This works great for all kinds of roast chicken, turkey, and even duck as outlined by Epicurious here.
You don't need a lot, we add about ⅛ teaspoon for every 4 tablespoon of BBQ Rub.
This works best if you combine it with dry brining the chicken overnight in the refrigerator to allow the alkali baking powder to interact with the skin of the chicken along with the salt in your rub to dry everything out before putting it in the smoker.
Crispy Smoked Whole Chicken Skin Secret #2: Dry Brine Overnight
After cleaning and trimming, simply coat the inside and outside of your whole chicken with kosher salt, or your favorite BBQ rub that has salt in it, along with some baking powder mixed in as described above.
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) on a wire rack 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 in the Masterbuilt.
- 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 may look kind of powdery and dry.
This is good.
It means the salt has penetrated down into the meat where you want it to be and has taken all the moisture from the skin with it.
The skin will now crisp up nicely in the electric smoker while the inside meat stays moist.
If you need to add MORE BBQ rub, go ahead and do this before putting it in the Masterbuilt.
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.
The Best Rub for a Masterbuilt 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.
It's got a great flavor of not only typical BBQ seasonings but also onion, garlic, and even a little cayenne for some heat.
We love it on smoked whole chicken!
The Best Wood Chips for Smoking a Whole Chicken in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
You want to go fairly easy with the woodsmoke on a whole chicken.
Poultry, especially white meat poultry, absorbs smoke fairly quickly and you don't want your smoked chicken tasting like an ashtray when it comes out of the electric smoker.
A subtle smokiness that sits in the back of the palate after taking a bite is what we are going for.
Mesquite and hickory will give a very aggressive smoke flavor and should probably be used only in combination with some other varieties of wood chips.
Pecan, apple, beech, alder, and cherry are all milder woods that great results on smoked whole chicken in an electric smoker.
We especially like these apple wood chips from Western BBQ on smoked chicken.
Also no reason you can't mix a few different kinds together in your Masterbuilt!
For a smoked whole chicken, you will likely only need 1-2 loads of wood chips in the electric smoker at the beginning of the cook and no more after that.
You will get plenty of smoke flavor without overdoing it.
Refilling Wood Chips is a Pain
Now, as we mentioned, you will need to refill the wood chips every 30-40 minutes as they smolder fairly quickly compared to wood chunks and wood pellets.
Now, if you are using a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker, we recommend you check out their Slow Smoker Accessory Attachment.
It allows you to preload the wood chips, much like a pellet hopper on a pellet grill like a Traeger and smokes them more slowly so that you don't need to constantly refill.
This works great for longer smokes like beef brisket in your electric smoker!
Using a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
Now, if you aren't quite familiar yet with how to use your electric smoker, don't worry, we've got plenty of good resources for you.
You can tell we are big fans of this great electric wonder, especially for beginner smokers and bbq enthusiasts.
Now that you know how to properly set up and use your smoker, we will go over what is needed to properly smoke a Whole Chicken step by step in a Masterbuilt electric smoker.
How to Smoke a Whole Chicken in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
Now that the whole chicken is trimmed, dry brined, and seasoned, all that left to do is smoke it in our electric smoker!
Let's jump into the details of time and temperature and how to know when your whole chicken is done smoking.
What Temperature do you Smoke a Whole Chicken in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker?
Set the temperature of your electric smoker to 275°F, and let it come up to temperature.
Make sure to also keep the upper vent completely open.
This will maximize airflow during the smoking process and keep the cooking chamber dryer, allowing for crispier skin.
Lastly, alng those same lines, skip putting water in the water pan whenever you're smoking skin-on chicken.
There is enough moisture in the chickens already and the dry brining will really keep them from drying out anyway.
We recommend just putting an empty, DRY, aluminum pan under the smoking whole chicken to catch drippings and make clean up easier later.
How Long Does it Take to Smoke a Whole Chicken in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker?
After the electric smoker has come up to temperature and you have added your wood chips to the chip loader, it's time for the chicken.
Put your whole chicken on one of the middle shelves with the breasts pointed up and let the electric smoker 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 whole chicken over as the electric smoker 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 smoker grates.
A cold 4 lb whole chicken will take between 3 - 3.5 hours in an electric smoker at 275°F.
It may take up to 4 hours or more if you have a really large chicken, or if it is cold outside and you open the door 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 in the Masterbuilt.
Keep the door closed as much as possible, and use the temperature probes to tell you when the chicken is done.
How Much Wood Smoke to Use on a Whole Chicken?
Chicken, like most poultry, and fish for that matter, absorbs a lot of smoke in a short amount of time.
You don't want to overdo it, especially if you are new to smoking chicken in your electric smoker.
Use a handful or two of wood chips at the beginning of the cook but we wouldn't recommend refilling with any more after that.
Once the chips have smoldered out you can empty them from the chip loading tray.
How Do You Know When a Whole Chicken is Done Smoking in an Electric Smoker?
You'll want to monitor the internal temperature of both the chicken breast AND chicken thigh for doneness.
Your Masterbuilt electric smoker 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 whole chicken is done smoking in the Masterbuilt.
One of our go-to and very affordable favorites is this 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 the Whole Chicken
Remove the whole chicken from the electric smoker and let it 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 Masterbuilt electric smoker smoked whole chicken.
Masterbuilt Smoked Whole Chicken
- Masterbuilt Electric Smoker or any brand electric smoker
- Wood chips 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 tablespoon Kosher Salt
- ¼ teaspoon Baking Powder
In a Pinch BBQ Rub
- 2 tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar
- 2 tablespoon Paprika
- ½ tablespoon Course Ground Black Pepper
- ½ tablespoon Chili Powder
- ½ tablespoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
- ¼ teaspoon 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 tablespoon Kosher salt and baking powder, or use your favorite BBQ rub that contains salt mixed with the baking powder, 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 tablespoon Kosher Salt, ¼ teaspoon Baking Powder, Your Favorite BBQ rub or our "In a Pinch BBQ Rub" below
- 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 Baking Powder 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 tablespoon Dark Brown Sugar, 2 tablespoon Paprika, ½ tablespoon Course Ground Black Pepper, ½ tablespoon Chili Powder, ½ tablespoon Garlic Powder, 1 teaspoon Onion Powder, ¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Start the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- Open up the electric smoker door and make sure the racks are all cleaned off and in their proper place. You may need to remove a couple shelves to make room for the whole chickens. Aim for the middle of the smoker for your chicken(s).
- Do not fill the water pan. Close the door.
- Plug in and turn on the electric smoker and set the temperature to 275°F.
- Once the electric smoker is up to temperature, load your wood chips in the chip loading tray. There is no need to soak the wood chips in water.
Smoking the Whole Chicken in the Masterbuilt Electric Smoker
- Once smoke is being produced, position your seasoned whole chickens on the grates breast side up.
- 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 door.
- 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 electric smoker.
Rest and Carve
- Let the chickens rest for 15-20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to distribute.
- Carve, plate, and serve immediately.