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Smoked Chicken Halves

My recipe for slow-smoking chicken halves

smoked bbq chicken halves

The challenge of cooking Half Chickens is keeping the white meat from drying out while rendering the fat in the dark meat.  And don’t forget about the skin, which still has to have bite-through texture.  This is my secrets for cooking competition-quality Half Chickens.

Proper Trimming

Start with a fresh, whole chicken in the 4lb range.  Position the chicken so the back is facing up and using a sharp boning knife, remove the backbone.  You’ll have to go through a few bones , but with a little practice, it’s an easy cut to make. 

trimmed chicken halves

Next flip the chicken over and press down on the breast flattening it.  Start at the neck and cut right down the center line.  Trim an excess fat off the bottom, but try and leave enough to completely cover the breast and thighs.  Wash the halves with cold water and blot dry with paper towel. 


The best way to get flavor into the chicken is a brine.  You can keep it simple and go with straight Italian Dressing (Kroger Brand Zesty Italian is one of my favorites), or make a solution of:

  • 1 gallon Water
  • 1 cup Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Molases
  • ½ cup BBQ dry rub

The chicken needs to soak in the brine for at least 4 hours.  This gives it plenty of time to penetrate the meat and pack it full of flavor.


Remove the chicken from the brine and allow any excess liquid to drip off.  Lay the chicken skin side down and spray it with cooking spray. The cooking spray helps the seasonings stick and gives the meat a nice color. 

chicken halves brine and dry rub

Lightly sprinkle on the rub. (Of course I use The BBQ Rub.), but don’t go too heavy because it already has plenty of salt and spices from the brine. Flip the chicken over and repeat the process. 


You’ll see some people slow smoke chicken at 225 for several hours, but I’ve found that cooking it at higher temperatures produces better results.  Fire the smoker up to 300 degrees and throw on a few chunks of fruit wood.  Apple is my wood of choice for chicken because of its’ sweet, mild flavor.  Cherry is also another great option. 

Just be careful not to add too much wood.  Chicken is delicate and absorbs a lot of smoke.  Stronger woods can overpower the meat, and all you’ll taste is smoke when it’s done.

smoked chicken halves

For my process I place a ½ size aluminum pan on the grate.  Melt ¾ stick of Margarine in the pan and season it with a little dry rub.  Place two Chicken Halves in the pan and let the smoker work its magic.

In 45 minutes, glove up and carefully remove each half to the grate skin up.  (Tip: to keep the skin from shrinking, pin the edges with toothpicks)

Cook the chicken for 30 more minutes and take an internal temp in the thickest part of the thigh.  When it hits the 165 range, remove the chicken from the smoker and glaze both sides with a thin bbq sauce.

Pineapple juice mixed with your favorite bbq sauce makes a great glaze for chicken. When I glaze chicken, I place it in an aluminum pan.  It’s easy to get on and off the smoker and you don’t have to worry with accidently tearing the skin or meat with tongs. 

bbq sauce on smoked chicken

You can return it straight back to the grate, but you risk the chance of the sauce burning as well.  Let the glaze caramelize for 15-20 minutes depending on color.  The final internal temperature should be 170-175 in the thigh. 

Last but not least, take a sample bite.  Here you’re looking for bite-through skin and flavor.  If it needs a little kick at the end, sprinkle on a touch of salt or additional dry rub and spritz with apple juice to melt.  Place it back on the cooker for just a minute and it’s ready to go.  Just go light with any final adjustments; it’s real easy to go over over-board.

smoked half chicken on plate


The BBQ Rub - a barbecue dry rub developed by The Killer Hogs

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