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Brine Smoked Chicken Recipe – Soaking Chicken Before Smoking

Brine smoked chicken is an American classic dish that requires a long time commitment with a great tasting result.

Brined and smoked whole chicken

Why Brine A Chicken?

Brine smoked chicken is an American classic dish that requires a long time commitment with a great tasting result. You will be surprised how well brining the chicken really works at keeping your chicken from drying out. Brining is the process of soaking the chicken in a salty water mixture for a number of hours so the bird retains the moisture during the cooking process. There is nothing worse than a dry piece of chicken off a smoker and brining solves this age old problem that is known to happen with lean poultry meat.

You want to smoke the chicken at a long and slow temperature of 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit. This will allow the smoke from your wood chips to flavor the meat throughout the cooking process. You should expect the chicken to smoke for an average of about 4 hours depending on the size and smoker temperature. You will know when your smoked chicken is done when the internal breast temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The brine smoked chicken recipe below will provide step by step instructions on how to brine and smoke the chicken, recipe ingredients, cooking time, and other smoking tips.

Brine Smoked Chicken Recipe

Because chicken is such a lean meat, it has the tendency to dry out quicker than other fatty meats. Brining a chicken is a popular method of keeping your chicken moist by forcing water into the muscle of the chicken. While brining, you can also add seasoning to your mixture that will flavor the meat. You can also think of brining as a way to marinade the chicken by adding the seasoning to your brine recipe which penetrates the inside of the bird.

Brine Smoked Chicken Cooking Time

The average cooking time for smoked chicken is about 4 hours but will vary depending on the size of the bird, the temperature and the type of smoker you are using, and how often you open the lid. The more you open the lid of the smoker the longer it will take to finish cooking. To check to see if the chicken is done use an instant-read meat thermometer and stick it in the deepest part of the chicken breast and check for a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. See our meat doneness chart for a full list of different meat internal temperatures.

Yield: 2

Brine Smoked Chicken Recipe

Brined and smoked whole chicken

Brine smoked chicken is an American classic dish that requires a long time commitment with a great tasting result.

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 4 hours
Additional Time 12 hours
Total Time 17 hours


Smoked Chicken Brine Recipe Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 gallon of water (or enough to completely submerge your chicken)
  • 3/4 cup salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of cayenne

Smoked Chicken Rub Recipe Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder or 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme


  1. This recipe takes longer than other smoked chicken recipes because you will need to brine the chicken for about 12 hours before you want to start cooking. To start the brining process, boil the water in a large pot that can hold the water and chicken. Add your sugar and salt so these ingredients can be dissolved and then let the water cool down or add ice so you do not cook the chicken in the brine mixture. Then add the rest of your brine ingredients and the whole chicken to the pot and set it in your refrigerator for 10 hours. The brine liquid has to be at a temperature lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit in order to work properly. Learn more about how to brine a chicken >
  2. Next, soak wood chips in water for an hour to two but no longer than two hours. Soaking these wood chips will allow them to smolder and smoke for a long period of time instead of lighting on fire and quickly burning up. You can use any type of wood smoking chips you like, but we recommend a mixture of hickory and mesquite woods. 
  3. You will want to light your charcoal smoker about 30 minutes before you want to start cooking the brined chicken.
    You will know when the charcoal is ready when all of the coals turn to a glowing white hot color.
  4. While you are waiting for the charcoal to set up, mix all of the smoked chicken rub recipe ingredients together. Then fully coat the chicken inside and outside with the rub seasoning. You can separate the skin and the breast of the chicken by pushing your fingers in between them. Then, you can stuff the seasoning down right on top of the chicken breast meat to add another layer of flavor to your brine smoked chicken.
  5. Wrap the water soaked wood chips in an aluminum foil pouch and punch holes in the top with a fork in order for the smoke to escape. Put the foil pouch above the charcoal at the same time you put the rub seasoned chicken on the smoker. You may need to add more foil pouches throughout the cooking process depending on how long your chicken takes to cook. You can place foil drip pans beneath the chicken during the smoking process to catch the drippings if you want to make gravy.
  6. Adjust the vent on top of your smoker to allow 75% of the steam to escape the smoker. If your grill lid is adjustable, make sure the vents are positioned over the top of the chicken in order to draw all of the smoke over the chicken before it escapes the grill.
  7. Check the brined chicken about once an hour to ensure the smoker is holding the temperature. If not, add more charcoal to your smoker. If you are using a side smoker box grill, you should to turn your chicken half way through the cooking process to ensure both sides are cooked evenly and the smoke flavor is balanced on both sides. See
    below for more information about cooking times and how to determine when your chicken is done.


Other Stuff Needed for the Recipe

  • 1 bag of charcoal
  • 1 bottle of lighter fluid or a charcoal chimney starter
  • 1 or 2 bags of wood chips of your choice
  • Aluminum foil
  • Foil drip pan (optional for making gravy)

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1445Total Fat: 70gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 49gCholesterol: 263mgSodium: 44526mgCarbohydrates: 120gFiber: 6gSugar: 102gProtein: 88g


Wednesday 21st of December 2022

I prefer the sweet smoke from Beech wood . I fell a beech tree on my property and cut 1 inch discs from the top of the tree ,I place an 8 - 10 diameter disc on my coals and just flip it and place the coals on top of the burning disc to keep the flames to a minimum, the discs ( all 8 of them ) were required to reach proper breast temp. My latest attempt was a 12 lb turkey ,but I didn't brine it first. I just got a whole chicken and will be using a corrected brine and rub recipe ,I'm not much for the heat of cayenne pepper .


Sunday 6th of March 2022

Never soak wood and if you can avoid it dont waste money on chips and get chunks instead. Soaked wood burns dirty and at too low temp and will put creosote on your food. You want your wood to burn hot enough that you can barely see the smoke to get good flavor.


Saturday 19th of March 2022

Agree. I used to use chips and now just a couple chunks when using charcoal grill for smoking.


Wednesday 24th of November 2021

I think you aren't suppose to smoke the chips because when the chips are heated up, water is evaporating from the pores and not the fibers of the wood are burning. IMO

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