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Juicy Smoked Chicken Halves

by Brad Prose

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These flavor-packed Smoked Chicken Halves are a barbecue classic, simple to prepare with more surface area for smoke, seasonings, and sauces. Make these and you’ll see why they are a huge hit for the family and parties.

Smoked chicken halves are simple to prepare and loaded with flavor.

Lighting up the smoker is all about the long process of cooking, creating deep flavors for the food. Sometimes you don’t want to wait 6-7 hours for smoked chuck roast or brisket, and the family is about to be very hungry! Smoked chicken halves are here to save the day. Much less time, and by splitting the chickens there’s a flavor for everyone.

Why You’ll Love Smoked Half Chickens

  • Maximum flavor. Splitting the chickens in half allows for more seasoning, sauce, and smoke flavor. Every inch is cooked and flavored with wood-fired smoke and spices.
  • Saves on time. Smoked chicken halves cook much quicker than whole chickens, and even a little faster than a spatchcocked chicken.
  • Customize for the crowd. Season the chicken halves with a variety of seasonings. Some guests prefer their chickens glazed with sauce? No problem! Cut out the debates and split those chickens!
  • Ideal for smoked pulled chicken. These smoked half chickens are the best for shredding into bbq chicken sandwiches. Check out this recipe if you’re looking for the best pulled chicken sandwiches
Smoking a variety of flavors with the chicken halves

How to Split a Chicken in Half

Time to Split the Chicken

This process is pretty straightforward and allows for maximum smoke flavor and seasoning surface, without drying out the chicken. You’ll need poultry shears and a chef’s knife for equipment.

  • STEP 1: Place the chicken on a very large cutting board surface area. Pat down the outside with a paper towel to dry excess moisture. Rotate the chicken so the backbone is facing up.
  • STEP 2: Using the poultry shears, start at the tail end and work upwards, snipping through the rib bones as you go. Remove the backbone and flip the chicken over so the inside is facing down.
  • STEP 3: Spread the chicken out carefully and push firmly in the middle of the breast – you should hear a snap, which is the breastbone.
  • STEP 4: Take a large chef knife or cleaver and cut the chicken in half, pushing the blade down the center of the chicken where the breastbone is. You should now have two halves. Now it’s time to season!

More Chicken Recipes to Try

Seasoning the Chicken Halves

It’s time to season up those chicken halves for smoking, so have some fun.

Season the night before for crispy skin. Using the dry-brine method of seasoning ahead of time, this process pulls out excess moisture and creates a really nice skin for smoking. Don’t worry, the meat will also be deeply seasoned. Use a wire rack with a baking sheet and keep the seasoned chicken halves in the fridge, uncovered for at least an hour up to overnight.

There are almost no rules with seasoning here, chicken takes on almost any flavor you can throw at it. Stick with the classic SPG or get creative. I’ve got some suggestions below for some of my favorites:

  • Signature Sweet & Smoky Rub – This is my go-to for all smoked chicken in our house, nice blend of sweet, smoky, and a little bit of heat. The ingredients also give the chicken a perfect color.
  • Salt Pepper & Garlic (SPG) – A classic combination with a touch of added flavor from the garlic. This tastes incredible with smoked chicken, giving just enough flavor without overwhelming the natural meat. This is a perfect seasoning if you plan on saucing or glazing the chicken at the end.
  • Hot Bird – Sweet heat BBQ, here you go. This rub was made by Chef Chad White, a former Top Chef contestant, and restauranteur. Any time I’m looking for a bright red, sweet rub with some heat I grab this bottle. It’s very well-balanced and not too sugary.
  • Reload Rub High Caliber – Chipotle Garlic rub, and it’s so savory! As if the smoked chicken wasn’t enough, this rub really does take it over the top. The chipotle isn’t too spicy, it adds more of an earthy and smoke profile which pairs perfectly with the garlic. Code: CHILES for 10% off, no kickback for me, this is for you.
  • Texas Tandoori – Hear me out, this rub is incredible. If you love Tandoori chicken but want some restraint on the intense spices, this is a well-balanced blend that blends the Indian authenticity with Texas BBQ rubs. Not overly salty, extremely bright natural colors and wild flavors make this smoked chicken very exciting to prepare.
  • Korean BBQ – Big colors, flavors, and lots of heat. This fiery rub packs it all, and even has a blend of sesame seeds for a fun added texture. I love to glaze these chickens with Korean Honey Mustard right at the very end for another level of flavor.
Seasoning the chicken halves ahead of time to dry-brine

Smoking the Chicken Halves

Preheat the smoker. Whether you are smoking the chicken halves on a pellet grill or offset, you’ll want to use a temp of 300°F. I’ve found this temperature is low enough to generate enough smoke while still giving the skin a nice crisp at the end.

Prep the chicken. If you didn’t prep beforehand with a dry-brine, go ahead and get the chicken halves split while the smoker is warming up. Use the kitchen shears to cut out the backbone and use a chef’s knife to split the chicken down the middle. See the images above for a full walkthrough. Season thoroughly on all sides with your choice of flavors.

Smoke the chicken halves. Place the chickens in the smoker skin-side up and let them cook. You do not need to be checking on these periodically, there is nothing to do other than wait and monitor the temp after about 90 minutes.

(Dry Rub Method) Spritz or gently brush with oil. This is an optional step, but it does help add a nice crispy skin. After about 90 minutes I like to brush a neutral or flavored oil lightly on the skin. At this point, the seasoning will be nicely embedded and won’t brush off easily. You can use a small spray bottle to spritz the oil as well.

(BBQ Sauced Glazed Method) Glaze with sauce. Lightly brush the outside of the chicken with your BBQ sauce of choice when the meat is about 10 degrees from the target temperature. Make sure your sauce is at room temperature or even a little warm. This will make it super simple to brush on without clumping up. No one wants clumpy sauce.

Cook until it’s done. Check the temp of the chicken breasts. I like to pull when the thickest part of the breast meat is about 158°F which will allow for plenty of carry-over temperatures to reach the 165°F safe zone. Doing so will ensure that the smoked chicken breast is extremely moist.

Rest and slice. Allow the smoked chicken halves to rest at room temperature for at least 10 minutes with some loosely tented foil. Slice and serve!

Sauced and dry-rubbed smoked chicken halves.

How to Serve Smoked Chicken

Now that you have gorgeous smoked chicken halves, hopefully, you have something to go alongside them!

BBQ sauce – The obvious choice, but the flavor is totally up to you! Chicken is the blank canvas to your barbecue imagination. Personally, I love using Maple Chipotle BBQ Sauce, the spicy Buffalo BBQ Sauce, the Korean Honey Mustard, or my homemade Teriyaki Sauce.

Pickled stuff – Bright, acidic flavors really add a lot of amazing flavor to the chicken. My favorite would be Smoked Pickled Jalapenos, but that Pickled Mustard Seeds are a close second.

Salsas – Try making some chicken tacos, you won’t regret it! There are so many combinations out there but some of my favorite salsas are Hatch Chile Salsa Verde, Fire-Roasted Santa Maria Salsa, Pico de gallo, or Creamy Corn Salsa.

All the sides – Super important, you must have sides! Go with warm or cold pasta with either the Southern Macaroni Salad or the Creamy Hatch Chile Mac and Cheese. If you must eat all the veggies, you can’t go wrong with Grilled Broccoli Crunch Salad or the Creamy Southwestern Coleslaw.

Side Dishes to Serve with Smoked Chicken?

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to smoke a chicken?

Smoking both chicken halves will typically take about 20 hours total, sometimes less depending on the size of the chickens.

Does it take less time to smoke half chicken or a spatchcocked chicken?

It’s close, just a little less time for the half chickens. The benefit is being able to maneuver them easier around on the grill and serve smaller, customizable portions.

Can I use this method for turkeys, hens, or other birds?

Absolutely, and I highly recommend it.

What is the ideal internal temp of smoked chicken?

The USDA recommends 165°F as a safe temperature for chicken. I do like to pull the bbq chicken halves off the smoker just before that, around 158°F or so, and let the carry-over cooking bring it to the safe 165°F.

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Smoked chicken halves are simple to prepare and loaded with flavor.

Juicy Smoked Chicken Halves

These flavor-packed Smoked Chicken Halves are a barbecue classic, simple to prepare with more surface area for smoke, seasonings, and sauces. Make these and you’ll see why they are a huge hit for the family and parties.

  • Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves about 4-5 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 whole chicken, split in half, around 3 pounds
  • Signature Sweet & Smoky Rub, as needed
  • 1 cup BBQ sauce of choice, room temp or slightly warmed

 

 

Instructions

  1. Split the chicken in half, see notes below for steps.
  2. Mix the seasonings together. Place the chicken halves on a wire rack with a baking sheet. Sprinkle the seasonings from up above, evenly coating all sides of the chicken. Allow the chicken to rest in the fridge, uncovered, for at least an hour or up to overnight.
  3. Preheat the smoker to 300°F. Take the chicken out of the fridge if you did dry-brine and allow it to rest at room temp while the smoker warms up.
  4. Place the chicken halves into the smoker and allow them to cook undisturbed for about an hour or so.
  5. Check the temperature. Once the center of the chicken breast is about 140-145°F you can add your finishing touches.
  6. (For Dry-Rub) Lightly brush the skin with a little vegetable or olive oil, this will help to crisp up the skin during the final minutes.
  7. (For Saucing) Lightly brush the skin with a little BBQ sauce, making sure to glaze every part of the skin. Don’t bother saucing the bottom.
  8. Cook the chicken until the center of the chicken breast is about 158°F and remove them from the smoker. Place the smoked chicken halves under loosely tented foil for about 10 minutes to rest before slicing.
  9. Slice and serve!

Notes

  • To split a chicken in half: Place the chicken on a very cutting board surface area. Pat down the outside with a paper towel to dry excess moisture. Rotate the chicken so the backbone is facing up. Start at the tail end and work upwards, snipping through the rib bones as you go. Remove the backbone and flip the chicken over so the inside is facing down. Spread the chicken out carefully and push firmly in the middle of the breast – you should hear a snap, which is the breastbone. Take a large chef knife or cleaver and cut the chicken in half, pushing the blade down the center of the chicken where the breastbone is. You should now have two halves.
  • Author: Brad Prose
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Dry-Brine: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 90 minutes
  • Category: Chicken & Poultry
  • Method: Smoking
  • Cuisine: Chicken

Keywords: smoked chicken, bbq chicken, chicken halves, spatchcock chicken, smoked chicken halves, half chicken

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