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Hickory Grill-Smoked Chicken

Hickory Grill-Smoked Chicken

Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 120 minutes
Servings: 4

Grill-smoking a chicken is similar to grill-roasting it, but with the addition of wood chunks or chips to the fire and a drip pan with water to promote smoke. Choose the wood according to the degree and kind of smoky flavor desired. Hickory is the most potent, and this peppery rub is bold enough to hold its own with the aromatic wood. Serve the chicken for any occasion, with grilled vegetables for a dinner party, or with corn bread and coleslaw for a backyard picnic.


  • 1 roasting chicken, about 4 lb., neck and giblets
  • 1 tsp. coarse sea or kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp. freshly ground coarse black pepper
  • 2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 4 to 6 handfuls hickory or other wood chips,
      soaked if using charcoal


Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry with paper towels. Season the inside of the chicken with 1/4 tsp. of the salt and 1/4 tsp. of the black pepper. Truss the chicken.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. black pepper, the paprika, thyme, oregano and cayenne. Using your fingers, and starting at the tail cavity, carefully loosen the skin of the chicken over the breast and thighs. Insert about half of the spice mixture under the skin and rub it on as evenly as possible. Rub the remaining spice mixture over the skin of the chicken. Let the chicken stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium heat. Oil the grill rack.

For a charcoal grill: Place a drip pan half full of water in the center of the fire bed. Sprinkle about one-third of the wood chips on the coals. Place the chicken, breast side up, on the grill rack over the drip pan. Cover the grill and smoke the chicken, adding more coals about halfway through grilling to maintain the temperature, until the juices run clear when the thigh joint is pierced with a knife tip, about 2 hours. Add the remaining wood chips in 2 additions, and add additional water to the drip pan as needed.

For a gas grill: Place a shallow pan half full of water at the edge of the grill rack. Add the wood chips to the grill in a smoker box or a perforated foil packet. Place the chicken, breast side up, on the grill rack away from the heat elements. Cover the grill and smoke the chicken until the juices run clear when the thigh joint is pierced with a knife tip, about 2 hours. Add additional water to the pan as needed.

To test for doneness, insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone; it should register 170°F. The temperature will rise another 5° to 10°F while the chicken is resting.

Transfer the chicken to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes before carving. Cut into serving pieces and arrange on a warmed platter. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Grilling, by Denis Kelly, Melanie Barnard, Barbara Grunes & Michael McLaughlin (Oxmoor House, 2003).