The best way to get a whole chicken to cook evenly is by spatchcocking. Chickens are difficult to cook because they have a large hollow cavity with thick parts and thin parts. To make things more complicated, they also have red meat and white meat. In this post, I’ll show you how the barbecue pros smoke spatchcocked chickens in a Traeger or pellet grill.
- 1 whole chicken
- Barbecue rub
- Place the chicken with the breast side facing downwards.
- Locate the spine, and cut either side of the backbone all the way along the bird.
- Pull out the spine, and clean out the hollow cavity of the bird. Sometimes there are bits of liver and heart in the cavity, so it’s best to clean that out.
- Then flip over the bird, and have the breast facing upwards.
- Hold your hands over the bird as if you are about to perform CPR.
- Press down on the breast until you hear a crack. Your bird will then be spatchcocked and ready for the grill.
- Fire up your Traeger to around about 300° F.
- Dry the chicken with a paper towel to ensure you get crispy skin.
- You can apply a binder to the chicken, allowing the rub to stick much better. However, this step is optional. I use either olive oil or yellow mustard.
- Apply a layer of seasoning with salt, pepper, and garlic. Then apply a layer of your favorite barbecue rub. Beware of the salt content if you’ve already salted the chicken.
- Choose a mild smoking wood such as apple or cherry, or a 50/50 mix over fruitwood with a strong smoking wood such as hickory or oak. Pecan is always a safe choice.
- Place the spatchcocked bird on the grill.
- Spray the chicken every 30 minutes with olive oil spray or cooking spray.
- Cook for 1 and 1/2 hours, and monitor the internal meat temperature.
- Ensure the internal meat temperature of the chicken reaches 165° F in the breast and 170° F in the thigh.
- Let the chicken rest for 20 minutes, and then slice
Serving Size:50 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 55.9Total Fat: 0.7 gramsg
Why Spatchcock Chicken Before Smoking?
Spatchcocking is one of the best techniques to use when smoking chicken on a pellet grill. Also known as butterflying, a spatchcocked chicken will flatten the bird, helping it to get a more even cook. This technique is fairly straightforward. Once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll get the hang of it. Not only does it work with chicken, spatchcocking also makes it easier to cook turkey.
Spatchcocking Is Safer
Not only does spatchcocking chicken save time, but it also guarantees that your bird is safe to eat. Chicken contains a lot of bacteria, so it’s extremely important that it’s cooked thoroughly. If you’re cooking a whole bird, there may be sections on the outside that look done, but another section could be underdone. Spatchcocking ensures all parts of the chicken is cooked evenly.
Where To Place Chicken In A Traeger Pellet Grill
Most pellet grills have hot spots and cool spots. It’s always a good idea to rotate the meat around the grill during the cook. Always point the thighs and the legs towards the hottest part of the pellet grill or smoker. You want to shield the breast as much as possible because it is lean and contains little fat, so it dries out.
When Is Chicken Done?
Chicken contains a lot of bacteria, so you want to make sure it’s in a safe range. The ideal temperature to serve chicken is 165° F in the breast and 175° F in the thigh. The thigh and legs take a little longer to cook, as it contains red meat with a lot of fat and blood vessels.
How Long Does It Take To Cook Chicken In A Traeger Pellet Grill?
In general, chicken takes about 1- 2 hours to cook in a Traeger at around the 300° F range. Obviously, much depends on the size of the chicken and your cooking temperature. Chicken is so versatile, and once it is smoked, you can shred it, chop it up into pieces, etc. Chicken is easy to cook on a Traeger, but it’s also cheap and the number one selling meat in the USA.
How To Avoid Dry Chicken
Once you go over the 165° F to 175° F internal meat temperature range, you will put the chicken at risk of drying out. Use a good thermometer to alert you when the meat hits the correct internal temperature. If you do this, and I can guarantee you to have tender, juicy chicken.
How To Get A Crispy Skin On A Spatchcocked Chicken
- To get a crispy skin on chicken, you need to cook in the 300° F range. Once you go below 275° F, the chicken skin will be soft and rubbery.
- Make sure you dry the chicken skin prior to cooking. If your skin is moist, it will not be as crispy.
- Spray the skin or the bird every 30 minutes, which will help with the browning effect.
- Don’t soak the bird in brine if you really want crispy skin. Soaking the bird in brine is a great way to get some extra flavor into the chicken, but it may cause the skin to go soft and rubbery. If you soak the bird, just air it on an earring rack or dry it with a paper towel afterward.
- Don’t cook the chicken in a pan, as this will make the bottom of the bird soggy.
- Avoid foiling the bird at any stage of the cook. This will create steam, which will soften the skin.
Use Good Meat Thermometers
Use good thermometers because you want to cook to internal meat temperature, not time. I wouldn’t trust any thermometer that comes with my smoker—Traeger included. Get yourself a decent thermometer and an instant-read for under $100.
USDA Safety Recommendations For Chicken
According to the USDA, the chicken leg should be cooked to a safe internal temperature of 165° F. However, I always take legs and thighs over 170° F. Spatchcocking will make cooking chicken much safer. You’ll get a more even cook, and the temperature won’t be overdone on one section and underdone on another part of the bird.
Chicken produces bacteria such as salmonella, staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, etc. Always use an instant-read thermometer that is accurate to ensure that your meat is safe to eat.
Bacteria multiply in temperatures between 40° F and 140° F. Always keep your chicken above this temperature when cooking. Ensure the chicken has been thawed thoroughly if you’re smoking a frozen bird. The problem with smoking a frozen chicken is the outside could be cooked, but the inside might still be raw or underdone.
Smoking meat on a Traeger will give the chicken a smoke ring. This can deceive because it will make the chicken look pink in some sections. Make sure you insert your thermometer probe into those sections to ensure they are above 165° F.
Best Dry Rubs For Smoking Meat
|Dry Rub||MSG||Size||Description||Ingredients||Price||Where To Buy|
|Killer Hogs||Yes||12 Oz||Championship winning rub made by Malcolm Reed, the guy with the number 1 barbecue YouTube channel ‘How To BBQ Right’.||Brown sugar, sugar, paprika, salt, spices, dehydrated garlic, oleoresin paprika, dehydrated orange peel, natural flavor, and less than 2% tricalcium phosphate added to prevent caking||$20||Amazon|
|Slap Yo Daddy All Purpose Rub||No||12 Oz||Multiple barbecue world champion Harry Soo now shares his competition-winning secrets with his line of barbecue rubs.||Sea salt, cane sugar, garlic, chili powder, paprika, cumin, chipotle powder, black pepper, rosemary, cayenne pepper, rice concentrate, spices, parsley flakes, natural flavors||$20||Amazon|
|Meat Church||No||14 Oz||Well respected name in barbecue. Southwestern style rub. Versatile, works on beef, chicken, pork and seafood. Adds great color to your meat.||Sugar, salt, spices including paprika, dextrose, dehydrated garlic, celery, silicone dioxide & spice extractives. Gluten free. No MSG.||$15||Amazon|
|Butcher BBQ||No||16 Oz||Works on great on beef, pork, chicken, wild game, and vegetables. Championship winning formula made by David Bouska, World BBQ Champion and featured on TV show Barbecue Pitmasters.||Sugar, salt, garlic, onion, spices, lemon powder, corn syrup solids, natural flavors and BHA as an antioxidant||$20||Amazon|
|Kosmos Killer Bee Honey Rub||13 Oz||Award winning rub. Sweet, savory rub. Works well on brisket, chicken and pork.||Sugar, Salt, Honey Powder (Refined Syrup, Honey), Spices Including Paprika, Dextrose, Dehydrated Garlic, Celery, No Greater Than 2% Silicon Dioxide To Prevent Caking, And Extractive of Paprika||$16||Amazon|
|Killer Hogs Texas Brisket Rub||Yes||16 oz||Award-winning Championship brisket rub made by barbecue guru Malcolm Reed.||Salt, spices, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, dehydrated parsley, refined soybean oil, and less than 2% calcium silicate added to prevent caking||$20||Amazon|
|McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning||No||29 oz||Made with all natural herbs and spices. Very popular seasoning from a well-known brand.||Garlic, extractives of paprika, and coarsely ground pepper.||$20||Amazon|
My Favorite Meat Smoking Tools
Thanks for checking out this article. I hope you learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite tools I use when smoking brisket that may be useful to you. These are affiliate links, so if you decide to purchase any of these products, I’ll earn a commission. But in all honesty, these are the tools I recommend to my family and friends who are just starting out.
Meat Thermometer: There are dozens of fancy thermometers on the market, but I still use my trusty TP20. For around $50, I have a high-quality meat thermometer with two probes, and can track the temperature of my smoker with one probe, and my meat with the other probe. The ThermoPro TP20 is an Amazon Best Seller because it’s the easiest thermometer to operate, is durable, highly accurate, and comes with pre-programmed meat settings.
Instant Read Thermometer: Arguably, the second most important tool you need is a fast and accurate instant-read thermometer. These tools play an important role in the latter stages of the cook when the meat needs regular checking in multiple areas. I use the ThermoPro TP19 because it can do everything a ThermaPen can do, but for a fraction of the cost. You can check out the TP19 on Amazon here.
Butcher Paper: Wrapping brisket in butcher paper has become a huge trend in barbeque thanks to Aaron Franklin. Wrapping your brisket in paper will give you a nice brisket bark. However, you can’t just use any old paper, it has to be unwaxed, food grade paper. You can find it on Amazon here.
Advanced Thermometer and Automatic Temperature Controller: Once you’re ready to take things seriously, the FireBoard 2 Drive is a six-channel Bluetooth/Wi-Fi thermometer that can monitor up to 6 pieces of meat, control and graph your cook sessions on your smartphone, and attaches to an an automatic blower that will convert your charcoal smoker to a set-and-forget. This is one of the most advanced meat thermometers on the market. You can check it out on the FireBoard website here.