How to smoke chicken without it coming out tough?

  • We bought a smoker and it has been fabulous for doing ribs. However, when we've tried to do chicken in it, it comes out "leathery" and tough. I have had smoked chicken at other people's homes that was DELICIOUS. So, what are we doing wrong? (We've tried whole chicken and parts, both were tough)

    Getting ribs perfected before chicken is backwards ;) ribs are *much* more difficult!

    Is the chicken itself leathery or just the skin?

    I think we need more information. What's in your rub? What's the temperature? That sort of thing.

    Yes, I know we are backward. :D Maybe we assumed chicken would be easy and thereby gave it short shrift. If I remember correctly, smoker was 225 to 250 F. We took the chicken to about 150. It was most leathery outside, but the inside of the meat was "tough" and not at all moist. Sort of 1/3 of the way to jerky. As for rubs, just salt and pepper, no marinade.

    I don't know that it's so backward. With chicken, it takes some work to acquire that perfect balance among the tenderness and moisture of the meat and the texture of the skin. With ribs, you just rub them up, toss them on the smoker, and start checking on them a few hours later.

  • Sean Hart

    Sean Hart Correct answer

    9 years ago

    Chicken is difficult to get right in a smoker. Cooking at really low temperatures can result in a rubbery skin. Chicken is one meat where I've never seen the need to go low/slow. Brine the bird if you're worried about drying it out or if you want to get some extra flavor into the meat, but it's not necessary. In any event, make sure you get the skin dry before cooking. Overnight in the fridge should do the trick. I like to rub the skin with vegetable oil and BBQ rub (or sometimes just salt & pepper) and cook it at around 300-350f on the smoker. Not only does it cook faster, it also doesn't take on an overwhelming amount of smoke.

    Instead of rubbing the skin with oil, you can also embed butter under the skin.

    Oh yes, good call on that one!

    And the key point, cook it only to an internal temperature of about 158 F in the white meat, 165 F in the dark.

    I personally don't care for dark meat cooked that low. I like thigh meat cooked to the point that the major muscles begin to separate (but before falling apart). That's closer to 180.

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Content dated before 6/26/2020 9:53 AM