Homemade rotisserie chicken smoked low and slow over applewood. This backyard favorite recipe is prepared with an easy wet brine and BBQ rub seasoning to ensure that every bite is loaded with flavor.
This smoked rotisserie chicken recipe delivers some of the best barbecue chicken we’ve ever had. With a good brine and the continuous motion of the rotisserie spit, the meat stays moist while the skin browns and turns extra crispy.
The final result is a delicious whole chicken with beautiful caramelization, yielding tender and succulent meat with the best skin you’ll ever have on a bird.
While many people are familiar with rotisserie chickens sold over supermarket counters, with just a little bit of preparation, you can make your own barbecue smoked rotisserie chicken that will blow away the competition!
From good meat preparation to smoking temperatures, discover how to rotisserie smoke chicken today.
Benefits of Rotisserie Smoking Chicken
Rotisserie grilling offers a unique hybrid of grilling, smoking, and basting, and manages to offer the advantages of direct grilling without the risk of dry or burned meat. This allows us to develop incredible crispy surfaces without charring, and deliciously tender meat.
The rotating motion of the spit helps the meat baste internally, locking the juices in while it cooks. This creates an incredible combination of juicy succulent inside and a crispy exterior. To top it all off, we do it on the grill so we can infuse our chicken with beautiful smoke and wood flavors.
The method also allows more even heat coverage, which is particularly useful if you have a gas grill that’s prone to hot spots.
The biggest draw however is undoubtedly the brown, caramelized skin on rotisserie chicken. Because the meat has more direct exposure to our heat source, the skin develops a crispy texture and incredible caramelized flavor.
Thankfully, rotisserie attachments are more popular than they’ve ever been. This has paved the way for big brands to introduce their own range of rotisserie grills, providing high-performance grills (usually propane gas-fuelled) with built-in spit provided.
The key to a great rotisserie chicken is preparing the bird ahead of time. You should begin this process at least one day before you plan on cooking the chicken.
The first step is preparing your brine. A wet brine is a saltwater solution that can include herbs and spices. The brine will infuse your chicken with additional moisture and flavor and prevent it from drying out while on the barbecue spit.
Your brine should consist of water, salt, and sugar. Some people like to add other herbs and spices, such as black peppercorns, garlic, bay leaves, fresh thyme, and rosemary. For our rotisserie chicken, we’ll keep things simple with a basic salt, sugar, and water solution.
Mix your brine in a clear bowl so you can make sure that all the salt has dissolved in the water. This will take up to two minutes of stirring.
Before adding your whole chicken to the brine, remove the giblets and place the chicken in your brining bowl or bucket. Next, add the brine to the brining container. The chicken should be completed covered by the liquid. Cover the container and brine for at least 12 hours and preferably overnight.
To best ensure even cooking, we need to truss the chicken. This step involves using butcher’s twine to tie back the wings and legs, allowing them to cook at the same rate as the chicken’s thicker cuts, like breast.
For an average-sized chicken, you will need around three feet of twine. It is better to have too much than not enough and you can always trim the twine at the end.
Put the chicken breast-side-up and point the legs towards you. Place the twine directly under the tailbone with equal amounts of twine on each side of the chicken. Pick up the twine and pull it around each chicken leg. This should form an “x” above the tailbone. Pull the twine until the legs come together.
Pull the twine towards the other side of the chicken and wrap it tightly around the neck-end of the bird. The wings should be tucked in tightly and under the twine. Criss-cross the twine and tie a knot tightly so there’s no excess slack. The wings and legs should be pulled in tightly to the chicken’s body. Trim any extra twine, and your chicken is now ready for the grill.
Mild fruitwoods like applewood, cherry, or pecan are among barbecue fans’ favorites for the best woods for smoking chicken. If you are using a gas grill you can skip the wood, but if you’re cooking over coal I recommend throwing on a couple of chunks of applewood.
- Just like with any smoked meat, we go by meat temperature and not time when gauging when our meat is done. However, the rotating spit of the rotisserie makes corded thermometers useless. Instead, I recommend a wireless meat thermometer (like the MEATER Plus) if you want to track your chicken’s progress as it cooks.
- Instead of waiting for the thermometer to read 165°F, pull the chicken once it reaches 160°F and let it rest. The chicken will rise to the desired temp while resting. You should rest the chicken at least 10 minutes before carving.
How to Smoke Rotisserie Chicken
Before you warm up your grill, ensure that the rotisserie attachment is set up and ready to go. There is nothing worse than trying to assemble the rotisserie on a hot grill and is an easy way to burn yourself. Once the rotisserie attachment is set up, fire up your grill.
Pass the spit rod through the cavity of the chicken. Be careful not to disturb the truss while doing this. The chicken should be as close to the center of the rod as possible. Next, clamp the chicken and place and bring it to the smoker.
Secure the rotisserie spit to the grill and insert your meat thermometer into the breast section. Turn on the rotisserie and make sure it turns freely and the meat thermometer’s cord is not becoming tangled. Once you are confident that the rotisserie is working as intended, close the smoker’s lid.
To give your rotisserie chicken extra flavor, start basting the chicken with butter during the last 30-45 minutes of cooking. You will need to melt ½ stick of butter and base the chicken every 10 minutes. If you want the skin to be extra crispy, turn up the heat during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
If you’re fortunate enough to be left with spare chicken, the good news is that leftover rotisserie chicken is just as good the next day. Check out our guide to the best leftover rotisserie chicken recipes for inspiration.
Store leftovers by allowing them to cool completely before placing them in an airtight container or wrapping tightly in aluminum foil. You can freeze them, but defrosting the chicken will ruin the texture of the shredded meat, so I wouldn’t do this unless absolutely necessary. Once in the refrigerator, store for up to 3 days.
The best way to reheat rotisserie chicken is by warming it in a preheated oven at 350°F (180°C). Arrange the shredded chicken in an oven-safe baking dish, add 1 cup of chicken broth, and cover with aluminum foil. Heat for about 20 minutes.
Smoked Rotisserie Chicken
- Brine bucket
- rotisserie attachment
- butcher’s twine
- apple smoking wood
- 4 lb whole chicken
- 4 quarts water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp thyme
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tbsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tbsp ground black pepper
- Add water to the brine bucket. Stir in the rest of the brine ingredients to allow the salt to dissolve.
- Submerge the chicken in the brine solution. Cover the bucket and leave it in the refrigerator overnight.
- Fire up smoker or grill with rotisserie attachment to 350°F (180°C)
- Remove chicken from the brine solution. Rinse with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Use butcher’s twine to truss the chicken’s legs and wings, wrapping the twine around the neck cavity and tying a knot.
- Combine dry rub ingredients in a small bowl. Use a fork to remove any lumps that may form. Apply rub generously to chicken, working it into any creases and part-way into the cavities.
- Pass the rotisserie spit through the chicken cavity, carefully avoiding disturbing the truss. Lock rotisserie spit into place.
- Switch on the rotisserie, ensuring it turns freely and smoothly. Close smoker lid and cook until internal temperature is 165°F (75°C), about 1 ½ hour.
- Remove chicken from smoker and place on cutting board. Tent in foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving to serve.