Smoked Chicken

Time2 hours 45 minutes, mostly unattended
YieldsServes 4 to 6
Smoked chicken, one of several classic recipes from pitmaster Rodney Scott. (Photo by Jerrelle Guy)
A long, slow smoke on the grill renders chicken quarters tender and lightly charred, the perfect backyard barbecue main dish.
(Jerrelle Guy)
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My mother used to make what we called “barbecue chicken” in the oven. It was basically baked chicken with commercial barbecue sauce. I don’t want to knock it. I enjoyed that baked chicken, but I wouldn’t call it barbecue. It wasn’t until later, when we added chicken to the menu at the family restaurant, that I got into true smoked chicken. The oven and the pit are very different, obviously. When you taste this chicken, you’ll have a hard time going back to your oven.


Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling and heat to between 225 and 250 degrees.


Sprinkle the chicken halves on all sides with the rub. Place the chicken onto the hot grate, bone-side down. Close the grill and cook until the bone sides are nicely browned, about 1 hour and 30 minutes, being careful to maintain a steady grilling temperature between 225 and 250 degrees.


Mop or brush the skin side with some of the sauce, then flip the chicken halves over and mop the bone side with some sauce as well. Close the grill and cook until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees, about 1 hour more.


Mop the chicken halves once more with some sauce, then take them off the grill and allow them to rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the rest of the sauce on the side.

Rodney's Rib Rub


Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl and place them in an airtight container. Cover and store in a cool, dry place until ready to use. Makes 1 cup.

Rodney's BBQ Sauce


In a medium saucepan, warm the vinegar over medium-high heat. After about 5 minutes, when the vinegar reaches 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and just before it starts to simmer, add the lemon slices and cook until the lemon peels begin to soften and wilt, about 10 minutes more.


Whisk in the black pepper, cayenne, chile flakes and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the sauce reaches 190 degrees, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the sauce cool completely.


Pour the sauce through a strainer and discard the lemon slices. Transfer the sauce to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Makes 4 cups.

Adapted from “Rodney Scott’s World of BBQ: Every Day Is a Good Day” (Clarkson Potter, 2021) by Rodney Scott and Lolis Eric Elie.