Photo: Levi Brown; Styling: Tiziana Agnello
Hands-on Time
20 Mins
Total Time
20 Hours 35 Mins
4 servings (serving size: 5 ounces chicken)

After Steven Raichlen sent us this recipe in 2011, we declared it the most beautiful and best-tasting chicken we’d ever had. To reinforce the whiskey flavor in the brine and basting butter, Steve says to use Jack Daniel's whiskey barrel chips for smoking--widely available in grill and gourmet shops. This smoked chicken recipe is so wonderfully moist and flavorful, it doesn't need added embellishment.

How to Make It

Step 1

Combine 2 quarts water, 1/2 cup bourbon, sugar, and kosher salt in a large Dutch oven, and bring to a boil, stirring until salt and sugar dissolve. Add ice water and next 7 ingredients (through lemon), and cool to room temperature. Add chicken to brine; cover and refrigerate 18 hours, turning chicken occasionally.

Step 2

Soak wood chips in water for 1 hour; drain.

Step 3

Remove the chicken from brine; pat chicken dry with paper towels. Strain brine through a sieve; discard brine and reserve 2 apple quarters, 2 lemon quarters, 2 onion quarters, and garlic. Discard remaining solids. Sprinkle chicken cavity with pepper; add reserved solids to chicken cavity. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under chicken. Tie legs.

Step 4

Remove the grill rack, and set aside. Prepare the grill for indirect grilling, heating one side to high and leaving one side with no heat. Pierce the bottom of a disposable aluminum foil pan several times with the tip of a knife. Place pan on heat element on heated side of grill; add 1 cup wood chips to pan. Place another disposable aluminum foil pan (do not pierce pan) on unheated side of grill. Pour 2 cups water in pan. Let chips stand for 15 minutes or until smoking; reduce heat to medium-low. Maintain temperature at 275°.

Step 5

Coat the grill rack with cooking spray; place on grill. Place chicken, breast side up, on grill rack over foil pan on unheated side. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon bourbon and butter; baste chicken with the bourbon mixture. Close lid, and cook for 2 hours at 275° or until thermometer inserted into meaty part of thigh registers 165°. Add remaining 1 cup wood chips halfway through cooking time. Place chicken on a platter; cover with foil. Let stand for 15 minutes. Discard the skin before serving.

Chef's Notes

This recipe originally ran in Cooking Light August, 2011 and was updated for the November, 2012 25th anniversary issue.

Ratings & Reviews

Jarred's Review

July 05, 2013
[Edits - not enough characters! Gonna paraphrase then] I made this for a 4th of july get together and got rave reviews. The recipe does need a bit of tweaking though. For starters, there's NO WAY 3 tablespoons is enough salt for a bird that size and as much liquid. What's a brine without it tasting like..brine?! Take it for what it's worth, I used 5oz of Kosher salt and ~5lb bird. I was considering adding more salt but it tasted ok. Here's a reference if you'd like a useful read: The bird didn't absorb much of the flavors but came out juicy so I know the brine worked. Even after only soaking for 13 hours in the fridge. Next time I'll steep the ingrediants for a bit after boil so the flavor permiates the brine for absorption. Cooking: Butterfly the chicken; electric smoker; 5 hours; bourbon soaked chips + water; used the brine in my misting bowl; smells amazing, tastes like chicken

MrsDay2010's Review

April 07, 2013
In an effort to enhance the flavor of the brine (based on prior reviews) I did the following: crushed my garlic with the side of my knife, sliced up my onions and apples more than what is listed here, gave the lemon wedges a squeeze and used ground coriander. My end result was very moist and flavorful, done in my Bradley electric smoker.

JustUs3's Review

March 11, 2013
Brine doesn't seem worth the effort. There is NO spice/bourbon flavor at all. The method of cooking, however, is another story - smoking a chicken is so gourmet! I will smoke a bird (will try Empire kosher brand, which is known for flavor/moisture/texture) without the fuss of a brine and determine then if it's worth it. If brine is worth it based on moisture of bird once smoked, will do so without spices.

ChefJayG's Review

January 20, 2013

thecookingliz's Review

January 06, 2013
Chicken was fine. Brine was not worth the effort or whiskey. I' ve used others that are more effective.

avivaleah's Review

October 12, 2012
We thought this chicken was very good. It was easy to make and had a smoky mild flavor. I think it does need a bit more spice to add to the flavor.

JaredMan's Review

October 06, 2012

BrianEstano's Review

December 05, 2011
This recipe is excellent when cooked on a smoker. Did the original recipe once, then over the next two times tweeked it more to my liking. I finally just did a tail gate and did three 7lb birds at once - a huge success. Don't use jack daniel chips. They are exspensive and not that great. I use applewood that I cut from a tree myself, but even the bags at home depot suffice and don't be afraid to use alot more wood than it calls for. Applewood is mild and not very smokey. When doing the brine; I also add some Sam Adams Octoberfest to it OR applecider beer. I can definately tast a difference with the amount of flavor these two beers add to the chicken & any apple with do. Also, try using ground corriander instead of seeds but in a smaller portion I also substitute the bourbon for cheap whiskey IE VO, Seagrams 7 in the brine. When smoking the bird, the mop they use being butter and bourbon is great - but try adding cider vin. and Old Grandad bourbon for most oak taste/less exspensiv

mandofan's Review

September 27, 2011
This wasn't awful, but it's nothing special either. Yes, the brine produces a terrifically moist bird, but so does any brine when properly done...and who at this point isn't brining chicken? The problem is that there's no real flavor - I followed the recipe exactly, even using Jack Daniels chips, and the bird tastes like plain old chicken, with no bourbon flavor and very little smokiness. I think this would be better if more chips were used and they were added every thirty minutes. A smoker delivers continuous smoke, which makes yummy smoky meat, but this recipe basically delivers a few bursts of smoke in a two hour grilling process. As a result, it does NOT replicate the effect of a smoker, which is a pretty big failure IMO, since the point of the article was specifically about using a conventional grill to mimic a smoker. I highly doubt I'll make this again. FYI - I thought I might need a second round of coals, but it cooked on 1 chimney in 1 hour and 40 minutes

alabamatomcat's Review

August 19, 2011