The Slow And Smoky Method For Grilling Succulent Pulled Chicken

There's nothing quite like the smoky aroma and tender meat of barbecued pulled chicken. While boneless chicken is often used, going for a whole chicken takes this classic dish to another level. Smoking a whole chicken on the grill requires a bit of finesse, but the results are well worth it, as it infuses the bird with mesmerizing woody flavors and renders the meat tender and juicy. 

The whole chicken can, of course, be separated out into its constituent pieces, or it can be pulled, much like its BBQ cousin, the vaunted pork shoulder. Pulling the meat from a whole chicken allows for the rich dark meat to mingle with the leaner white meat, appealing to fans of the latter's texture and the former's flavor.

Now, don't fret if you don't own a dedicated smoker; a charcoal grill can be easily configured to smoke just as well. All that is required are some cheap store-bought items and a little practice. Chicken is forgiving in both its price and affinity for slow-smoking, so it is a great cut of meat to hone your barbecue chops on. 

Season and smoke your chicken on a charcoal grill

Choose a good-sized whole chicken, between four and five pounds. Smaller birds have the tendency to dry out during the smoking process, while a large chicken has both the mass and fat to keep the meat juicy. To season, you can go with a wet brine or a dry brine. After the brining, a rub can be applied to the chicken. Make sure the chicken has come to room temperature before smoking and pat away any excess moisture from the skin. For more even cooking, you may choose to truss the chicken and fold the wing tips behind the back.

Prep the grill by removing the grate and placing a two-inch deep aluminum pan that is roughly the width and height of the chicken on one side of the coal chamber. Place a single player of charcoal on the other. Fill the pan halfway up with water. Now, light a half-full chimney starter. Once the coals are ashy grey on the outside, pour them over your unlit coals and top them with wood chips or chunks. Top with the grate, oil it, and place the chicken over the water pan, which serves to catch drippings and add moisture. 

Now it's time to put the lid on the grill and finesse the vents. Controlling the airflow is critical to keeping the temperature at around 250 to 275 degrees so as not to scorch the chicken. Having a thermometer in the grill lid is key here.

Pulling the bird

The whole chicken is done once it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If the grill's temperature hovered roughly around 250 degrees Fahrenheit, this should take about 30 to 45 minutes per pound, or two and a half to three hours for your four- to five-pound bird. Once off the grill, allow the chicken to rest for another 15 to 20 minutes for the juices to settle back into the meat. You can now carve off the breasts and other cuts or get straight to pulling it right off the carcass. Once you've pulled all the meat off, make sure to add any juices that have collected on your cutting board or work surface back into the meat to make it that much juicier. The pulled chicken is great on its own, as a sandwich filling, or even on salads. 

With the simplicity of a charcoal grill, you can achieve an exceptional smoky pulled whole chicken that will impress even the most discerning palates. So, ignite the charcoal, embrace the captivating aromas, and indulge in the sublime pleasure of smoky pulled whole chicken, elevating your grilling prowess to new heights.