Apple Wood Smoked and Spatchcocked Chicken (w/ Secret Spice Rub)

Winner, winner, chicken dinner.  Thats a thing, right?  Out of the “Big 3”: Lebron, D-Wade and Bosh chicken, pork and beef, chicken is by far the most popular in the United States. Don’t believe me? Check out the Google trends below:

most popular

The only sensible follow up to a wildly popular recipe, Aaron Franklin Style Smoked Brisket is one about a wildly popular meat, chicken- apple wood smoked and spatchcocked chicken, to be exact.  Spatchcocking is a common culinary method for grilling and roasting a whole bird where you remove the backbone and “butterfly” it out flat.  This ensures heat is applied to more surface area and the chicken cooks more evenly and quickly. The spatchcock process seems intimidating, but it’s a lot easier than it looks- I’ll walk you through it below.  If you’re squeamish about cutting apart your poultry, then by all means have your butcher do it for you.  Smoked chicken is the perfect candidate for spatchcocking because more apple wood smoke flavor can penetrate the meat.  Smoking poultry is relatively easy compared to brisket and is less of a time commitment.  If you’re a beginner, I would suggest starting with a smoked chicken recipe like this one.

smoked apple wood hickory bbq chicken recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 2-3 hours

Yield: Feeds 4 people


  • 5-6 Pound whole chicken
  • 1/2 Cup your favorite BBQ sauce (I make my own sugar-free sauce – future blog post)
  • 3 Tbsp Texas Pete Hot Sauce

The Secret Rub

  • 1/4 Cup Kosher salt
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh ground black peppercorns
  • 4 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 4 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp onion powder
  • 2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp ginger powder

Other Tools

  • Smoker – I have an 18.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain
  • Probe thermometer – I recommend this, you’ll end up using it often: Maverick ET-733
  • Basting brush or mop
  • 10 Pounds charcoal (if not using an electric smoker)
  • Chimney Starter – I use my trusty Rapidfire
  • 3 Chunks of apple wood
  • Cutting board
  • Sharpened cleaver
  • Latex gloves
  • Heavy duty aluminum foil


  1. Unpack the chicken and rinse under cold running water, dry it off and place it on your cutting board face down.
  2. To spatchcock your chicken, start by taking your cleaver or heavy knife (kitchen shears work very well for this too) and cut along one side of the chicken’s backbone until you reach the tail or ‘butt’.smoked apple wood hickory bbq chicken recipe spatchcocked
  3. Now cut along the opposite side of the spine (neck to tail).  This might take some force.  You should be left with the whole chicken and backbone.
  4. Remove the rib bones using your knife until the under-side of the breast is exposed.

    smoked apple wood hickory bbq chicken recipe spatchcocked
  5. Once the ribs are removed, spread the chicken out and start cutting into the midsection of the breast bone from top to bottom, being careful not to cut into the chicken breast meat.
  6. Once the breast bone has been split, turn the chicken over and apply some force to the top of the breast until you feel a ‘crack’.  This is the ‘wish bone’ breaking and now your chicken should be laying flat.  Congratulations, you’ve just spatchcocked your first bird!
  7. Once your chicken is spatchcocked, it should be relatively easy to apply my rub to every nook and cranny of your bird (this includes under the skin).
  8. Start the fire for your smoker and add the apple wood chunks to the burning charcoal.  I have an 18.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain – I use the method described here:, ensuring the smoker has a constant temp of 250 degrees. Don’t forget to set  up your probe thermometer!
  9. Once the smoker is up to temperature, place your chicken on the top rack and insert your meat probe into the thickest part of the breast.  Don’t mind the bacon photobomb in the rack below.smoked apple wood hickory bbq chicken recipe
  10. Let this cook in the smoker for at least 1.5 hours, making sure the smoker temperature does not go above 250 degrees.  Remember not to open the lid and let the apple wood smoke do its work on every square inch of that chicken.  Keep an eye on your probe thermometer!
  11. After 1.5 hours and once the probe in your chicken reaches 140 degrees, its time to baste.  Remember that BBQ sauce and Texas Pete? Mix those two ingredients in a bowl and set aside.  Get your basting brush/mop ready!

    smoked bbq chicken recipe marty
    Unbasted chicken with bonus Marty pic.
  12. Time to baste! Apply an even coat of your BBQ/Texas Pete mixture to your chicken.smoked apple wood hickory bbq chicken recipe
  13. Once evenly coated, place the lid back on the smoker and let it smoke.  When chicken is at 155 degrees, apply another coat of your sauce.smoked apple wood hickory bbq chicken recipe
  14. Once the temperature reaches 163 degrees, pull your chicken off of the smoker and place in a foil-lined baking sheet.  Cover your chicken with another layer of heavy duty aluminum foil and let it rest for at least 45 minutes.
  15. After 45 minutes, you’re ready to carve.  It should be very easy to cut your chicken since it’s already been spatchcocked.  Place it on a cutting board and cut into your preferred serving portions.  Serve and enjoy!  My finished product below:

smoked apple wood hickory bbq chicken recipe

smoked apple wood hickory bbq chicken recipe

smoked apple wood hickory bbq chicken recipe

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