I recently decided to smoke and entire chicken so I dropped it in and kept the smoker around 225-250 for about 4 hours. I went in and sprayed it down with a little apple juice and vegatable oil every hour or so. The meat came out delicious and tender, but the skin was so tough it was not edible.

What can I do differently to keep the skin from getting so tough?

6 Answers 6


Take cheesecloth and soak it in melted butter and drape it over the bird before you put it in the smoker. This will protect the skin during the long slow smoking process. You may want to pull the cheesecloth off about 30 minutes before you are done. This will give you a nice golden brown skin that is not leathery.

I first read of doing this with a smoked turkey, but tried it with a chicken and it comes out great.

  • That's often how the normal Thanksgiving-roasted turkey's skin is kept edible, as well, so I'd call it tried and true. Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 16:34

First thing I would recommend is not spraying down the skin with the oil/apple juice mixture. There is plenty of fat in chicken skin. No need to add more. And spraying the skin will just keep it from rendering out the unwanted fat and other tissue, thus preventing it from crisping.

The other thing I would suggest is to turn the heat up on the chicken. Low heat + smoke = rubbery and tough skin. I do a lot of barbecue, and I never find any compelling reasons to do chicken low and slow, unless I want to make pulled chicken, at which point the skin is useless to me anyway. I prefer to make chicken in the 325f range, as it turns out much better skin at that temperature. You can even get away with cooking at a lower temperature, then cranking the heat up to finish the skin.

Finally, I would suggest ensuring that the surface of the skin is very dry, and has been salted (not heavily, just a bit), before putting it on the cooker. This, too, improves skin texture.

The TL;DR version:

  1. Quit messing with it while it's cooking.
  2. Turn the heat up.
  3. Dry and salt the skin before cooking.

225-250 is too low a temperature for chicken. Chicken doesn't benefit from "low and slow" cooking, because it doesn't contain connective tissue that needs to be broken down, and the skin needs a higher temperature to crisp.

Here is a page from Virtual Weber Bullet which talks about how to get a crisp skin while smoking. They recommend cooking at 300 degrees F.


I can confirm that hot & fast is the way to go. I just smoked my first chicken using advice from this thread, and it came out perfect. Our guest said it was the best chicken she had ever eaten. Specifically: Pellet grill set for 350. Chicken spatchcocked, coated with olive oil, and rubbed with Lawry's Poultry rub. Roasted with remote thermometer in breast to internal temp of 165. Didn't open the grill till it was done.

  • using advice from this thread. If you are referring to another answer, make this a comment below that answer.
    – user34961
    Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 7:36
  • I know this answer says it uses advice from others, but it also seems self-contained - it suggests hot and fast as opposed to what the OP did, and adds specifics. So, doesn't seem clearly like a reply to anything, and does answer the question in my book.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Sep 13, 2017 at 19:29

Chicken breasts don't benefit from low and slow. Try using a brown sugar rub on skinless thighs and smoke for 3 hours at 225F/107C. You won't care about skin after you taste that.

  • 1
    Actually, that isn't really answering the question, is it? But an alternative, admittedly. Welcome to the site!
    – Stephie
    Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 19:55

I actually did the low and slow to allow the meat to absorb the smoke while slowly cooking to correct temperature. I changed the temperature up and down 220-300 to allow for 3 hours in the smoker without over cooking. I stopped the smoking in the 155 degree area to allow me to put on direct flame. It even flamed up to the chicken giving me the slight char and crispy skin we all want.

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