How to Make Classic Southern Fried Chicken in a Pellet Smoker

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You already know that you can make seafood and red meat in your pellet smoker, but did you know that you can also make classic fried chicken too? Classic southern fried chicken is a staple in many homes. It has a nice and crispy exterior that you bite through to get to the moist and juicy chicken inside.

Though you can make fried chicken in your oven or on the stove, you need to keep a watchful eye on the meat to make sure it doesn’t burn. We offer an alternative to the traditional recipe that you use, which calls for smoking the chicken first. You can also pick up some tips on making the best-fried chicken possible.

southern chicken

Our recipe calls for whole chickens, which most stores call fryer chickens. We smoke the chicken whole and then break it down before coating it and transforming the pieces into fried chicken. If you want to save time, you can opt for chicken pieces. You’ll want to make sure that you have enough legs, wings, thighs and breasts to feed your whole crew.

Making Fried Chicken with a Smoker

When you smoke chicken with a pellet smoker, you add a nice and smoky flavor to the meat and seal in the natural juices. Once you smoke the chicken, you can fry it in your kitchen.

Ingredients

  • Two three-pound fryer chickens
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic, chopped
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs

Directions

Prepping and Smoking the Chicken

prepare chickenTo get the amazing smoked flavor that you want in your fried chicken, you need to smoke the chickens whole first. Set your pellet smoker to the smoke setting and a temperature of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. You’ll want to keep the lid down and give the smoker around 10 minutes to come up to temperature.

Turn on the sink in your kitchen as you rinse the outside of each bird and rinse out the interior cavity. Once you clean the chicken, you can pat the outside dry with a paper towel.

Pour a small amount of vegetable oil over the top of each bird and sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic. Use your hands to spread the seasonings and oil across the chickens and inside the cavities.

Place one chicken in the center of the smoker on the metal grate. Arrange the other two along the sides. Set the timer on your smoker to run for two to 2.5 hours. The chickens are done when the thickest part of the bird reaches a temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit. You may need to rotate the birds or let some cook for longer if your smoker is uneven.

Breaking Down the Birds

Frying a whole chicken is almost impossible unless you have an outdoor fryer. That’s why we recommend breaking down the chicken first. When it comes out of the smoker, place the chickens on a pan or plate until the temperature comes down enough that you can handle the birds. You should get four thighs, wings and drumsticks from each chicken as well as eight breasts when you break the breasts into pieces.

If you want to skip this step, you have two options. You can purchase individual chicken parts from a deli or grocery store. Most stores have a butcher who can break down the chickens for you. You can either ask at the deli counter or take whole birds to the butcher.

Brining and Seasoning the Chicken

seasoning

To brine the chicken, you’ll want to mix the buttermilk and hot sauce in a bowl until thoroughly combined. If you want to add a touch of sweetness to the fried chicken, you can add one to two tablespoons of light brown sugar to the mixture. The sugar crystals should dissolve completely in the liquid.

Place your chicken parts in plastic zippered bags and pour the liquid brine mixture over the top. Give the bags a roll between your hands to make sure that you completely coat each piece. You can then put the bags in the refrigerator for a few hours. It will keep until the next day too.

When you’re ready to fry the chicken, place the all-purpose flour and seasonings in a large bowl. This includes the garlic and onion powders and paprika. You can also add a little salt and/or poultry seasoning. Place all-purpose flour in a second bowl by itself and crack four eggs into a third bowl.

Before you start cooking, fill a cast iron or another heavy-duty pan with oil until it comes halfway up the side of the pan. It needs to reach a temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit before you add the chicken.

Create an assembly line with the plain flour first followed by the eggs and then the seasoned flour. Remove one piece of chicken from the bag and dredge in the plain flour. Place the chicken in the eggs and then the seasoned flour mixture. Try to use one hand for the wet ingredients and the other for the dry.

Tap the chicken slightly against the side of the bowl before you place it in the oil. Depending on the size of your pan, you can usually cook three to four pieces at a time. If you add too many pieces, the oil temperature will drop, which will result in chicken that takes too long to cook. This can also cause the seasoning to fall off.

It usually takes between six and eight minutes to cook each piece of chicken. You’ll want to flip each piece in the pan halfway through. Let the excess oil drain off the chicken before you serve it.

Smoked and Fried Chicken Made Easy

Making fried chicken like your mom once made and adding your spin is easy with this recipe. You can make classic southern fried chicken with your smoker and a few ingredients.