September 12

Spatchcock Chickens Smoked and Seared on My BBQ Smoker Trailer


Spatchcock Chickens Smoked and Seared on My BBQ Smoker Trailer

In this story, I'll show you how you can use a BBQ smoker trailer, such as the TS250 with a front-mounted grill, to cook a large batch of chicken without sacrificing a direct-flame flavor.

There are many ways to smoke or grill a chicken, depending on the cut you're cooking or the presentation you're looking for. 

  • My favorite way to cook bone-in chicken parts is on a Meadow Creek "chicken flipper". You can choose between a family-sized grill and trailer models large enough for hundreds of people at an event or fund-raiser. 
  • If I'm making pulled chicken for sandwiches, I like to cook whole roasting chickens on an indirect smoker, such as my TS250 BBQ smoker trailer. The skin will probably be a bit rubbery, but I don't mind that if I'm discarding the skin and bones before serving.
  • If you're cooking a whole chicken and want to serve it with the skin-on, a "hot and fast" approach is best, but even then, you may have to finish it at 400 degrees to get the beautiful, crispy skin you're looking for. A reverse flow smoker, such as my TS250 tank smoker, holds quite a few whole roasting chickens, but the heat is so indirect that it's going to be a challenge to consistently get perfect skin in the tank.

In this blog post, I will show you how I cook up whole chickens on my tank smoker and give them a bit of that char-grilled flavor that you can only get over direct heat, by using the charcoal grill mounted on the front of the trailer to finish them.

Smoked and Seared Spatchcock Chickens

Here is a summary of the steps I used to cook these. Keep scrolling for more details...

  • Spatchcock the chickens by removing the spine and flattening the bird.
  • Season the entire surface of the chickens. Rub some under the skin to boost the flavor of the breasts and thighs.
  • Fire the smoker with charcoal and apple wood at 275 degrees F.
  • Cook the chickens in the smoker meat-side up until they reach 180 degrees in the thighs and 165 degrees in the thickest part of the breast.
  • Fire the BBQ42 at 400 degrees F using lump charcoal with the charcoal pan in the raised position.
  • Carefully sear both sides of the chicken for a total of 3—5 minutes (more instructions below).
  • Serve whole or carve and serve.
Why Not Just Use the BBQ42?

You might be thinking, why not just cook them in the BBQ42 Chicken Cooker with the pivoting grate? You could certainly do that, but here are some things to think about:

  • While they would cook faster doing them entirely on the BBQ42, you'd have to do multiple batches for the same amount of meat and they would be ready to serve at different times. This could be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on your situation. (I'm guessing the sandwich grate can hold 10–12 spatchcock chickens; the TS250 can probably hold close to 36 at a time.)
  • Chances are you might want to cook other meats in the tank smoker as you're cooking the chickens, so you could smoke the chickens with the rest of your meats and then quickly sear them on the BBQ42. This would work especially well, if you're serving burgers and sausages hot off of the BBQ42 because you could sear the chicken at the same time.
  • While chicken doesn't requires low and slow cooking, basking in apple wood smoke for an extra hour or two should give us more of that delicious wood-fired flavor we're looking for.

Are you looking for a BBQ smoker trailer like this one that can both smoke and grill a variety of meats for a crowd? We'd love to build you one! It's easy to customize these with the upgrades that are right for your needs and budget:

I fired the tank smoker with 22 pounds of 100% hardwood charcoal briquettes (two 11-pound bags) and a stick of apple wood from my wood pile. I opened all the vents completely and used my propane torch to heat the tank and light the fuel.

For this cook, I'm aiming for 275–300 degrees in the smoker. Remove the torch when it gets up to temperature, close the firebox door, and adjust the firebox vents to stabilize the smoker at your target temperature. Start with 1" and adjust it from there. If you don't have the insulated firebox or if the weather is oppressive, you'll need to give it more air.

This cook should take about 2.5–3 hours. I only added several pieces of apple wood after the initial light to keep it going.

  • If you have the charcoal basket like I do, it's hard to light the charcoal and heat the tank at the same time, so you'll need to aim the torch toward the firebox exit where the heat drafts into the tank for part of the time.
  • Be careful about using large pieces of wood. Mine was very knotty and I had trouble splitting it with a splitting maul, so I used some pretty large pieces. I ended up with creosote on some of the meat, and I think it was from the size of log I used.

Now that we have the smoker fired, we can spatchcock and season the chickens...

Remove the spine by cutting along both sides with a kitchen shears.

Make a cut on the inside of the carcass directly below the spine so that the bird can lie flat as shown below.

Season the chicken all over. I used a mix of Meadow Creek Barbecue Seasoning and Meadow Creek Gourmet Rub.

I like to rub some seasoning under the skin on the breast and in the cavity on the inside of the leg.

These are ready for the smoker now...

Our tank smokers have sliding grates on sturdy glides, which make it easy to load and check on the meat instead of having to reach inside of the smoker.

These birds are looking quite attractive!

The meat in the bottom of the smoker on the end of the firebox will cook a little faster than the rest, so you'll want to keep an eye on how things are coming along. Use an instant-read thermometer to check on the meat as they get close to done. My favorite hand-held thermometer is the ThermoWorks MK4.

When Is the Meat Done?

The chicken is done when the breast meat reaches 165 degrees F and the legs are up to 180–190 degrees. The breast meat will dry out more if you take it beyond the minimum temperature, but the dark meat will be more appetizing if you cook it to a higher temperature. Ideally, the legs will cook faster than the breast and both will finish at about the same time.

The optional stainless steel exterior shelves are a must-have, in my opinion. It's easy to wipe up drippings and sanitize the shelves, keeping your workspace clean.

Before the chickens were done in the smoker, I fired the BBQ42 with 15 pounds of Rockwood lump charcoal. I used my torch to light it, then mixed it and spread it out to form an even bed of heat under the grate. 

The charcoal pan was in the raised position and we used the flat grate to sear the chickens.

Close the lid and adjust the vents as needed to stabilize the grill around 400 degrees. Open the lid only to add, remove, or flip the meat so that you can keep the chicken on longer without the fire flaring up.

  • Set several chickens on the flat grate skin-side up for 2–3 minutes or until it starts blackening. 
  • Flip them to skin-side up for 1–2 minutes to darken and crisp up the skin, but don't let it burn.

Transfer the chickens to a meat lug or a warming box for serving.

You could also sauce these before they come off of the smoker to add another dimension of flavor and to deepen the color, but I chose to keep it simple with a dry rub.

I was pleased with the outcome and the meat was delicious. Some of the skin was more crispy than the rest, but it was delightful.

We vacuum sealed and froze the chickens for our own use. A bunch of delicious meals coming up!

Are you tired of cooking on small backyard smokers and ready to upgrade to something with more room that you can pull behind your truck or SUV?

Check out the TS250 and customize it with some sweet upgrades, such as a front-mounted BBQ42, stainless steel shelves, trim package, insulated firebox, charcoal basket, and live smoke in the warming box:

The trailer is well-balanced and pulls like a dream.

Contact your nearest dealer using our dealer locator here:


bbq smokers, Big Black, tanks smokers, ts250 smoker

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