Whole Chicken 3 Ways: Smoker, Oven, Rotisserie

Hello and welcome to this Father’s Day Sunday Supper! Today we are experimenting with three methods for cooking a whole chicken. Not everyone has a rotisserie; but we wanted to toss this in the mix to see how it stacks up to the other two methods. And rotisseries are becoming a more common grill accessory. So, is it worth the investment? We will find out – maybe a rotisserie is a great addition to Dad’s grill accessory collection! Let’s get right to it – Whole Chicken 3 Ways!

Whole Chicken 3 Ways

We are preparing each of these little chickens the exact same way: nothing but vegetable oil and our favorite Dirty Bird rub. Each chicken weighs about 2.5 pounds – these are little organic chickens. Dirty Bird rub is basically salt, sugar, chili pepper, garlic powder and dehydrated onions. It doesn’t have a bunch of junk in it and it gives chicken a savory, slightly spicy flavor.

We tied the legs together with kitchen twine and prepped the rotisserie chicken with the rod and tongs.

Oven Chicken

For the oven-cooked chicken, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees, with the cast iron skillet in the oven to preheat it as well. I am using a cooking method I read about on America’s Test Kitchen, where we cook the chicken in the high heat until the breast registers 120 degrees and the thighs register 135 degrees. For this 2.5 pound chicken, that only took about 18-20 minutes. Then we turn the oven off and let the radiant heat cook the chicken the rest of the way, until the breast is 160 degrees and the thighs are 175 degrees.

Oven Chicken
Oops! Should be breast-side up!

When you put the chicken in the cast iron, it should be breast-side up. I effed up because I am so used to roasting my chickens breast-side down. After about 3 minutes, I realized my mistake and quickly flipped it over to be breast-side up. The reason we want it breast-side up is so that the thighs get the hot blast of the cast iron and therefore cook at closer to the same rate as the breasts (which cook faster).

Rotisserie Chicken

The grill is set up so that the chicken is half over the hot coal side, and half over the cool side. We are maintaining a grill temperature of 375 degrees. Once the spit is secure, we turn on the motor, close the lid and let it go. This method is kind of set-it-and-forget-it. We set the internal grill temp thermometer, and when the grill temp rises or lowers, we adjust the vents to increase the heat, or close the vents down to decrease the heat. The chicken is probed with a thermometer as well, so when its internal breast temp hits 160, we can pull it.

Rotisserie Chicken

Smoker Chicken

The smoker set up is similar to the rotisserie set up in that we have a hot side and cool side of the grill. The main difference is that the chicken will go directly on the cool side of the grill; it will cook with the radiant heat, instead of directly over the coals. The grill temp is maintained at 225 degrees, due to the small size of the chicken.

Grill Chicken

As with the rotisserie chicken, the chicken is probed so we know when to pull the chicken off the grill. This smoked chicken will get a little extra step. We will pull the chicken when it’s temped at 130 degrees in the breast, and place it in a preheated cast iron, and into a 450 degree oven, until the breast temp is at 160 degrees. We do this final step to crisp up the skin. Smoked chicken is done low and slow on the grill and the skin never sees the high temps it needs to crisp up the skin.

Whole Chicken 3 Ways: Smoker, Oven, Rotisserie

Whole Chicken 3 Ways

After a ten minute rest the chickens are ready to carve.

Whole Chicken 3 Ways, carved

The Results

Our favorite was the Smoked Chicken because it not only had the great smoke flavor, it also had nice crispy skin, thanks to the cast iron finish.

The Rotisserie Chicken was great also; but I will say that if you will only do chickens on the rotisserie, save your money, because you can achieve results just as good as rotisserie chicken in the oven or on the smoker. To be fair, our chicken was so small that it really didn’t have enough time on the rotisserie to develop a crispy skin before the internal temp was reached.

The Oven Chicken was surprisingly moist. The skin was crispy and overall, it got a great amount of flavorful char. In a side-by-side comparison of the breasts, the oven chicken was slightly less moist than the other two, but it was still great. A perfect option if you don’t have a grill, or just don’t want to fire it up.

The Take Away

We were really happy with all three methods. All three chickens were juicy and tender. All three had amazing flavor, and I attribute a lot of that to the Dirty Bird rub. We have often noticed that unless the meat is marinated, or injected with marinade, it’s difficult to flavor chicken beyond the exterior. But the Dirty Bird rub really seems to get into the meat. Even the Oven Chicken had great flavor; it cooked for less time and didn’t have the benefit of the smoke.

I hope you enjoyed our testing of Whole Chicken 3 Ways, thank you for joining me today! I have another post where we tested Three Ways to Cook Ribeye Steaks, check it out if you haven’t already. Also check out my Pinterest page for all the Djalali Cooks posts and recipes! Have a Wonderful Father’s Day, take care and be well. xo Kelly

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  • Terry
    June 20, 2021 at 10:22 am

    Happy Father’s Day to Alex the great dad of the 4 legged babies. These chickens look amazing I don’t have the dirty bird rub but I will order it. I never knew about the oven cooked one to preheat the cast iron and letting it finish cooking by radiant heat.. I will give this a shot. I always smoke mine. Have a great day ❤️Mom

    • Kelly Djalali
      June 21, 2021 at 9:24 am

      Hi Mom! Yeah, try that Dirty Bird Rub, it’s really great! xo Kelly