Citrus & Soy Brined Smoked Chicken Halves

Citrus & Soy Brined Smoked Chicken Halves

The secret to this juicy dry-rub smoked chicken? A citrus & soy based brine.


Brining isn’t complicated, and it’ll greatly improve the results of the finished dish. Particularly for a protein like chicken that is so notorious for drying out.  And even more so since we’re cooking entire halves, where the breast is in peril of being done before the thigh is. This brine is so easy and the addition of one little ingredient makes it my go-to chicken bath. Throwing lemon in there helps introduce bright and fresh notes, but it’s the splash of soy sauce that really does magical things. The soy imparts salt but with more complex notes. It’s very subtle, but oh so delicious.

smoked chicken half texas bbq style

One of the reasons brining is so important is that chicken needs to be cooked to a minimum temperature to be considered safe to consumer. That magical temperature is 165f. Often, while attempting to make sure the chicken is safe, people tend to overcook and dry the bird out. To avoid this, I recommend using an instant read thermometer (I use a Thermapen), just be careful not to touch bone while taking the reading, otherwise you’ll  get a false result.

And so to the seasoning. I’m in a funny situation, because I like to provide y’all with “from scratch” recipes, but I also have my own line of seasoning (called Hardcore Carnivore). In the past I’ve shied away from listing it as an ingredient because I don’t want people to feel like they HAVE to buy it. BUT, it’s also exactly what I would choose to use in a circumstance like this. So, the tradeoff is that sometimes you’ll find recipes for scratch-made seasoning on this website, and sometimes you’ll see me recommend the Hardcore Carnivore rubs. Of course, if you’d still prefer not to buy them you can simply use your favorite or preferred chicken rub. Heck, you can even use this pork rub recipe, and it’ll still work perfectly.

For this smoked chicken I used a blend of 70% Hardcore Carnivore Red and 30% Amplify, which isn’t really a rub at all, but an all-natural flavor boosting powder made with chicken fat! Whatever you choose to use, I recommend you pick something with a red color or paprika content, because it’ll help create a beautiful hue that’s more orangey than “dirty smoke” color.

moist smoked chicken

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smoked chicken half texas bbq style

Citrus & Soy Brined Smoked Chicken Halves

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  • Author: Jess Pryles


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3/4 cup kosher salt

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 lemon, sliced

3 quarts water


3 tablespoons Hardcore Carnivore Red

12 tablespoon Hardcore Carnivore Amplify


  1. Start by making the brine. Combine salt, brown sugar, soy and 1-2 cups of the water in a small pan. Stir over low heat until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Allow mixture to cool. Add the cooled mixture to the remaining water, then add lemon juice and slices.
  2. Prepare the chicken by discarding any neck/giblets. Use a pair of shears to cut along the breastbone, then cut on either side of the spine to create two halves. Discard spine.
  3. Place the brine solution in a large sealable bag or container, add the chicken then cover or seal. Place into the fridge and brine overnight or at least 8 hours.
  4. Preheat a smoker to 250f.
  5. Remove chicken from brine and rinse well under cold water. Pat dry.
  6. Season chicken halves well on both sides using the HC Red, concentrating most of the seasoning on the top side. Sprinkle Amplify over the top/breast side. Let halves sit so the seasoning can form a paste and adhere, around 15-20 minutes.
  7. Place the chicken in the smoker breast side up and cook until an instant read thermometer reads 163f at the thickest part of the thigh. This will take around 2.5-3 hours.
  8. Remove from smoker, rest for 10 minutes under loosely tented foil, then serve.

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