The Smoking Section: Chicken

by TRH on August 22, 2013

in Cooking & Recipes

Post image for The Smoking Section: Chicken


Note: Placeholder image from eat drink smile as my camera was being dumb. Will update this post with my own pic when next I smoke one.

I’m ashamed to admit there was over almost two months between smoking attempts this summer. As usually happens though time seems to slip away over the warm months. Between a new job, camping trips and the fringe festival I really haven’t had a weekend day completely free in a while. Thankfully I finally ran out of excuses and during a trip to the farmer’s market last weekend I decided to pick up a gargantuan free range Mennonite raised chicken to test out my bag of apple wood chips.

To spatchcock:

Removing the backbone of a chicken to flatten it for grilling. In this case I also removed the keelbone and split it fully into halves.

When I eventually pulled out the chicken the next morning it seemed even larger than when I’d picked it up at the market. This thing seemed more like a small turkey or some kind of Neanderthal style proto-chicken. The drumsticks seemed like something Friar Tuck would be eating on Rocket Robin Hood. The size ended up posing a bit of a problem as well. I wasn’t 100% sure it would fit into my smoker whole. Compounding the problem was the monsoon that had suddenly started outside which was going to keep me from unwrapping the smoker to check until later. I threw the entire thing into a brine (most people agree this step isn’t necessary for smoking but I decided to do it anyway) and hoped the rain would clear in time to start the smoke for dinner.)

Eventually I just decided to spatchcock the cluckzilla and split it into two halves for the smoker separately. In the end I think it might have JUST fit but things went really well anyway.

Once I’d pulled the bird out of the brine, split it and trimmed a bit of extraneous fat and skin it was time to season it. A thin coat of oil over most of the bird (including under the skin where I could get at it) was preparation for the addition of some rub and a bit of extra garlic. The rub I used was actually very similar to my rub for the RIBS basically sugar/salt/paprika/cayenne/pepper/garlic and some other things. I made sure to get it under the skin where I could since I knew a few people wouldn’t be eating any. A bit of extra rosemary went on as well. Once everything was prepped it went into the pre-heated smoker and I drank a beer.

One of the happy things about smoking chicken is that you can cook it a bit faster. Low and slow doesn’t do as much for chicken so there’s no real purpose to cooking it down at 225F. I set my smoker to 275F and, given the size of the beast, expected it to take 2.5ish hours including a quick rack flip at the midway point. One largish scoop of apple wood was all I added for smoke production and believe me it was enough, even the innermost meat had a glorious smokiness that I can taste even in the last of the leftovers in this chicken salad.


Note: legal times may vary where you are. The thickest part of the breast (away from the bone) should be at 165F before you eat (note it will continue to rise for a bit while resting) while the dark meat should be slightly higher. Some people prefer dark meat higher for texture reasons.

 Is it done yet?

White meat and dark meat are done at different temperatures (and some people prefer dark meat a bit higher still for texture reasons but your mileage may vary anyway at the temp variances coming out of your smoker. As ever I will heartily recommend that you invest in a decent quick read probe thermometer with a thin tip to minimize the heat and juices lost from measuring. I personally use a thermapen but you don’t need to spend that much for a solid quick-read. Keep in mind that you can always finish in the oven if needed (or if you want to crisp the skin a bit under the broiler.


The Aftermath:

This was one hell of a chicken. Round one was simply chicken, potatoes and salad. The smokiness pervaded every bit of the chicken but wasn’t so overpowering as to dry the tongue. The juiciness of the chicken and the tang of the rub provided the perfect counterpoint to the smoky aftertaste. The beast couldn’t be slain in one siting though and has since provided the delectable foundation for hot chicken sandwiches, some fantastic chicken salad with honey mustard and sriracha and a pulled chicken burrito.


The Verdict:

I’ll absolutely be doing this one again. Much easier to do at the drop of a hat and probably quite decent even with chicken pieces if I don’t have a full chicken around. One of the sites I looked at suggested doing a straight up herbed chicken in the smoker so I may try that next time (either removing the skin or getting under the skin with rosemary and sage etc…) If nothing else this may become a regular project simply for the delicious leftovers. Why make sandwiches with boring dried out rotisserie chicken when you can have this smoky goodness?

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