Saturday, May 16, 2009

Smoked Chicken

When you think of smoked meats, what comes to mind? Pork butt, brisket and ribs, right? Even at BBQ contests, chicken seems to be an also ran. I'm not really sure why that is, because when done properly, smoked chicken has a flavor and texture that can't be beat. Not to mention the leftovers are way more flexible. I mean, whoever heard of pork butt alfredo or a brisket salad sandwich?smoked chicken, hickory smoked chicken, chicken brine, chicken mop
This is our spin on smoked chicken. It borrows from several things I've learned over the years, including a brine, a mop, and fire control. This recipe is for 2 birds.

1 gallon water
3/4 c koser salt (not regular table salt)
1/2 c sugar
1 clove garlic
1 bay leaf
1 T cumin
1 T black pepper

Ask your butcher to cut the birds in half (or do it yourself like I do, removing the backbone entirely). Soak in the brine mixture for 4-8 hours. When ready to start cooking, remove from the brine and rinse the chicken well.

1 T chopped garlic
1 t black pepper
1 t kosher salt

Rub the chicken halves with the rub mix. Don't be bashful. I like to use latex gloves because....well because raw chicken just grosses me out.

1 c apple cider vinegar
1/2 c beer
1/2 c Kraft original BBQ sauce
1 oz Tabasco sauce
1.5 t ground pepper
1.5 t ground kosher salt
Whisk the mop ingredients together. I know...Kraft BBQ sauce? Isn't that a mail-in on my part? I learned this recipe from Bill Martin in 2001 when we first moved into this neighborhood and I've tried a few other commercial sauces. For some reason, perhaps nostalgia, only Kraft works for me in this ONE dish.

Place the 1/2 birds on a smoker or grill on indirect heat at 250f. For the Big Green Egg, this means using the plate setter with a drip pan. If you are using a grill, put the hot coals to one side, place a foil pan with liquid (apple juice, water, chicken broth, etc) on the other side and place the chicken over the pan. For this cook, I used cherry wood mixed with lump coal because chicken is very vulnerable to smoke flavors. Baste the chicken with the mop sauce.smoked chicken, hickory smoked chicken, chicken brine, chicken mop
The original recipe called for mopping or basting the chicken with the "mop sauce". This requires being very careful about swapping out brushes and working in small batches to avoid cross contamination. To skip that, I like to splash the sauce on using a cheap squirt bottle like this:Mop (squirt) the chicken every 30 minutes as it cooks to keep the skin moist.smoked chicken, hickory smoked chicken, chicken brine, chicken mopPull the chicken off of the cooker when it hits 160 in the breast or 175f in the thigh. For me, this is usually about 3 hours, but go by your internal thermometer. Let rest for 10-15 minutes.smoked chicken, hickory smoked chicken, chicken brine, chicken mopTo serve, cut each 1/2 in 1/2....that would be the standard "quarter chicken" you get on a chicken plate at most bbq joints. To do that, pull the thigh up and cut underneath it. At this point, you are really just cutting through the skin, the meat and bones are pretty much tender.I always make at least one extra bird so we can make the ultimate Smoked Chicken Salad. I'll post that recipe in a day or two.

For a printable version, click here:
Grove's Smoked Chicken


  1. That Green Egg is the best smoker I ever saw for chicken! Keeps it nice and moist...

  2. There is a lot of info in this that will be extremely helpful in me smoking chicken. THANK YOU!! Oh and your chicken looks incredible.

  3. I always get SO hungry when I come to your blog.

    You know what I think of when I think of smoking foods? THE WAIT! It takes so long. It smells so good... it just tempts me all day with the delicious aroma. While I have to wait hours to finally eat it!

  4. Chris will you come be the chef at my house? :)

    Your BBQ'ing and pics always leave my mouth watering....


  5. I know what I'm making for dinner tonight!

  6. Okay first you have chicks laying on their back, now some side action shots, lol

    Sorry gutter hit my mind before the hunger did! I just brined and chili smoked a huge bone in pork shoulder for tamales (a post this week, so shhh)

  7. AMAZING! I love the color of the bird - it looks absolutely perfect.

  8. I also think of smoking chicken or turkeys first before pork. You did a fantastic job, the color is perfect.

    I did see you grilling article in the Sentinel yesterday. Congrats!

  9. I know I come on here and gush about the food, but you don't understand how good that chicken looks to me right now. It looks like perfection. I never wanted a BGE so much.

    I also like that raw chicken freak you out. Now I know your kryptonite.

  10. Looks great! I don't think I've ever done chicken low and slow. I usually grill it on a raised grid at between 350 and 400°F. I'll have to give this way a shot.

  11. Brother, that looks some fine eatin' my man.


  12. I am SUCH an amateur at smoking, or anything grillwise in general...can you do it on a regular grill?

  13. I really shouldn't come here in the morning!! NOW, I'm hungry!!! It looks fantastic!!!

    Lisa (lisita15)

  14. Oh yeah, I smoke chicken for the stuff you can make after - smoked
    chicken Waldorf salad, pasta dishes, sandwiches. I'm pretty busy, so this
    much time spent is worth it most if I can make several main dishes out of
    it. Thanks for a great recipe.

  15. Wow, your chicken looks soooooooo good!! I came on here looking for this recipe for my dad and it's left my mouth watering!

  16. Very grateful for the recipe and the blog.. We have a BGE, and have used this recipe a few times, and I am about ready, 15 min, to pull the finished product off of the grill. Ironically, we are using this recipe, both chickens, for your chicken salad recipe ( a monster hit with everybody we know), although we add chopped,red seedless grapes and chopped walnuts....
    We're preparing this presently for my 40th birthday party tomorrow...
    Again, thank you for the recipe, and for making all of your recipes easy to understand, from start to finish.
    Best wishes, good health, and good eating from the 2 of us.

    Steven and Desire' Garretson, Louisville, KY

  17. This looks amazing, I've got a couple birds on my Big Steel Keg now, hope they come out as nice!

  18. Great BGE recipe! Just put 4 birds in the fridge to brine for dinner tonight.

  19. We're new BGE owners. This recipe was the first one we used to smoke something and we LOVED it! We're making it again tonight. Thanks for such a great resource to all thing BGE. You have the best recipes.


  20. making this now and it smells delicious. I am doing two birds because I have two kids and my wife and I both work full time jobs. If I spend this amount of time on a dish we need to be able to eat for a week. I was just wondering if the chicken,once pulled, will freeze well. Right now whole chickens are cheep.

    Thanks for the recipe,

  21. This chicken is the BOMB. I've made this chicken 4-5 times in the last 6 months because it's soooo good. It's also super easy to prepare. I'd have the bird(s) split the day before. Also, the night or day before I'd add all of the dry ingredients of the brine to a two gallon zip lock bag and put it in the fridge. I'd also make the mop sauce the night before and keep it in the fridge. Like Chris I use the squeeze bottle, which works great. If you prep the night before all you need to do is wake up in the morning, add water to the brine, mix well, and add the chicken(s). I'd also recommend placing the 2 gallon zip lock of brine in a large stock pot before adding chicken(s), this helps prevent spills on the counter. Then stick it in the fridge and you're good to go. As for smoking time, for some reason it seems to take me about 4 hours to smoke the chickens at 250* and even at this temp the chicken isn't at 160* in the breast, it's about 155* (using a lg BGE).

  22. This looks great. Has anybody ever smoked this the day before serving and reheated the day of serving? My son really wants smoked chicken for confirmation and it will probably have to be 2 batches so it would be great to cook on Saturday serve Sunday.

  23. Thank you for this! Cooked this twice minus the cumin, BBQ sauce and wood chips. Very tender but takes a LONG time. It was great however I didn't find brining to be worth the time over spatchcocked.

  24. Using this recipe now...chicken looks awesome...

  25. Sounds great. Little extra effort with brine and extra moping. Got a BGE, but never gone this far with with it? I'm dedicate and look forward to see if the little extra effort makes the outcome better. Thank You

  26. Great recipe. Only change I made was apple wood chunks. BGE had it done in just about 3 hours.
    If post a pic but I can't figure out how to.

  27. Made this recipe and cooked spatchcocked instead of halved. When I repeat this one I will drop the salt from the rub and most from the mopping sauce. With all three salt additions brine, rub and mop it presented itself way too salty to my liking.
    Just my two cents.

  28. If you use a Kosher chicken you probably don't have to brine as most of them are pre-brined. I would keep the salt to a minimum, especially in the mop as too much salt is unhealthy. Most any BBQ sauce should work for the mop sauce or find a good recipe and make your own. I generally stay away for the popular name brands as they contain High Fructose Corn Syrup instead of sugar which many believe is metabolized differently and is not as good for your health. I would also recommend staying away from BBQ sauces where the sweetener is the first or second ingredient. Sweetener does not add flavor, just sweetness and too much will create a tendency for the mop sauce to burn. Many mop sauces have no sweetener at all.

    One good BBQ technique is to use no sweetener in the mop sauce but to baste the meat with a sweetened glaze during the last 15-25% of the cooking time. One of my favorites involve honey, mustard, and fruit puree, cooked for several minutes and strained. Citrus and tropical fruits make an excellent glaze. In a pinch a frozen fruit juice concentrate can be used in place of the fruit and the honey can be reduced or eliminated if the juice concentrate contains sweetener.

  29. Hi - I am curious about your indirect cooks of chicken with a drip pan. Do you ever use a liquid in the pan to prevent burning and acrid smoke affecting the chicken? Thank you.

    1. Yes, Michael, I either add liquid to the pan OR I use brackets to hold the drip pan up off of the plate setter so it doesn't get too hot.


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