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