Chicken very well may be the most popular protein in the world. This delicious bird has gone from the jungles of Southeast Asia to farms across the world, the backyards of many, and the stomachs of many more. It simply tastes delicious and is a wonderful carrier for all sorts of other tastes, making it an ideal meat to prepare in your smoker. Smoking chicken is a rewarding and scrumptious way to prepare yard bird, but there are some pitfalls to avoid.
In this article we will present you with a surefire method for smoking chicken alongside some major tips and tricks to help you become a smoking chicken master. First, let us explain the basic method for smoking chicken.
Smoking Chicken: Step by Step
What follows is the basic procedure for smoking your chicken. If you've got your preferred seasoning, a smoker, wood chips, and your chicken, you can follow this procedure. Keep in mind that different styles of smokers require different steps for getting them ready.
Eight Tips for Smoking Chicken Properly
Dried Chicken Makes Crispy Skins
One of the biggest mistakes that rookies make when smoking chicken is that they ignore the instruction to pat their bird dry before adding their rub and oils. If too much water remains on the skin, as it easily can after thawing and washing, your skin will not crisp up properly. Crispy chicken skin is one of the most scrumptious parts of smoking chicken.
You do not want rubbery skin. Turning up the heat to finish your chicken and using the right amount of oil will help to maintain a crispy bite to the skin, but it will be moot if your chicken went into the smoker too wet.
Let Simple Seasonings Shine
Chicken has an outstanding natural flavor. With minimal seasoning, the chicken really tastes the best. When you use one or two simple flavors to compliment the chicken, then you will even impress yourself.
Step one for your seasoning is to pick a few complementary herbs or choose one blend. There is a place for marination and heavy sauce, but now is not that time. We want to taste the smoke flavor before anything else. We recommend the Braggs' Sprinkle Seasoning if you do not have a preferred favorite.
Take that tasty seasoning and rub the outside of your chicken with it. You may need a little butter here to make the seasoning stick. Butter is recommended over oil. While oil may be easier to use, the final taste is improved with increased fat content. We would love to recommend lard if you happen to have some laying around.
Step two is to chop some garlic and onion for the cavity or the chicken. This is a recommended but not necessary step. If you like Italian food, then go ahead and stuff a few cloves for old times sake.
Last (and you must do this) tie the little bird's legs together. This step ensures that the chicken cooks at an even rate. If you do not complete this step, then you will have undone or burnt chicken to deal with later. Forgiveness is better than permission, except when cooking a chicken.
Balance Your Smoke Flavor With Mild Hardwood
When smoking chicken, there is a superior blend that we recommend. Cookinpellets Perfect Mix offers a great mix of mild woods that are not going to overpower a light meat like chicken. The mix has hickory, cherry, hard maple, and apple. There are no fillers in this mix, so you can rest easy. The Cookingpellets mix woods may not be the absolute best wood for smoking brisket, but they are essential for smoking chicken.
Preheat Your Smoker to 225 Degrees Fahrenheit
Preheat, preheat, preheat. This is one of the most important steps. When you do not preheat, then you leave guesswork in the cook time of the chicken, not to mention that you could end up with an overdone skin, burned or chewy. So get out there to your smoker and light that bad boy up to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
For beginning the smoke, we will keep it pretty low to cook the chicken all the way through. Then towards the end we will turn up the heat to crisp the skin. Fair warning: throwing the chicken in before the preheat is not the same as turning the heat up later. You will burn your chicken that way.
Patience Is Key
After you preheat that smoker, put the bird right on the grill. Now, pretend it's Christmas morning and your mom will kill you if you look for Santa downstairs. Leave the bird alone. It is busy cooking. This part of the smoked chicken journey is going to take about an hour or hour and a half. So set a timer and open a beer.
If you disappoint mom and peak at Santa (your chicken), then you are going to lose a lot of heat and it is only going to take longer. Unless you see a large, and we mean large amount of smoke coming from your smoker, wait at least an hour before you look or this will take all day. We are trying to keep the temperatures consistent for superior grilling.
Towards the End, Turn Up the Heat
Finishing a chicken is much like finishing a rock concert. You want to turn up the heat at the final stage for a big finale. For your big finish, wait until the chicken is 3 quarters done or somewhere around 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, crank up the heat to 325 degrees. This is our skin crisping stage.
Switching between low and slow for the beginning and fast and furious for the end will give you the best of both worlds in terms of chicken taste! After you turn up the heat on this chicken, you can get out of the kitchen, because it should be another 30 minutes. Look to your thermometer, not your clock.
Don't Make Your Skins Soggy With Sauce
While we do not know why you would smoke a chicken only to cover all the flavor with a sauce that amounts to meat flavored icing, if you must then we cannot stop you. We feel this step undoes some of the earlier work with seasoning, however.
All BBQ “sauce” basting should be reserved until the last few minutes of roasting the chicken. In fact, if you can wait until the minute before you take the chicken off the heat, that is best for keeping the skin crispy.
Do Your Bird Right: Don't Overdo It
The most common mistake that most people make with chicken cooking is overcooking the chicken. If you have ever been to a cookout or sausage sizzle with a chef who is afraid of underdone meat, then you are familiar with the rubbery texture associated with chicken when it is cooked too long. This is the worst sin that a chef can commit at a cookout.
We need to pull the bird off the heat as soon as the thickest parts read 160 degrees Fahrenheit. After getting the bird off the heat, let it rest under some foil or a plate to rest the last few degrees. Uninformed chefs don't realize that the chicken continues to cook even after being removed, so they leave the bird in too long. Remove it when you are within 5 degrees of the perfect internal temp. This final step is crucial if you want to keep the juicy parts of the chicken alive and kicking. Now, all you gotta do is carve and enjoy!
BONUS TIP: Beer Can Chicken
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If you really want to up the game when it comes to smoking chicken, we recommend you buy a beer can chicken holder. This useful device will cost you only about $10, and it adds a ton of potential to your smoked chicken. A beer can chicken holder is simply a metal frame that holds a beer can in place inside the central cavity of your chicken.
When the heat gets turned up, the beer inside the chicken evaporates and helps to steam the chicken from the inside while the smoke soaks in from the outside. The result is a chicken that is moist in the middle while being nice and crispy on the outside. You get the best of both worlds!