Here in Texas we tend to focus our barbecuing efforts on beef and pork. We love brisket, ribs, pork butt… the list goes on! We often forget about BBQ chicken, that other white meat. This delicious bird often gets overshadowed by its four legged friends. Smoking a chicken, whether whole or in pieces, can be just as delicious, tender and juicy as a brisket or pork butt. All you have to do is follow these easy steps.
First, you need to choose which type of wood you want to use during the smoking process. Each person has their preference for many different reasons. You can choose a single type of wood, or mix them. Read about our types of wood (here) to decide which ones will work best for you.
How Do You Want It
Now, you have to decide how you want to cook the chicken. Do you want it to remain whole? Do you prefer pieces? Or would you prefer spatchcocking? Spatchcocking is when the whole chicken is butterflied. Whichever you choose will turn out amazing. It really comes down to preference. This choice does not affect cooking time or taste. The only thing it determines is if the chicken needs to be cut or not. If you do want it cut, that is something you will want to do before the next step, brining.
Brining Before Dining
Once you decide how you are going to cook the chicken, you are going to want to brine the chicken. A brine is a cold mixture of water and salt. It is recommended to use the ratio of one cup of salt to one gallon of water. You can also add other spices, herbs, garlic or citrus to the brine if you are feeling adventurous. Why does the mixture have to be cold? Since you will be putting raw meat into this mixture to soak, you do not want the raw meat to raise above regular refrigerator temperature. You will want your meat to soak about one hour per pound, not any longer. Why? Because the brine adds moisture to the meat, tenderizes it and infuses it with flavor. All things that are beneficial when you smoke the meat. Even though cooking releases moisture from the meat, your dinner will remain juicy because of the brine. Just take note that if you brine the chicken, DO NOT use a dry rub. This will make the chicken too salty and you don’t want that. You can always add your dry rub spices to the brine so the chicken can soak in all of that flavor. If you would rather use your dry rub instead of the brine, you can certainly do that! Just remember it may not end up as juicy and tender.
Get it Started
Next, you are going to want to prep your grill or smoker. Like smoking a brisket, you have the option of using direct heat or indirect heat when smoking your chicken. In other words, your grill or your smoker. Same effects, different functions. If you are using the grill, you are going to want to soak wood chips about one to two hours prior to smoking time to place on top of the smoldering charcoals. You can wrap the wood chips in aluminum foil pouches and punch them with a fork to release smoke. Each pack should last about two hours and you will have to add as needed but you do not have to use this method. You can simply add the wood chips to the coals and add as you see fit. That is completely up to you. The other option is using your smoker. Either way, you are going to want the heat to be about 200 to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now for the fun part, cooking! You can cook the chicken whole, in pieces or butterflied, also known as spatchcocking. Regardless of which one you pick, the cook time will remain the same, about two to five hours depending on the size of the bird. How will you know if the chicken is done? Use your internal meat thermometer on the thickest part of the chicken thigh. You will want the thermometer to read 165 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point, the chicken is ready! Well, it is ready to rest. Unlike brisket, chicken does not have a long resting time. Only twenty minutes!
After the chicken rests, you can pull, carve, or serve in pieces. Again, something that is totally your preference. These steps guarantee you an amazing barbecue chicken meal! If you don’t have a full house, smoked chicken leftovers are great for many meals. You can use it in salads, casseroles, and sandwiches. You’ll never be disappointed by a smoked chicken! I know we aren’t!
- FOR THE BRINE:
- 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
- FOR THE SEASONING:
- 3 tablespoons Hardcore Carnivore Red
- 1-2 tablespoon Hardcore Carnivore Amplify
- 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.
- Prepare the chicken by rinsing the cavity and 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.
- 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.
- Preheat a smoker to 250f.
- Remove chicken from brine and rinse well under cold water. Pat dry.
- 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.
- 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.
- Remove from smoker, rest for 10 minutes under loosely tented foil, then serve.