Grilling season kicks off this holiday weekend, so how about bringing your favorite people together to enjoy some smoked chicken on the barbie?
You’ve probably gathered some favorite rubs, sauces or flavored woods to create a rich, juicy barnyard bird. We offer a few other ideas to augment your toolkit of luscious tricks.
Dan MacDonald, co-owner of Colorado BBQ Outfitters, is a big fan of the bird preparation method that has become popular in recent years.
“The challenge to smoking poultry is getting nice crispy skin,” MacDonald said. “The one thing we preach consistently is to always spatchcock (butterfly) the poultry.”
Spatchcocking is a technique to remove the backbone so the fowl can be flattened.
“The birds cook faster, and the interior is exposed to more fire and smoke. More of the skin is exposed to heat, so it will get crispy and cook more evenly,” he said.
To spatchcock a bird, use kitchen shears or a sharp knife to remove the backbone. Turn the chicken over and press it flat. (Save the backbone for chicken stock.)
Whether you spatchcock or not, he recommends flavoring the chicken with a homemade brine.
“You can wet brine the bird, dry brine or inject flavoring into the bird. Or use all three. ... We always recommend putting flavoring under the skin. Otherwise, you just flavor the skin.”
He usually does a dry brine. If he has more time, he goes with a wet brine.
“Wet brining involves submerging the bird in a brining solution,” MacDonald said. “Most people use pails, but I prefer a brining bag so I can put it back in the refrigerator overnight.”
He injects the bird to keep the meat moist, “especially for the breast meat. It can dry out faster than the dark meat.”
MacDonald likes to smoke poultry in a covered grill at 325 degrees using indirect heat.
“That temperature will crisp up the skin while it smokes. Use sweet woods such as apple.”
Keep an eye on the internal temperature while the fowl is smoking.
“I smoke the bird until it gets to an internal temp of around 150 to 155 degrees, and then I turn the heat up quite a bit above 325 degrees,” he said. “Keep watching the internal temp of the bird. Every degree above 165 increases the chance of drying out the meat.”
Another fan of smoking poultry is “Mr. Barbecue” himself, cookbook author Steven Raichlen, who is also founder of Barbecue University, which he teaches at The Broadmoor during the summer. He’s also a fan of spatchcocked chicken for the same reasons as MacDonald.
“I’m convinced that smoking is the way to cook poultry,” he said. “The smoke imparts a flavor that is distinctly as American as barbecue itself.”
Since Memorial Day calls for something special, we asked Raichlen for recipes. He gave us two for spatchcocked chicken with an Asian twist, which boosts the bird’s flavor profile even more. One has Thai ingredients, and the other Indian tandoor flavors.
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