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Two Whole Chickens (first time poultry smoker)

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I'm going to be having a birthday party this weekend and I'm going to attempt smoking my first set of poultry. I have a couple goals in mind for how i'd like it to turn out, but I need some advice on how to reach them. I appologize in advance for any newbie questions. I've done some reading on the topic and opinions seem to be all over the place. I just hate letting people down with the food I prepare. What would be my best temperature/time for 2 5lb beer can chickens? What i'm looking for is crispy skin, tender breast meat, and as little of slimyness as possible. I don't plan on a brine. Do I seare it over flames after I take it out to achieve the crispy skin or just run the temperature of the smoker up at the end? I'm using propane. I'll be running a couple doses of hickory through for flavor, but are there any recommendations for the pan? (water, no pan, apple juice, etc...)
post #2 of 20
No water pan..no juices, just cook at 325 to an IT of 165
post #3 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your help.
post #4 of 20

If you really want the best of both worlds I would spatchcock the birds. The whole bird beer can thing is a crowd pleaser but doesn't really do much for the bird itself. I've never noticed any flavor from the contents of the can and it is not required for a moist bird. I think that a spatched bird is better presentation.



post #5 of 20
Is true..I'm a spatchcocker myself
post #6 of 20

You're going to get a different opinion from just about everybody that replies.

Chicken is one of the easier things to smoke, but there are still pitfalls.

Here's my tried and true method for some pretty consistently great chicken.

1. Keep the chickens under 4.5 lbs. The reason here is that a smaller chicken will be a younger, more tender chicken. Up over 5 lbs the birds will have more flavor, but can be quite a bit tougher.

2. Brine. A simple ratio of 1 cup kosher salt and 1 cup sugar to 1 gallon of water is all you really need. Other ingredients are optional. Heat to dissolve the sugar and salt then cool to room temp before adding the bird. Leave in the brine (in the refrigerator) for as little as 2 hours to overnight. 8 hours would be about the max.  You're going to hear a lot of people saying they never brine and have perfect chicken every time. This may well be the case, but I've been cooking chickens a long time, and I've had my share of disasters. I've never, however, had a properly brined bird dry out.

3. Spatchcock. This is the removal of the backbone and keel bone, letting the bird lay flat. This will assure your white and dark meat cook evenly and are done at the same time. It also makes carving a whole lot easier and quicker.

4. DRY. This is the most important, and most often missed step. After brining (or after washing if you don't brine) set the bird out on a cooling rack in a sheet pan, uncovered, in the bottom rear of your fridge overnight. 24 hours would be better. Sprinkle the skin with salt beforehand. This will not only dry out the skin, but will coax proteins to the surface which will form a pellicle of sorts, aiding in browning and smoke absorption. It will also allow the skin to "crisp" and be tender. This step DOES NOT dry out the meat.

5. Smoke. At 325˚. I like your choice of hickory, as it will give a good hit of smoke in the short time the birds will be in the smoker. Cook time should be under 2 hours for a 4.5lb bird at 325˚. Brush the skin with olive oil or butter at the beginning. Season however you want. I like to use only salt, as it lets the beautiful brown skin show and also highlights the flavor of the smoke and the chicken. I also like to baste with butter at about the halfway point. Take the breasts to 165˚ at a minimum, or as high as 175˚ if you're serving guests. At 165˚ it'll be perfectly safe, but there can be some pink around the bone in the dark meat which freaks people out. At 175˚, if you've brined, it will still be perfectly moist and the dark meat will be more done.

6. Carve. A properly spatched bird is carved with 5 moves of your knife. One to cut the bird in half lengthwise. 2 and 3 to separate the breasts from the leg quarters, and 4 and 5 to separate the thighs from the drumsticks. I leave the wings on with the breasts.

7. Bow. You're going to get a round of applause from your guests when they taste this chicken.

post #7 of 20

Haha! Dirtsailor and FWIsmoker beat me to the punch while I was typing.

post #8 of 20
yeh spactch the birds...way easier for serving and presentation is awesome.
post #9 of 20
Thread Starter 
I'm taking it all in. Definitely going to try the brine and spatchcocking...looks really easy. Ill be posting up pictures of it all.
post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 
Any need for adding something like chicken boulion cubes to a brine?
post #11 of 20
Originally Posted by DontTread View Post

Any need for adding something like chicken boulion cubes to a brine?

I've honestly never tried that. I suppose it might add more "chickeny" flavor, but it would change the salt content as they're about 80% salt.

post #12 of 20
Originally Posted by Mdboatbum View Post

I've honestly never tried that. I suppose it might add more "chickeny" flavor, but it would change the salt content as they're about 80% salt.


id agree there also, its definitely gunna add more salt.
post #13 of 20
No not at all, don't need broth. Imo brining birds is fairly worthless, especially since its soaked in a water/salt solution anyway. Try it both ways and see what you like.
post #14 of 20
Thread Starter 
Just a random ingredient that popped into my head. I've never made a brine before. I'll stick with the salt/sugar/water solution for now and see how it goes.
post #15 of 20
Not all chickens are soaked in a water/salt solution. For non enhanced birds, brining adds a little insurance against drying out. I wouldn't call it worthless, but everyone has their own methods. I was just trying to advise someone who has never smoked a chicken on a fairly foolproof method for his first time.
post #16 of 20

There is no need to brine if moisture is what you're looking for. If you are looking to change or enhance the flavor of the bird then by all means brine the bird or marinate it. As I have shown during many cooks brining is not required to get a moist juicy bird. My most favorite flavor profile for chicken is straight up seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and paprika over lump and cherry wood.

post #17 of 20
MD...Yea you're right not all of them are... just the store bought.

If I buy one at the butcher I'd probably give it a couple hour brine.
post #18 of 20

Good advice, now . . .


post #19 of 20
Thread Starter 
I'm going going the snake bitten route. Made my rub yesterday, substituted hot mustard powder for the wasabi. Couldn't find it. Brine is ready to go. Dropping the birds in shortly.
post #20 of 20
Thread Starter 

Almost showtime
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