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Too Much Wood?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

I smoked a couple of whole chickens this afternoon and was a little disappointed.  This was only my third time on the WSM, so still a lot to learn.  I read where you should bring the temp up to over 300 if possible to crisp the skin.  The problem was, the skin was so smokey it was not edible.  One bite I had was even bitter.  I put a couple of big, fist-sized chunks of hickory and for a 2-hour smoke, I think I kind of over did it.

 

I can remember growing up my Father cooking chicken over charcoal in one of those old, lid-type grills.  It had direct heat and it was so good.  I was hoping for a similar taste, but was way off.  My thinking is to back way down on the wood and go for less smoke.  I also will keep the temp's down to no more then 300.  What do you guys think?

post #2 of 14

What was the color of your smoke? If it was brown or white that is most likely the cause. Hickory is pretty strong for chicken but you could mix in some apple or something to tone it down and sweeten it up. Are you leaving your top vent all the way open" That amount of wood is right so something else was wrong. If you want to crisp the skin up you only need the high heat for the last little bit. That said you can cook chicken hot and fast without having this happen if everything else is right. Detail your procedure more so we can figure out what you did wrong.

post #3 of 14

Pictures help too.

post #4 of 14
Remove the water pan and cook the chicken direct. The drippings will vaporize on the hot coals and create incredible smoke flavors without any wood. Throw a chunk of mild wood on - apple works great with chicken - if you want to realizing it will burn and create even another layer of flavor. I believe hickory is a little intense for chicken but to each his own.
post #5 of 14

Two fist sized chunks of hickory shouldn't be a problem unless the wood was not aged dry and was still a little green.  Bitterness is usually creosote.

 

With chicken be sure you dry smoke; no water in the water pan.  A moist environment will cause more smoke to adhere to the meat, and that's definitely not a good thing especially if the meat is loaded prematurely.  Never load any meat until the smoke has started to thin out and turn blue.  That can easily take 45 minutes with the WSM; up to 90 minutes if the wood is still a little green.   

post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 


Thanks guys for the input.  I've been out of town several days and now able to respond back.  I see right off hand several things I probably did wrong. 

  • The charcoal ring ended up just about full and since this was only a two-hour smoke, more than likely I had too much charcoal. 
  • The smoke was still very dark and very heavy.  I only let it burn about 15 minutes, not near the 45 that was mentioned.
  • I rubbed the chickens down with olive oil and I'm sure this helped the smoke adhere to the chicken.  I've read that a "dry" chicken is best in order to sweat out the moisture in the skin for a more crispy crunch.
  • The hickory I have is a couple of years old, so should have been okay.  As has been mentioned, it is too strong a wood for chicken.  I have some peach and should have used it.
  • I did fill the water pan.  Next time I will do as suggested and leave it out for chicken.

 

I'll try again and see how things go this time.  I didn't think about taking pictures, but will next time.  Thanks again for the suggestions and help.

post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 


One more thing--I read that you should cook chicken over 300 degrees, so I left all vents open the whole time.  This did help keep the temp us, but may have helped contribute to my smoke problem.

post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by RaleighSmoker View Post
 


Thanks guys for the input.  I've been out of town several days and now able to respond back.  I see right off hand several things I probably did wrong. 

  • The charcoal ring ended up just about full and since this was only a two-hour smoke, more than likely I had too much charcoal. Not necessarily.  Charcoal is the fuel, but the cold charcoal will not all burn.  Something better happens.  The hot charcoal will "pre-heat" any adjacent cold charcoal and wood buried in the charcoal.  The fire will reach a point of equilibrium with heat, airflow and burning fuel.  The fire from the hot coals will not spread very far.  It is one reason why the WSM can smoke something for 20 hours or more on one load of fuel.  A chicken smokes up relatively quickly compared to a pork butt or beef brisket.  On a full load of fuel in my WSM I'll get 3-4 shorter smokes by just snuffing the fire out at the end of each smoke, knocking off the ash, then just adding some more wood and the hot charcoal. 
  • The smoke was still very dark and very heavy.  I only let it burn about 15 minutes, not near the 45 that was mentioned.  This was your culprit.  We've all been there.
  • I rubbed the chickens down with olive oil and I'm sure this helped the smoke adhere to the chicken.  I've read that a "dry" chicken is best in order to sweat out the moisture in the skin for a more crispy crunch.  Once again, not necessarily.  Oil on the skin with a hot chamber of 325-350F can help a skin crisp, but dry is better IMO. 
  • The hickory I have is a couple of years old, so should have been okay.  As has been mentioned, it is too strong a wood for chicken.  I have some peach and should have used it.  Hickory on chicken (or anything for that matter) is one of my absolute favorites, but with water in the water pan it will be too much.  I smoke chicken with roughly a 50-50 mix of hickory and cherry. 
  • I did fill the water pan.  Next time I will do as suggested and leave it out for chicken. Once again, this was your culprit.  Dry smoking is better. 

 

I'll try again and see how things go this time.  I didn't think about taking pictures, but will next time.  Thanks again for the suggestions and help.  No problem.  I gave you a target shot below.  One of my daughters is coming home with her hubby in a couple weeks and the first thing she requested was smoked chicken.   

 

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the tips.  My local grocer still has their chickens on half price and I picked up two this morning.  I'll cook them later today.  My chickens were a very dark brown compared to your pictures.  I'll post later how things go.

post #10 of 14

One other thing to think about is that if you are using a rub with sugar in it, the sugar will burn at those temps and turn bitter. Just another thought. You might try brining your chicken as well.

post #11 of 14
Thread Starter 

My wife wanted me to send a huge thanks to you guys for the advice you shared.  The chickens were almost perfect.  My Redi-Chek meat thermometer would not work and I actually overcooked it a little bit.  It was okay, because we all love the dark meat and the white will go in a casserole tomorrow.  It was literally fall-off-the-bone done.

 

I ended up not using any wood.  I wanted the chicken fat drippings to flavor the meat and it did.  I cooked the chickens on the back deck and when I walked out to check the mail, you could smell that wonderful chicken aroma way out in the front yard.  Kept the temps around 325.  

 

Here's a picture showing the glowing coals down under the chickens when I put them on.  I gave the charcoal 45 minutes to prep for the meat and this is what they looked like.  I did leave out the water bowl as you guys suggested.

 

 

Here is the finished product--sorry the flash would not work.  Color was good and my wife loved the crispiness and taste of the skin.

 

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

One thing I left out--next time I will brine.  The internal meat needed a little salt and I think a good brine will take care of it.  Got the outside perfect, now to tweak the inside a little.

post #13 of 14

You can inject chicken to great effectiveness as well. Since you are cooking at a higher temp it is safe to do so. I like Cajun butter mixed with beer. It is great

post #14 of 14
I do like to brine chicken. But yours Looks great!