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Spatchcock chicken is too smokey

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

We've tried BBQing three times now on our new smoker (Brinkmann vertical smoker w/indirect heat (Trail Master Limited edition)). We are trying to keep it basic so that we can get good at these couple of things first, and then branch out once we've mastered these. We've done ribs and chicken basically. Ribs = babyback, spare ribs, and short ribs. These have all gotten increasingly better with him figuring out the fire and me working on the rub.


We are stumped on the chicken. We've spatchcocked it - direct heat first and then put in the smoker along with the ribs. From what I've read the temp is about the same 225-240 and it's come out perfectly cooked each time in terms of being tender, moist, etc. But it's super smokey! The smoke taste is overwhelming and we aren't sure where we are going wrong. The ribs don't have this issue, just the chicken. We are going to try one more time tomorrow and then maybe give spatchcocked chicken a rest. Everything is dry brining now in preparation for tomorrow's BBQ. Any tips? (including the suggestion that we don't simultaneously do the chicken ... we are just trying to make the most out of the effort of the day-long smoking session)



post #2 of 12
Chicken has a very subtle flavor of its own and is very porous, so it soaks up smoke like a sponge and smoke becomes the dominant flavor. Try a milder wood such as apple or cherry. If you use hickory, pecan is a milder alternative and has a similar flavor. If you're burning charcoal, try skipping the smoke wood altogether. You might find the charcoal gives you enough flavor.
post #3 of 12
I wet brine chicken overnight. 1 cup white sugar, 3/4 Cup salt, a little garlic powder, and a gallon of water. Rinse well, pat dry, rub on some olive oil, and season with black pepper and paprika. For whole chickens, I quarter an apple and throw it in the cavity. For spatchcocked or butterflied birds, put thin slices of apple between the skin and the meat. 250 to 275 degrees for about 4 hours with a mild flavored smoke. Always put chicken on racks below anything else you cook, so as not to drip raw chicken juices on other meats.
post #4 of 12
Ditto both of the above. I would only add that I run my chicken at 275-300* and it gets done a little quicker. This will keep an excess of smoke from having an opportunity. I don't usually brine a spatchcocked bird and I use apple for flavor. Also, make sure that your base wood is well seasoned. You could be getting a lot of excess smoke from the cook wood, which would not have the flavor that you're wanting.

Good luck and let us know how you come out, Joe.
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you for all these responses here as well as over on my noobie thread!


The apple suggestions and the wet brining - definitely going to try that next time since I am down the dry brine road plus some seasons of garlic/butter/thyme/lemon for this bird.


But considering the porous nature of the chicken, I get the feeling that the first step of "searing" the chicken on the direct heat before putting in the smoker is not normal, or necessary, and I'll skip that - I blame this Bobby Flay video for that method: https://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=jyz-1XrisFs Now I don't think that's the norm, right?


Now we have to figure out how to do the higher heat for the chicken and then lower heat for the ribs (I have baby back, spare, and short all in the queue in addition to the chicken for today's BBQ-athon). I am thinking:


  • Do the chicken first on the higher heat - we have briquettes so maybe just those plus apple wood (or no wood?) (we have apple and cherry) for the chicken


  • And then tone down the heat, add the wood and smoke our ribs.


Otherwise I don't see how we can do the low and slow (225ish yes?) for ribs and higher heat (275-300ish yes?) for the chicken. Temps are close but not really close enough it seems.

post #6 of 12
I grappled with the problem of varying temperatures for different meats for a couple years. I was trying to figure out how one might commercially produce smoked meats with one smoker in a roadside stand or trailer. No real intention of doing any of this commercially, mostly it was just a problem I wanted to solve. After some (ok lots) trial and error I settled in on 300°-325° as the ideal temperature for most meats I cook. For ribs, I smoke to an internal temperature of 180°. Takes 2.5-3 hours. No foiling necessary. Chicken I run to an internal temp of 165° for white meat, 175°-180° for dark meat. Whole birds I spatchcock and they seem to magically hit the numbers at the same time. If I feel like it, I'll plop the chicken skin side down over the coals for a few minutes to sear the skin at the end.
Pork butts I shoot for an IT of 195° in the dead center. This will generally get me in the 205° range in the outer parts of the butt. Usually takes 6-7 hours. No stall at these temps, and again, no foiling necessary.
Briskets I don't bother with, at least not yet. I've never eaten brisket that I would consider to be worth the trouble and expense, so until I do, it won't be something I'll spend much time on. I do like pastrami, so occasionally I'll get a pre corned point and smoke that. You guessed it, 300°-325° for about 4 hours til it hits 195°.
Everything is wrapped in foil when it comes off the smoker and rested for about an hour.
I've found that running one temperature for everything makes life so incredibly easier. And since I'm running at a higher temp, I get no stalls, predictable cook times and I rarely spend more than 8 hours running the smoker. And by the way, the quality of the finished product is as good as or better than low and slow. Fat renders better, less moisture is lost and the overall texture of the meats is just better, for me and my family and friends anyway.
post #7 of 12

First thing is TBS (Thin Blue Smoke) you want that thin bluish smoke coming out the exhaust not billowing white smoke or no smoke and just the smell of the wood burning. If you can smell the wood so can the meat. Next is wood selection some have a stronger taste than others and that's a matter of personal tastes. Fruit woods tend to be light and fruity while mesquite is very heavy with cherry and pecan in the middle. I consider hickory stronger than pecan and oak.

As for temps doing poultry if I'm just doing poultry I crank the smoker to 325-350 I don't get as much smoke but get crispy skin.

If doing multiple meats with poultry I pull the poultry a little early and finish it on a hot grill or in the oven to crisp the skin.

post #8 of 12
You want the blue smoke..... Like Piney mentioned.....
post #9 of 12
Thread Starter 

I like this idea of having everything done at once. That will be an experiment for one of upcoming smoke-a-ramas. After this weekend, we have a bit of learning curve left before moving to advanced. Or even intermediate!

post #10 of 12
Thread Starter 

TBS - great tip! Thank you.

post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 

I wanted to post an update on our chicken-smoke bombs. Following the various advice offered, we did end up with smoke free chicken. My vote was to cook the chicken at a high temp and separately (eg before or after) but was voted down by he-whose-job-it-is-to-sit-and-monitor-the-temperature. So we seared it on the (gas) grill first, and then put it in the smoker after the smoking portion of the cook was over. I didn't realize (being so new) that you do the smoke thing first, and then just let it cook for the remaining portion. The chicken was delicious w/butter + garlic + thyme + lemon zest for seasoning. I dry brined it prior so no salt in the butter "rub".


This was our smoke-a-rama #4 and I feel we are still at a C level, even though we improved things. We made a MAJOR (!!!!!!) rookie mistake where we cooked different meats (spare rigs, baby back, short, and chicken) and left them all on for the same amount of time! We handled this correctly in smoke-a-rama #3. Took them off per what we read and the cook times (eg baby back and short being faster cooking than spare ribs). But we got carried away and started puzzle piecing the ribs into the smoker as we could fit them in and then just forgot about taking them out when done according to their type. Except chicken. That was fine (although I'd argue slightly over done)


Short ribs were inedible. Yuck.


With the spare and babyback - there was a flurry of BBQ sauce being added (and we had already forgotten to track which ribs were which) so some were tougher than others (bad) and some more fall off the bone than others (good) and my guess is that it was the baby back that were tough because we forgot and left them in too long.


They were edible and we fed an army (siblings, nieces, nephew, and a grandmother) and nobody complained. And there are lots of leftovers for meals this week, which is ultimately the goal.


But we definitely have our work cut out for us to get to at least a C+ next time. And we will definitely remember to monitor the cook time based on cut!


Adding a photo of our "mixed meat" debacle. Yes it fit, but hello - not optimal for reminding you to keep track.


Edited by mandyx2 - 8/4/15 at 11:32am
post #12 of 12
Keep at it!! You're doing a lot better than I did the first few times. They way I keep track of multiple meats is by just basing everything off the longest cooking meat. Let's say you're doing pork butt, baby back ribs and chicken. Experience tells me that the pork butt will take the longest at approx. 6.5 hours. (Assuming a pit temp of 300°) next is the ribs at 2.5-3 hours. Lastly we have the chicken at 50-70 minutes. Assuming a 1 hour rest for everything and an extra hour for "fudge factor", if you wanna eat at 7pm, the pork butt needs to be on the smoker by 10:30 am. The ribs around 2pm and the chicken around 4:30. That should have everything finishing between 5 and 6pm and give you time to get ready and have a cocktail while the food's resting.
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