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Problems getting my chicken to turn out good

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
There is a BBQ restaraunt near my appartment that has extremely good smoked chicken. It has a softer but not rubbery skin and the meat is tender and not too smokey. I have tried chicken about 10 times now on my MES using different temperatures and I tried foiling once. I cannot get chicken to taste great... only remotely good. I could eat the chicken from this restaraunt everyday, and I have to convince myself to reheat my chicken for lunch. Is there something I am missing here? Some secret I dont know about? How do you all cook your chicken? I usually get the quarters because I love dark meat. Any pointers??? I am about ready to give up on chicken because everything I pump out of my MES is great compared to it.
post #2 of 32
Not sure how god mine is but it gets eaten. I like to brine in Travcoman45's slaughterhouse brine recipe. For leg quarters I do 4-6 hours of brine. Then rinse well pat dry and apply the rub (most times Jeff's) then into a 325 degree smoker with apple chips. After an hour I spritz with apple juice and captain morgan's spiced rum at a 3:1 ratio. I take the quarters to 165-168 then tent foil for at least 20 minutes. I find the apple chips give it a nice flavor and the high temps make the skin good.
post #3 of 32
Thread Starter 
Is it even worth doing chicken in the MES then considering it tops out at 275?
post #4 of 32
I have brined chicken parts with very good success. I have also made whole Chickens beer can style, with outstanding sucess.

But doing nothing except sprinking on some rub doesn't cut it for chicken, at least in my book.
post #5 of 32
Sure it's worth doing. The skin isn't likely to get crisp. One thing you may try is after you pull it off the smoker throw it on a hot grill for a few minutes. Also, try some different woods, brines, rubs and see if you can settle in on something.

Does the resturant you like so well sell their rub? Maybe you can see if you can get your hands on some and try it on yours.

The there's the extreme option of taking a part-time job there for a few weeks so you can see "behind the cutain" and see how they do it and see if you can replicate it in your MES.

Here's a link to some quarters I did recently.
I love quarters and thighs. Quite possibly my favorite thing to do. Quick, easy and tasty.

Good luck. Stick with it!
post #6 of 32
I think that all rubs, brines, and for that matter, wood smoke aside, the most important part of cooking chicken is to not over cook it. The USDA has got everyone so scare of catching the plague that they way over cook it to protect themselves. The truth is, in this day and age, the problem is way less than it used to be. If you want juicy chicken (and juice = flavor), don't go any where near 165; certainly don't go over it.

I cook mine at about 275 to get good smoke penetration until the breast meat hits 160 (sometimes less). I cook them with the dark meat closer to the heat source in case it trails the breast temp. Then I pull it from the smoker with a long set of tongs and perform a "hillbilly rotisserie" ritual over the firebox coals to crisp up the skin. Then cover with foil (not sealed, or the skin will soften) to rest for about 30 minutes.

Try it once without adding anything but salt, pepper and EVOO. Then if you feel you need more flavor, look in to a brine.
post #7 of 32
Thread Starter 
Yeah maybe my problem is I havent brined any of the chickens I have cooked. You might be right BigSteve. All I have been doing is putting rub on the chicken. I think Ill pick up some quarters after work and brine them for tomorrow, see how that works. Its just ticked me off because I thought it would be the easiest thing to do and I have had no success for some reason.
post #8 of 32
Thread Starter 
also I think Ill try cooking to a lower temp. The last time I tried chicken I cooked with the skin off and the outside meat was tough and nasty... Last time I will do that.
post #9 of 32
I know this sounds like cheating and maybe it is but I use bottled zesty italian dressing and beer for a marinade. Dump it in a gallon zip lock bag, add the chicken quarters and put it in the fridge for a few hours and even overnight. I pull it promptly at 160 in the breast if cooking a whole chicken, at 165 if doing quarters because there isn't as much carryover with pieces. You can also crisp the skin under the oven broiler and if doing that pull the chicken off the grill at a lower temp.
post #10 of 32
Not cheating at all. Best cheap chicky booster around.
post #11 of 32
IMHO, chicken DOES NOT benefit from a lower cooking temp (275*), which may be the reason why you are getting something you don't really like eating as an end result.

At least that's what I get when I do chicken on my MES....Whole, legs, thighs, breasts, all of them. I do still do them on the MES once in a while, but I think they really are best done on a grill, charcoal preferred. The 275* limit on the MES is the only thing I don't like about them.
post #12 of 32
That be bout the temp I smoke mine at. My spritz gives a resonable skin. Now ifin ya wanna, ya can pull them outa the smoker short a the 170° mark an finish em up in a 350° oven an crisp up that skin some.

I wouldn't do a bird without a brine personally.
post #13 of 32
Drop those chickens on the lower rack. I bet it's hotter than 275 down there.
post #14 of 32
I would try them at 275 with the spritz I listed and try some with Travcoman45's spritz recipe too (Tip's birds always look great)
post #15 of 32
Reichl, brine. That is the absolute best advice I could ever give anyone doing any kind of poultry. It makes such a wonderful difference it is absolutely amazing.
Even if you do accidentally overcook your bird it will still be moist with a proper brine, but pulling it at the perfect temp. I don't know how better to put this but a perfectly cooked brined piece of bird is like heavenly butter melting away in your mouth while sitting on a cloud.
I humbly respect the opinion of those who don't believe in the brine but I will never cook another piece of bird without brining as long as I have that option.
I have cooked in the restaurant industry for almost 20 years and have made lots of chicken/turkey/whatever but it wasn't until a few years ago I discovered the wonder of brining. Not only does it add flavor to your meat but the brine/salt/water level continually pulls in and out of the meat breaking down the fibers in the meat and retaining moisture creating an extremely moist and tender piece of meat.
I hope I have convinced you to try brining, you won't regret it.
Any questions don't hesitate to ask about ratio and time for particular cuts.
post #16 of 32
I like to spatchcock my birds. Even with leg quarters, you could benefit from the method I use.

Where do they get their chicken? Sometimes the super markets sell birds with lots of fat on them. Big yellow chicken. I prefer the white chicken...seems it has less fat under the skin.

Brine the bird overnight.

Remove from brine, dry the skin and season with rub

Let the bird rest for a few hours UNCOVERED (the rub helps draw the moisture out of the skin)

Cook on a hot smoker (almost grilling)
post #17 of 32
Ditto on Tip's Brine. A must try.
post #18 of 32
I have been working on reproducing a flavor of chicklen I used to get out of a resteraunt as well. Brining is essential in getting the moist tender meat. The rest of the flavor really comes from spices on the meat and how it's cooked. I have tried my MES many times on leg quarters and they taste good, but it is lacking in some way that cooking over coals from wood makes up for. Just my .02 worth
post #19 of 32
I do my chickens a bit different, and not at like recommended, but I've never had a dry bird either. the way I do them is to put rub in the cavity, and under the skin as much as is possible. I then add about 1/4 cup of rub to a small square pan and pour most of a dark beer in with it and mix. Next I place the bird, breast up, in the pan and make sure I get some beer in the bird's cavity. I put this in the smoker at 250 and smoke it as I would a piece of pork until the internal temp is 180. I then remove it and wrap in foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes or so. Next I remove it from the foil and remove and discard the skin, and pull the meat from the bone as if it were a butt (ie pulled chicken). This always gives me a bird with a nice smoky flavor and moist meat, I either serve it on a bun as a sandwich or on a plate next to mashed potatoes and gravy, a vegetable etc.

I've personally never brined a bird.
post #20 of 32

WARNING: Opinion Follows

Just a warning, what follows is an opinion.

I don't think that cooking poultry at less than 275 is a good idea unless you have to. Poultry muscle tends to react better at slightly higher temperatures than beef or pork. I do mine at 300 to 325 Fahrenheit.

If your muscle meat from the chicken is not juicy, and or tastes flabby or rubbery, it is because it is underdone.

If your skin tastes flabby or rubbery it is because it is underdone.

Both these respond well to hotter temperatures and shorter cooking times than we are accustomed to with beef or pork.

I would almost bet that the reason why you love the chicken from that restaurant is because they get the skin crispy/juicy and the meat "just-to-the-point-of-done-but-not-over" which is about 165-175 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the part (on a whole bird).

If you can, give this a try. Do a beer-can chicken on a barbecue grill (offset heat) at 300 F. See if that isn't a lot closer to what you like and are expecting.

Thing is, "smoking" a chicken, and "barbecuing" a chicken are two very different things. And neither of them are anywhere near "grilling" a chicken.

You've gotten a LOT of GREAT advice from the posts before mine. Anyone of them might give you the results you are looking for....bu only you can answer that. Hope my two cents' worth has helped you at least a little bit.

Keep us posted on your efforts, there is a lot more to be learned from the folks who posted before this.

May your chicken become king at your table! PDT_Armataz_01_34.gif
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