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My first-ever smoke! Whole chicken on ECB

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hi guys,

Just wanted to report on my first-ever smoke. I used an ECB I bought at Home Depot for $39, and performed some mods as described on the "Modifications" linke of "RandyQ's Barbecue Ramblings":

* Added legs to the charcoal pan so I could lift the ECB off of it
* Improved airflow by drilling holes in bottom of charcoal pan
* Added a movable cover over the airholes for temp modulation
* Put a charcoal grill from a Smokey Joe in the bottom (supported by 3 little rocks) to provide about an inch of room for the ash to fall

In the picture below, you can see the charcoal pan mods (note the little handle sticking out from the bottom to cover / uncover the airholes):

Then I filled the charcoal pan up with Home Depot's finest "Cowboy hardwood lump charcoal" ... I had NO IDEA how much to put in, so I filled it almost level to the top, and then put what I estimated to be the remaining amount of charcoal to fill it flush to the top inside of my chimney starter:

I forgot to pre-soak the wood chips overnight, so they were in boiling hot water for about 20 minutes before I tossed them in at the last second; then I fired up about 1/3 a starter-chimney-full of coals until they were white-hot (~15 minutes), and carefully poured the lit coals on the very middle of the unlit coals.

I used a 3.7LB free-range organic grain-fed (this is Santa Cruz ok?) chicken I bought from our local Hippie Food Store, "Staff of Life", for $2.99/lb. I have never bought a whole chicken before -- I grill tons of chicken, but I always get the boneless skinless breasts because I'm lazy, but man what a price difference! The night before, I made Shooters Snake Bitten Chicken and Seafood Rub and patted down the bird, and also applied the suggested injection. Here is a picture of the chicken on the smoker at the very beginning. Note my fancy thermometer holder:

Newbie move: I assembled the smoker and water pan (full of boiling water) and chicken and all, and placed it on top of the charcoal tray as soon as I had poured the lit coals onto the unlit coals, rather than waiting for the temp to stabilize. As luck would have it, the temp jumped up to 325 (ideal for chicken, as I understand it) right away... but for most other meats I guess that's way too hot and 225-250 is better.

20 mintues into it, I closed the bottom vent on the charcoal pan, causing the temp to drop very slightly from 325 to 320. Then 37 minutes into it, temp was at 312.

One hour into it, the temp was at 310, and it started to smell awesome. Here is a pic at 1-hr mark when I sprayed some olive oil on it:

2 hours into it, the temp had gone from 325 down to 234 and the charcoal was looking a little low. I tossed a few unlit briquettes in, figuring it only had about an hour to go, and opened the bottom vent on the charcoal pan.

3 hours into it, an internal read of the chicken at breast and inner thigh agreed at about 175, damn too hot! I was hoping for 165, but whatever. Here is a pic right before I pulled it off:

The chicken was done a lot faster than I thought! It was only 4PM, and we usually eat dinner around 9 or 10 pm (no kids), so I reluctantly put the bird in the fridge so it wouldn't sit out at room temperature for 5 hours. 30 minutes in the oven at 200 warmed it up nicely. Then I let it sit for 10 mins, and carved it. I was amazed at how easily the bones pulled out of the sockets, and the meat just kind of fell right off so I had to be careful to keep the pieces intact (unfortunately the thighs pretty much fell apart on me as you can see):

The end product was very good! Overall, I was quite happy with my first smoke. To be critical, the meat was very tender and juicy, but some parts of the darkmeat were almost mushy, which I wasn't used to... strange. The breast meat was good, and even though I injected it the night before, it came out slightly drier than I like -- maybe a brine instead of a rub, and/or taking it out at 165, would mitigate this.

I think next weekend I'm going to try and grill up ribs, with the following changes in my procedure:

* Instead of creating a 1" space for ash to fall in the charcoal pan, more like 2"; and instead of using rocks to support the grill, drill 3 horizontal bolts into the side of the pan to hold the grill up.

* Slightly more unlit charcoal, since it only burned for 3 hours before temps dropped below 200 degrees.

* Soak woodchips overnight, rather than for 20 minutes (forgot to do this). I don't know that they flared up, but I figure it couldn't hurt.

Well, that's my first smoke. Hope you enjoyed reading it! I'd love to hear any tips or comments on my technique! Especially amount of lit / unlit charcoal, that was a mystery to me.

post #2 of 14
Looks good! Looks like it turned out real well for ya. I just did my first smoke ever this weekend as well. I also did a chicken. Now we need to decide what to do for the next smoke lol.
post #3 of 14
nice lookin' Mods. Good lookin' hippie bird tooPDT_Armataz_01_34.gif
post #4 of 14
I have a chicken in the smoker right now.....along with some country style ribs.....hope mine looks as good as yours
post #5 of 14
congrats on a nice smoke!
post #6 of 14
Nice Job on the Mods, The Bird Looks Great, Congratulations on a Successful first Smoke...PDT_Armataz_01_37.gif
post #7 of 14
Very nice chicken and points to you for a great pictorial. Glad it turned out so delicious...now you are a member of the addiction! PDT_Armataz_01_12.gif

Sorry to hear you paid $2.99 for a bird at the local "hippie-store" however, yes I know about Santa Cruz. Spent some time in the former Fort Ord, out in Monterrey. No worries, good smoke!
post #8 of 14
Nice smoke!!!!!!!! You got me wanting to do yard birds again, very soon....LOL!

Good work on the rig, too! points.giffor an all around very well done mod & smoke.

Keep that lil' Brinky happy with more meat & smoke...you make a great team!!!!!!!!!

post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks! Yeah, I saw your post and thought it was funny we both did a chicken the same weekend. I think next time I do a chicken I'll try brining it to see how it turns out. I wonder if brining it overnight, and then putting a dry rub on just before you throw it on the smoker is overkill?

Next weekend... not sure, maybe fish or ribs. I'll probably also try to smoke some veggies too -- smoked corn on the cob, or maybe smoked fingerling potatoes.

post #10 of 14
Beautiful color on that bird, congrats on a successful smoke.
Nice job trimming as well PDT_Armataz_01_37.gif
post #11 of 14
Nice first smoke. Great pictures and tell. But what I got most out of it was that you seemed to really enjoy doing it--and isn't that what it's all about.PDT_Armataz_01_37.gif
post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 
Ya, just practicing up for Thanksgiving! Thanks! For TG, I always offer to carve up the turkey onto a platter, because everybody always seems totally baffled by the task. IMHO, carving a turkey is an essential Guy Skill and is easy to learn by spending a few minutes on YouTube. It's really not that hard.

I prefer taking the breast off in one whole piece, by carefully slicing the tip of the knife along the breastbone where the breast meat connects to it, progressively slicing more and more off, as I follow the contour of the breast bone down. Then I slice the entire chunk into sections (across the grain) once it's off. This is where a lot of the how-to videos disagree with me. Most of them show carving the breast meat directly off the bird, and I don't like this technique for a few reasons. First, the breastbone flares out at a weird angle and every time I've tried slicing pieces parallel to this weird angle, I end up losing track of the contour of the breastbone and running the knife into bone, totally botching the slices. Second, depending on how badly I botch the slices, I always end up with a ton of meat on the bottom of the carcass and have to pick and chop at it for ten minutes.

Also, I think having the whole breast cut off makes it easier to cut the meat across the grain to maximize the tenderness, which is most important on the white meat (and not so much on the dark meat); slicing pieces directly off the breast tends not to go across the grain.

The most important thing I've learned is, never carve the turkey at the table. It looks good in the movies, but it's messy. It's really much better to bring in a huge platter of nicely-arranged chunks, organized by dark meat and white meat, because people can start eating immediately, and that's the most important thing!

post #13 of 14
Very nice looking bird and excellent Q-VIEWPDT_Armataz_01_37.gif
post #14 of 14
Now thats a fine looking bird you have there all golden and you carved it like a surgeon. Keep up the good work there Jeff.
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