Actually, I've smoked chicken many years without brining and only found out about it watching Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. I discovered this forum shortly after that. The process seems popular here since everyone here seems to enjoy secretive preparation in persuit of perfection. I've always been more basic and less concerned over that part. I want it cooked like it is, to be a bit frugal, cooked in the best methods using natural means.
Uhh...yet I got lazy and bought a gas smoker.
I generally smoke or grill chicken in pieces and haven't done a whole chicken or a beer can chicken. I DID brine and smoke half chickens only recently and still not sure if I liked it. Seems that although the white meat came out moist, to me it seemed a little tough.
I found the key to good, succulent grilled or smoked chicken is to not overcook it. Use a thermometer. Dark meat is more forgiving in retaining it's moisture but needs to be cooked to a higher internal temp of 180, White meat (the breast) will dry out if you exceed the temp for doneness too much. At least 165, but I try not to exceed 170. Try that, measuring the meatiest portion of the breast and I think you'll find brining really isn't necessary. otherwise, I've smoke with NOTHING on it, sprinkled on it or rubbed and refrigerated. I've done with skin and without. Brush on some olive oil if you remove the skin.
I've always liked the lemon & pepper flavor combo (store bought shaker) and may try a short marinade with lemon juice base sometime soon. May be a nice alternative to salt. By definition, brining IS the salt. However, lemon juice and vinegar are acids so I'll do the marinade for no more than an hour for the flavor. Otherwise, the acid will break down the protein in the meat and also make it tough
Edited by ecducit - 9/19/10 at 6:44am