First cooking attempt

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Master of the Pit
Original poster
Oct 10, 2021
Seattle WA
I just got my smoker, a Smoke Vault 18, so I had to try something. After reading dozens of recipes i decided an easy low cost meat would be a chicken.

A major frustration I had was in reading all the recipes was there seems to not be a way to specify the smoke attributes used in the recipe. Given this is a smoking meat forum, I figured this information was as important as the amount of salt used in a brine, but I guess not.

Also, the control dial on the SV18 is so touchy, there is lots of play in the control so it was very difficult to get the temperature to settle close to where I wanted it. In the first 30 minutes of the cook the temperature would swing more then 20 degrees. I have a Therm PRO wireless thermometer that I used, the thermometer on the door is off by 20° and sometimes 30°. It doesn't seem to be linear either.

I cut the chicken in two haves and let it sit in a brine with .25 cups of salt and brown sugar in .5 gallons of water for 3.5 hours. After the brine I washed the chicken in water and let it sit for 25 minutes.

i patted the halves dry and seasoned the flesh side with a rub of 1 part salt, 1 part garlic granules, 2 parts coarse peper, and 2 parts paprika. The rub for the skin side was the same except no paprika. Why different, I have no Idea.

i smoked the halves at eventually 235° for 2.5 hours. I used apple chips in 3 batches of about 1.5 cups each time. I pulled the halves when one was.165° and the other was 175°.

The chicken was very juicy, and probably over smoked. It tasted good to me, others will taste it today. I will repeat the cook again but using 2 batches of 1.5 cups of chips just to get a sense of chips to flavor ratio.
Since they were just breasts, you really don’t need to take them to that high of an IT. I pull mine at 157, & a 15 minute rest on the counter under a foil tent will bring the temp up to 165, or close to it. They will be even more juicy & tender than the higher temps.
Sounds like your first smoke turned out good, wouldn't worry about 20 degree swings to much, as for smoke it's hard to put in with recipes, some people like more then others, lots of different type smokers with different smoke profiles but chicken does take on a lot of smoke quickly. I usually smoke chicken around 180 for a 1/2 hour or so then crank the heat up to 350-375 until done to crisp up the skin.
If it was edible it's a success! Congrats. Lots of people like doing chicken at higher temps, 300-350°F to get a more bite through less rubbery skin as the higher temp renders out the fat.
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I agree about not worrying about temp swings, just be aware that they happen. Same goes for not catching a certain temp... if you want 275° but the smoker likes to run at 280° just let it roll.

Here is a chart to back-up the point SmokinAl SmokinAl made. (click it to enlarge) Chicken cooked to 165° internal will be pasteurized almost instantly, but if you pull it off the heat at 157° and can maintain that 'pull temp' for just 34 seconds, all the baddies will be killed. (Well actually, out of every 10,000,000 bacteria living in a piece of chicken, only one will survive). I like white meat pulled at 155° in the thickest area, and it's easy to keep the pull temp for 1 minute minimum. Dark meat on the other hand benefits from a higher internal. I cook thighs and drumsticks to 180°+.

I like white meat pulled at 155° in the thickest area, and it's easy to keep the pull temp for 1 minute minimum. Dark meat on the other hand benefits from a higher internal. I cook thighs and drumsticks to 180°+.

Thanks for the info, much appreciated. What do you do for half chickens which has both white and dark?
You're welcome. Good questions about cooking half-chickens, I get around the problem of cooking white and dark meat at the same time on the same piece by changing the butchering method. Instead of cutting a chicken on the axis I make a small cut on the pelvis. Then I simply cook each half to the perfect doneness. This works for turkeys too.

In photo cut the skin only between the drumstick/thigh and the body (in blue). The bird will lay open. Second photo: You can snap the pelvis (in blue) or cut it with a knife or shears. Then all you do is clean up the halves and you are good to go. You can remove the backbone and some of the ribs if you want a breast that slices easier, but I usually leave the whole breast intact.
Wow thirdeye thirdeye that's a pretty cool idea. Might have to give it a go.

I used to smoke chickens when I first started and my wife said there was way too much smokey flavor. I liked it so it just meant more for me!

Now I go hotter and it is a much better product. Congrats on the first cook!
I've been Parting out my TG Turkey, similar to thirdeye thirdeye for years. Only difference, I Bone-out the Thigh, add Rub, Roll and Tie. The Legs go in an hour, 325°F, before the Breast then they all get done at the same time, Breast IT 155, Thigh, 175°F.
For Chicken Parts, a 30 minute difference works well.

Regarding Smoke Profiles...Too many variables. Stick Burners smoke differently than Gassers, which are different than Pellet Smokers and Electric Smokers. Next, Wood Choice has a huge effect. 30 minutes of Mesquite will be as strong or stronger than 2 Hours of Apple wood or Oak. Hickory, Pecan and Maple fall in the middle of the pack. Pellets make more smoke than Chips, which makes more smoke than Chunks. Thick plumes of White Smoke, imparts a strong, bitter, Creosote Flavor. Thin Gray or better yet, Thin Blue Smoke is what you are looking for. Blue Smoke is sweet and you can put your face in the smoke, without choking. Let your chunks get going. The smoke will be White, at first, then go Gray and after 10-15 minutes, will go Blue. This will happen adding Chunks, but don't Panic. The smoke will go Blue faster in a Smoker that's up to temp.
Smoke intensity is determined mostly by Trial and Error. Play with different Types of Wood Chunks in your Smoke Vault, they last longer than Chips,to see what tastes good. Then vary the amount of Time making smoke until you find you and your families preference. Now you can play with Mixing Wood. Hickory and Apple go great together. Maple and Cherry give a Sweet Smoke and the Cherry imparts a deep Mahogany Color to meat. I use Pellets that are a Blend of all Four Woods with great success...JJ
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I agree with chef jimmyj chef jimmyj … the type of wood and the form it comes in is a major factor in the smoky-ness of your food. I have limited experience, but my first smoker was an electric Cuisinart cabinet smoker. I found that the food I smoked in it was always smokier than anything I smoke in my homemade outhouse style smokehouse I now use. With the electric I only used wood chips and now my firebox is an old Fisher wood stove so I use 16” sticks of firewood. I was once told by an old fella that if you don’t have your smoker vented well enough that the smoke could ‘go stale’ and make the food bitter. I don’t know if it’s true or not but I take anything that older and more experienced people tell me as wisdom from experience. Trial and error is definitely the best method as not everyone has the same taste. Happy smoking and best of luck, there is lots to learn!
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