How do I get the most smoke/flavor in chicken without salt?

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Meat Mopper
Original poster
Feb 13, 2011
I'm getting to that age where my Doctor is getting on me about salt.  Everything I've tried so far does not come close to even a simple brine for the strong smoke flavor I LOVE so much!

My Christmas present this year was a MES 40 and have only used it 5 times so far, but the weather is getting better so I'm ready to go!

Also have an off set smoker and a Weber.

Any recipes you guys/gals have out there I will welcome!

Thanks in advance.


 Salt is not necessesary for brining. It is necessary for curing.

 We have not  used added salt in our house hold for a long time.

  If you look in the wiki section at emans pig rub , That is a good salt free rub for pork and fowl .  on beef instead of using salt use cbp, herbs and garlic.

 There is a great no salt / salt substitute/ nom msg seasoning blend called Benoits Best.  Cajun Wholesale distributing, Maurice, La. 1-800-533-6923.

We use this on most everything.

 You will find that No salt seasoning blends cost 2 to 3 times what other blends cost because the salt is the cheapest ingrediant in blends and most are 35% - 50 % salt.

 fresh or fresh frozen veggies instead of canned. Unsalted butter and olive oil  instead of  margerine or the crap in the tub.

 It is not hard at all to go on alow salt diet w/o sacrificing taste. it does take a bit to get used to not having salty food and it makes it hard to go out and eat as the food will taste overly salty.

 Good luck , Bob
That's some great info eman. Could you clarify about not using salt in brining. I always thought that salt & sugar were the main ingredients in brine. Do you have a recipe for a salt free brine. We watch our salt intake as well.
Ok, instead of a brine I suggest using  a marinade. Try using different vinegars, red wine, tarragon, balsamic......Now mix in some pepper, garlic, hot peppers......just stay away from the salt. I know it's hard, took me a while and now I don't miss it, I actually enjoy it.  Just life changes.

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You can use Eman's spices and make an injection.  I like a butter or margarine based but you can also use a low salt bullion or broth in your injection.  It may not be a direct replacement for an immersion brine but you do get great flavor and can add a good deal of moisture.

Salt is what moves the spices into the bird when using an immersion brine.  Sugar has an effect also but the osmotic balance differential that moves the water and spices into the bird is not as great when just using a sugar soak.  Salt (NaCl) is the most effective. 

With an injection you are forcing the moisture into the meat, the bit that leaks out during cooking bastes the skin.

Good luck, when you get away from the salt you will notice a whole new flavor profile provided by fresh herbs and fruit juices.

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Unless you raise your own birds, most of the birds you buy at the store are going to be 'enhanced" some some kind of a brine solution. A rub with some olive oil, garlic and onion powder and some fresh cracked black pepper is what I mostly go with. 

There are lots of good ways to add flavor without salt.  The Czarina is on a low-sodium diet, and I have been cooking without added salt for many years (I do all the cooking at my house).  That's not to say "salt-free," but I almost never add straight salt to my foods. And when I do, I try to use coarse sea salt which provides more potent flavor so you can use a lot less.  Otherwise, we add flavor by using the right seasonings, herbs, and spices

For smoked (or rotisserie) chicken, I do not brine, I inject.  My typical injection uses "Mrs Dash Garlic and Herb" and "Mrs Dash Chipotle" which I re-grind very fine, and then add to a combination of olive oil, melted unsalted butter (or margarine), and apple cider vinegar.  I use an injector needle with a wide orifice - which I found at Bed-Bath-and-Beyond for less than $15. (

I hold back about a tablespoon of the dry ingredients, rub olive oil on the skin, and sprinkle with the "rub" just before putting on the smoker.

You can also try adding some "pungent" seasonings into your rubs, that trick the palate into tasting "salty."  Some of these are dry or prepared mustards (I love adding just a little wasabi powder into my rubs and marinades), chili peppers - especially chipotle and d'arbol peppers,  horseradish, and ginger.  Ground curry is also good for adding flavor without salt, but I'm not a huge fan.

Hope that helps.
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I agree with alblancher ... the salt in the brine is what chemically makes it work.  All the other stuff is just additive for flavor.
Welcome to SMF. You will learn much. I have never brined or injected a chicken before smoking. Some unsalted butter and spices under and on the skin and into the smoke. Baste with rum, bourbon, coke, apple juice. Whatever tickles your fancy. Mine are always moist and juicy.
Just realized I never said thank you to all for your replys.  Sooo Thanks everyone

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