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Featured In search of Crisp Chicken Skin - I'm getting close

texomakid

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Joined Aug 6, 2017
This is an area where I have tried MANY different processes and technics as well as read numerous articles and post in regard to how to achieve a nice crispy (and edible) skin when cooking chicken in the pellet grill. There are so many different variations and technics out there and I'll tell you some of them were down right inedible. The one bright spot in this whole venture has been the chicken meat itself and I'm gonna tell ya, every chicken I've cooked the meat has absolutely been great as long as I kept the temps within spec (160 on breast/white meat & 175/185 on the dark meats). One of our better and more seasoned cooks is disco disco and I've read his post on PIA crispy chicken. The key word here is PIA and I'm the lazy guy. Not quite ready to go through that whole routine yet but I'd sure like to sit down with him and eat a few of those chicken thighs he cooked with that method.

I'm getting close and here's where I am at this point - this is the best I have done so far (I'm gonna say I've done over a dozen cooks where the skin was my focus.....)

The best (most edible) skin I've done starts with drying the chicken and applying some course Kosher salt then letting them sit uncovered in the fridge prior to the cook. This time was the longest I've let them sit - 24 hours. Nothing special about this chicken - just cheap fat yeller chicken quarters that were on sale.
IMG_4838.jpg

So this is the new twist (for me) I coat them with vegetable oil while the Yoder is getting up to temp. I recently tried this oil on the skin of a Turkey I cooked and I liked the results.
IMG_4839.jpg

After a coat of vegetable oil I give them a dusting of Weber's Garlic Jalapeno seasoning. Great flavor & aroma. Any rub or seasoning will work here. Name your flavor.
IMG_4840.jpg

I then placed these quarters in the Yoder loaded with a mix of Lumberjack Apple Blend & 100% Cherry - The smoke aroma with the garlic is pure magic as they cook - I set it on 375 and went about 1/2 hour with the skin side down then I flipped them and let them run another 1/2 our with the skin side up. I really wanted to run them longer but they were at the 185 IT mark so it was time to pull them.
IMG_4841.jpg

These were very good and I'm close. Some areas of the skin was exactly what I was wanting but all of the skin was very edible and very tasty. My wife said it was the best skin so far and I'd have to agree.
IMG_4842.jpg

I'm still looking for a crisper finish so I may let them set in the fridge with salt longer than 24 hours and I'm thinking about cranking the temp up to 400 for the next try? I'm gonna figure this out but in the mean time we're eating some really good chicken.

Thanks for looking & any input is always appreciated.
 

johngolf01

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Joined Feb 9, 2017
Mix a little baking powder (not soda) in with your salt.... one part baking powder to 3 parts kosher salt. Trust me.
 
Last edited:

SmokinVOLfan

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Joined Feb 27, 2018
Chicken looks great! Try whole spatched birds. Don’t have any experience with pellet grills but I run mine in the propane smoker about 325 and always get crisp delicious skin at 160 in the breast.
 

tallbm

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This is an area where I have tried MANY different processes and technics as well as read numerous articles and post in regard to how to achieve a nice crispy (and edible) skin when cooking chicken in the pellet grill. There are so many different variations and technics out there and I'll tell you some of them were down right inedible. The one bright spot in this whole venture has been the chicken meat itself and I'm gonna tell ya, every chicken I've cooked the meat has absolutely been great as long as I kept the temps within spec (160 on breast/white meat & 175/185 on the dark meats). One of our better and more seasoned cooks is disco disco and I've read his post on PIA crispy chicken. The key word here is PIA and I'm the lazy guy. Not quite ready to go through that whole routine yet but I'd sure like to sit down with him and eat a few of those chicken thighs he cooked with that method.

I'm getting close and here's where I am at this point - this is the best I have done so far (I'm gonna say I've done over a dozen cooks where the skin was my focus.....)

The best (most edible) skin I've done starts with drying the chicken and applying some course Kosher salt then letting them sit uncovered in the fridge prior to the cook. This time was the longest I've let them sit - 24 hours. Nothing special about this chicken - just cheap fat yeller chicken quarters that were on sale.
View attachment 418425
So this is the new twist (for me) I coat them with vegetable oil while the Yoder is getting up to temp. I recently tried this oil on the skin of a Turkey I cooked and I liked the results.
View attachment 418426
After a coat of vegetable oil I give them a dusting of Weber's Garlic Jalapeno seasoning. Great flavor & aroma. Any rub or seasoning will work here. Name your flavor.
View attachment 418427
I then placed these quarters in the Yoder loaded with a mix of Lumberjack Apple Blend & 100% Cherry - The smoke aroma with the garlic is pure magic as they cook - I set it on 375 and went about 1/2 hour with the skin side down then I flipped them and let them run another 1/2 our with the skin side up. I really wanted to run them longer but they were at the 185 IT mark so it was time to pull them.
View attachment 418428
These were very good and I'm close. Some areas of the skin was exactly what I was wanting but all of the skin was very edible and very tasty. My wife said it was the best skin so far and I'd have to agree.
View attachment 418429
I'm still looking for a crisper finish so I may let them set in the fridge with salt longer than 24 hours and I'm thinking about cranking the temp up to 400 for the next try? I'm gonna figure this out but in the mean time we're eating some really good chicken.

Thanks for looking & any input is always appreciated.
This is awesome to hear! I agree there are so many different approaches that I look forward to your final findings, suggestions, and lessons learned :)
 

Fueling Around

Smoking Fanatic
506
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Joined Dec 10, 2018
I like the disco disco method with a twist.
I roll the skin back but leave attached at one point on the chicken piece.
Scrape down the fat and the inner skin.
Apply rub to chicken meat and skin. pull skin over meat and smoke to desired.
I feel skin is only good fresh off the grill. When reheated I discard the rubber skin

In the oven, I render out and crisp the skin at 400° oven temp until the half chicken hits 165° in the breast.
 

Hawaiianbrian

Smoke Blower
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Joined Dec 7, 2017
Like other said. Try baking powder mixed with a rub. I have the vortex on my Webber kettle so I got spoiled with the crispy skin. That chicken looks good though
 

Jabiru

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Joined Mar 5, 2019
Agree with baking powder, it is high sodium so watch for your rubs, or they’ll taste salty. I add no sodium when using baking powder.

Baking powder in a bag, with your additions, shake em around. I always run at 375f from start to finish with chicken.

works so well !
 

SmokinAl

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We don't eat the skin so it's really not an issue with us.
But I will say that I do eat the skin on wings & a Weber kettle & a vortex will get you just about the best wings you have ever eaten.
I'm sure it would work with thighs too.
Al
 

texomakid

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Joined Aug 6, 2017
Thanks for the suggestions everyone. Actually I've tried baking soda as well as corn starch on a couple of occasions and we just couldn't eat the skin at all (but the meat was awesome.) I don't keep notes (I know, this is where they would come in so handy) so I'm not sure of my ratio of BS to salt was so I may revisit the baking soda again. It's one of the methods many people swear by. I think what I'm doing now is nothing more than a dry brine based on my research? Applying the salt and letting the chicken set open in the fridge for 24 hours seems to be pretty good. Might just bypass the vegetable oil next time? Hey, it's close just like I did it so I'm not gonna give up and I cook chicken enough I will get more shots at this.

The great thing is the chicken has always been top self so if I ever nail the skin down it will be a big bonus.

Thanks again for your input. I really do read and consider every suggestion.

Keep on cooking.......................
 

tallbm

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Thanks for the suggestions everyone. Actually I've tried baking soda as well as corn starch on a couple of occasions and we just couldn't eat the skin at all (but the meat was awesome.) I don't keep notes (I know, this is where they would come in so handy) so I'm not sure of my ratio of BS to salt was so I may revisit the baking soda again. It's one of the methods many people swear by. I think what I'm doing now is nothing more than a dry brine based on my research? Applying the salt and letting the chicken set open in the fridge for 24 hours seems to be pretty good. Might just bypass the vegetable oil next time? Hey, it's close just like I did it so I'm not gonna give up and I cook chicken enough I will get more shots at this.

The great thing is the chicken has always been top self so if I ever nail the skin down it will be a big bonus.

Thanks again for your input. I really do read and consider every suggestion.

Keep on cooking.......................
I wish I could give you more input and things to try but my setup is heavily modded. I installed a convection fan into my MES and I have a "volume limiting mod" that cuts down the amount of space in the MES so I'm not heating the entire thing. "Volume limiting mod" is fancy for "I bought an untreated birchwood board and cut it to fit on top of the MES rack holders" hahaha. This board effectively acts like a wall to help hold and trap as much air as I can closer to the food.
So if I only cook on the bottom rack of my MES I move the birchwood board to the next available rack slot so that the heat is heavily trapped below the board and leaks up around it to the vent.

I have very good success in my setup but it involves all of the following:
  • Smoke at 325F
  • Use vertical chicken racks (beer can style) to allow heat to move up against the skin all around rather than be deflected in some areas vs others
  • Use my volume/space limiting board to trap heat closer to the meat
  • Convection fan installed in my MES to move/circulate heat and air and smoke
  • PID controller for tight temp control
So as you can see my methods are greatly affected by my optimized smoking enviornment so I can't tell you too much beyond smoke at 325F or higher AND if you use a vertical chicken rack you get better vertical air movement across the skin :)

I really look forward to how your final results come out because I can't stand being defeated by chicken skin! hahahahah
 

RiversideSm0ker

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I truly admire your tenacity. Good on you for trying so many times to find chicken nirvana. I gave up trying to get the skin just right with my smoker. I have found that cooking indirect on my propane grill rendered enough fat to make the skin edible. In less that a month now I will be cooking my chicken on a Weber kettle with the vortex insert. So I will see if all of the stories are true. By the details you shared in the original post it sounds like you are very close to your goal. I’m going to offer your own suggestion to forego the vegetable oil. My theory is that it’s adding back too much moisture to your dry brined chicken. I’m anxious to hear if that works for you. I intend to cook a lot more chicken on my new kettle. If your method turns out to be really effective on your pellet grill then it should be just as viable on my kettle. Good luck and keep us in the loop.

G
 

HalfSmoked

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Looking good I could that with no problem. Keep trying for the taste that you want and you will achieve it. I enjoy a little fat dripping off my chin.

Warren
 

texomakid

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Joined Aug 6, 2017
I wish I could give you more input and things to try but my setup is heavily modded. I installed a convection fan into my MES and I have a "volume limiting mod" that cuts down the amount of space in the MES so I'm not heating the entire thing. "Volume limiting mod" is fancy for "I bought an untreated birchwood board and cut it to fit on top of the MES rack holders" hahaha. This board effectively acts like a wall to help hold and trap as much air as I can closer to the food.
So if I only cook on the bottom rack of my MES I move the birchwood board to the next available rack slot so that the heat is heavily trapped below the board and leaks up around it to the vent.

I have very good success in my setup but it involves all of the following:
  • Smoke at 325F
  • Use vertical chicken racks (beer can style) to allow heat to move up against the skin all around rather than be deflected in some areas vs others
  • Use my volume/space limiting board to trap heat closer to the meat
  • Convection fan installed in my MES to move/circulate heat and air and smoke
  • PID controller for tight temp control
So as you can see my methods are greatly affected by my optimized smoking enviornment so I can't tell you too much beyond smoke at 325F or higher AND if you use a vertical chicken rack you get better vertical air movement across the skin :)

I really look forward to how your final results come out because I can't stand being defeated by chicken skin! hahahahah
Man that's not only interesting info but great insight. The Yoder YS640 is nothing more than a 300 lbs pellet fueled convection oven but it's does have a LOT of space for that air to move around. You got me thinking..........I do utilized a rotisserie in this cooker for whole birds so that may be a plus. I plan to do a couple of whole birds next week so another round of trying to tweak this process. Yeah that's me on this skin thing as well. I've always been puzzles how the meat can taste so good but the skin was so bad. And then to try and make the skin better but actually make it worse! Thanks for sharing that Tall. More really good info to process.
 

texomakid

Smoking Fanatic
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Joined Aug 6, 2017
I truly admire your tenacity. Good on you for trying so many times to find chicken nirvana. I gave up trying to get the skin just right with my smoker. I have found that cooking indirect on my propane grill rendered enough fat to make the skin edible. In less that a month now I will be cooking my chicken on a Weber kettle with the vortex insert. So I will see if all of the stories are true. By the details you shared in the original post it sounds like you are very close to your goal. I’m going to offer your own suggestion to forego the vegetable oil. My theory is that it’s adding back too much moisture to your dry brined chicken. I’m anxious to hear if that works for you. I intend to cook a lot more chicken on my new kettle. If your method turns out to be really effective on your pellet grill then it should be just as viable on my kettle. Good luck and keep us in the loop.

G
You know that vortex insert has some real potential here. That kind of goes with the smaller space/more concentrated concept as Tall uses in his MES. I'm for sure gonna skip the oil on the next one. The obvious concept was hoping the oil would kind of "fry" the skin when it gets hot enough but what appears to me is it just doesn't nor will it get hot enough for the oil to do that to the skin. Thanks for sharing your experiences as well as your words of encouragement.

Looking good I could that with no problem. Keep trying for the taste that you want and you will achieve it. I enjoy a little fat dripping off my chin.

Warren
Thanks Warren - it's a win/win when the chicken is always so good!
 

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