Sam’s Smoked Chicken. Sometimes I wonder about that woman’s sense of humor. I mean, the books are collectively the Honor and Duty series. But the first one is Vengeance from Ashes and she asks me to smoke some chicken. I snorted, and then I got to thinking.
Smoked chicken isn’t so much a recipe as a method. It’s a way of imparting a lot of flavor to what is essentially a blank slate. Why does everything taste like chicken? Because chicken tastes like nothing much. So smoking the chicken, after using a dry rub on it, is a way to wind up with flavorful, moist, delicious chicken that can be used as leftovers (if there are any, but I planned for it) to add flavor to other things. Like Sam’s series, it’s a gift that keeps on giving. So grab the book of your choice, whether you want to begin at the beginning with Sam’s Vengeance, or pick up the latest in the series, Risen from Ashes.There’s a fair amount of sitting and waiting in this, so you will have time to read while cooking!
- 1 c brown sugar
- 1/2 c salt (I use kosher, a larger flake here will help keep the salt dispersed and not clumping)
- 1/2 c chili flakes (1/4 c chili powder if you don’t have those)
- 1/4 c cumin
- 1/4 c garlic powder
- 1/4 c onion flakes (powder is better, I didn’t have any this time)
- 1/4 cup paprika (I usually have sweet on hand)
Blend all the spices, salt, and sugar together. A food processor works nicely for this. Take a cupful out to use on the chicken, store the rest.
Prep the chicken by rinsing it, and patting it dry with paper towels. Arrange in a pan, then coat it on all sides with the rub. At this point you can wrap it snugly in saran wrap and refrigerate overnight, or you can go ahead and fire up the grill/smoker.
I like to pre-soak my woodchips before use, as this keeps them from simply going up in flames. If I had access to nice smoking wood I’d handle it differently, but sadly I have to buy my chips. I used hickory for this chicken. You’ll want one of the milder woods (apple, peach, cherry, pecan, hickory…) rather than a harsher flavor like mesquite. Or maybe not. I like the milder smoke for chicken.
I have an offset grill-smoker, so I build my charcoal fire in the offset and put the chips on there, then draw the smoke through the main chamber with the chimney. My poor grill is about rusted out, and I’m thinking about moving to a barrel smoker for the next one. You can smoke in a direct-fire grill, just expect your meat to cook faster and therefore pick up less flavor. I have no idea if this would work on a gas grill. I’ve never used one, any more than I’ve ever used lighter fluid (gross. Yes, I am a snob. You should be, too! Get a chimney, you won’t regret it).
Now, for a quick smoke, which is what I was going to do, I’ll finish in the oven. I worry a lot more about making sure my chicken is up to a proper internal temperature of 165F (75C) and sometimes on a slow smoke this can take quite a while. However, the longer you leave it on the smoke, the more yummy smoky flavor you soak up into that bird. If you do bring it in to finish, I recommend putting it on a rack, to allow the schmaltz and juices to run away from the meat, and setting your oven no more than 300F so we cook this thing, not turn it into boot leather. Chicken needs to be safely done, but it can still be moist as long as the juices run clear and the meat is opaque and firm. I can’t give you a precise time. I use a probe thermometer inserted partly into the thickest thigh I have, but not touching a bone, to monitor the chicken. My thermometer has a little alarm that sounds when the desired temp is reached.
And that’s all there is to it! Well, no, really it’s so much more nuanced. There are a lot of variables, from what grill configuration you are using, to how long you leave it on the smoke, and what cuts you are using… but the general idea is to come away with pieces of chicken that have crispy skin, smoke-ruddied outer meat layers, and done all the way through.
And then you can kick back with some cornbread, salad, an adult beverage, and a book. Happy reading and eating!
Oh, leftovers? I made smoked chicken frittata, and smoke chicken enchiladas (I prefer the New Mexico style), and…
For all of the Eat This While You Read That recipes, check out their page. That’s a lot of scrolling, but it’s worth it! Don’t forget to leave your author a review if you enjoyed their book, as well.