We were recently fortunate enoughto inherit a family-sized smoker. We have a nice small one that we can use on a stove top–that’s lots of fun!–but it’s pretty much limited to smoking a few servings at a time. Today we are using the bigger smoker for a whole chicken, and we’ve brined it to yield a recipe that reminds us of a blend of Southern barbeque from around the region. We’ve used lots of vinegar but also lots of heat in the brine, and I added chili powder to the rub. That means this barbeque lacks ties to any distinctive Southern soil but nicely blends our roots (North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, and Texas).
Both smoking and brining are age-old culinary tricks to preserve food. That said, we aren’t planning on letting this chicken sit around for long! I have never declared food “righteous” before in my life, and I don’t think Mr. Homestead has either, but both of us agreed that the term could be applied to this incredibly juicy, smoky, spicy bird.
Start by preparing your brine.
- 1 cup canning salt
- 1 cup tabasco
- 4-6 whole cloves
- 1/2-3/4 cup molasses
- sufficient water to completely cover the bird
Boil together about 4 cups of water with the salt to get the salt to dissolve. Now add the molasses. Finally, add the tabasco. Chill the mixture, and then pour it and sufficient water to cover over your bird in a non-reactive, non-plastic container that’s large enough to get the bird completely covered with the mixture. I used an enameled canning pot, but you could use glass or stainless steel. Note: Had I had a pot with a smaller diameter, I could have used less brine. As it was, I’ll be in the market for a better briner for chicken than my big canning pot, which works great for a big turkey but is wasteful for the smaller bird. Leave the bird in the brine for about 24 hours. Now take it out and dry it off.
Are you wondering what to do with your leftover brine? It’ll make a great weed killer. Just be sure not to use too much, as the salt will hang around and kill nearby plants. It’s both the salt and the vinegar that kills, although frankly straight vinegar is better than this watered-down mix.
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
Sprinkle on the rub and then use your hands to even it out and gently pat it into the surface of your well-dried chicken. Now go smoke!
A 5-pound chicken smoked with low heat and moisture will take about 5 hours to smoke with low heat. Our smoker has a convenient dial to indicate “ideal” temperature, although an actual thermometer (registering around 225 degrees F!) would be better. You may need to add coals a couple of times to maintain “ideal” temperature.
As you think the meat is getting close to being done, use a meat thermometer to check. Be sure to pick a thick portion of meat away from bone. When chicken is done, the meat thermometer should register 165 degrees F.
Mmmmmmm. Here’s the bird. As tempting as it may be to cut right into it, please please please let it rest for at least half an hour or so before you cut into it. The rest time will help the moisture stay inside the bird instead of spilling out. You can spoon the juices left inside over the top if you want to take a little crisp out of the skin.
Collect the juices left behind in the drip pan and strain them through a coffee filter to get out any ash. You can also chill the liquid and skim off any fat, although the coffee strainer should handle that too. What you’ll have after you’ve strained is a smoky, spicy stock that you can use to make a barbeque sauce, add to soup, and so forth.
Do you have a favorite barbeque recipe? Do you have a smoker? If so, what kind of food do you smoke? Do you have questions about smoked food? Dear readers, please add comments.