Here’s my method for producing flavorful and juicy barbecue chicken in my smoker.
If you don’t have a lot of chicken, you can reduce this to a half or quarter of these amounts, as long as the chicken is fully surrounded by the brine. Typically you want ¼ cup of salt and ¼ cup sugar per quart of water.
- 1 whole chicken (more if you want and your smoker has room)
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup salt
- 1 cup brown sugar (packed)
- Fresh rosemary
The Night Before
I like to cut the chicken in half as it ensures more even cooking, and makes it much easier to move around the smoker when/if you need to rotate or move the meat.
- Prepare the Brine: In a large container, mix the water, salt and brown sugar. This is much easier with warm water as it wil absorb the salt much more quickly. Just be sure to let it cool before you put the chicken in it.
- Cut the chicken in half, along the breastbone. The result should have one wing and one leg on each side.
- Place the chicken in a large ziplock bag (my preferred method) or a suitably sized container, add the rosemary (I’ll usually add a few stems) and pour in the brine liquid. If you split the chicken into more than one container, you may need extra brine. Make sure the chicken is fully immersed
- After sealing the container, put it in the fridge if you have room. Alternately, I like to put it in a cooler full of ice so the refrigerator isn’t jam-packed and in case the bags give way, the mess would be contained. Luckily I haven’t had any brine leaks.
The actual smoking process will be about 4 hours.
- Remove the chicken from the brine an hour or before it will go into the smoker.
- Rinse the chicken thoroughly. Missing this step will result in a slightly too-salty chicken
- When the smoker is at 235°, place the chicken halves on the grill. I place the thicker, breast side towards the firebox; you may need to find the best layout for your smoker.
- Maintain the 235° temperature.
- Rotate the chicken after two hours (half-way through the cooking process) so the meat is evenly cooked.
- After the fourth hour, check the internal temperature of the meat in the breast of one of the halves to ensure it is fully cooked. You’re aiming for 165°, though you may want to pull it out a couple of degrees sooner, as the meat will keep cooking after being removed from the smoker.
- Wrap the chicken in foil and let it rest for 10 minutes. Don’t skip this step! It’s tempting to dig right in, but this resting period will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
Carve and Enjoy
Hopefully this will prove tasty and give you a foundation for playing with different flavors. I didn’t cover the woods I use to smoke the meat, but I highly recommend using a bit of apple wood if you have access to it.