We hit the smoker again yesterday.
Oh. My. Goodness.
Credit where credit’s due. First, Abi laboured like a Trojan grinding the spices for the rub in the pestle and mortar. Second, the recipe came mainly from Will Budiaman’s book Real BBQ (Spatchcocked Chicken p. 50, Good-on-Everything Dry Rub p. 121). But we added a few tweaks and additional bits and pieces (including chicken legs), and picked up a few ideas along the way. Here goes:
Preparing the chicken
Spatchcocking is very easy. Just flip the chicken over so it’s breast-side down, cut along the length of the spine (actually, just next to the spine, to one side, through the ribs), open the chicken out, cut part-way through the front of the ribcage from the inside with a sharp knife, flip the chicken back over again, and press down to fully open the chicken out flat until the ribs crack and it lies flat.
It helps to dislocate the chicken wing joints so that they lie flat, otherwise they lie against the breast, inhibiting smoke and prolonging the cooking time.
Spatchcocking is great for encouraging even cooking and also allowing you to season both sides of the bird with rub and glaze. Lots of flavour.
Skin-on or skin-off?
As an experiment, we removed the skin from the chicken legs and from part of the chicken itself. It was great.
Tell me you’re amazed. C’mon…
The chicken didn’t dry out. Instead, we had really smoky meat and no fatty skin to peel away. You just have to have the courage of your convictions, and not worry when the chicken looks like a bird-shaped meteorite half-way through the cooking.
On the other hand, if you take a look at this picture of the finished article, you can see that the skin we left on the chicken itself looks kinda tasty. I think that next time I might take all the skin off the legs (as here), but leave some of it on the breast of the chicken itself (as on the left of the pic below). I think that probably makes sense in view of the fact that legs tend to be more moist generally. You choose.
Garlic and honey brine
We soaked (the technical term is “brined”) the chicken legs for about 3 hours before cooking. In the BBQ world, brining is a popular way of enhancing the flavour of pretty much every kind of meat – pork, chicken, beef, you name it. The ingredients were:
- 200ml water
- 2 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 cloves garlic
Just dissolve the honey and salt in the water, mix in the garlic, pour over the chicken legs, and pop them back in the fridge. Drain before cooking.
Good-on-Everything Dry Rub
Double quantities of the dry rub were sufficient for a whole chicken and 8 legs. We halved the salt and substituted muscovado sugar for turbinado (I’ve no idea what turbinado sugar even is). Muscovado is good for rubs because it doesn’t burn as easily as white sugar. You don’t want your chicken coated with a layer of carbon.
Timings and cooking method
We set the temperature of the smoker at about 270F and cooked it for about 3 hours, increasing to 330F in the last 30 minutes. It was done fine, but if we did it again I’d start it at 300F and keep it there, just to be sure.
Significantly, we didn’t mop (i.e. baste during cooking) the chicken at all. I was worried that it might dry out, but it didn’t at all. I’m increasingly convinced (and I’m not alone in this) that mopping during smoking is basically a waste of time – it doesn’t moisten the meat; it just cools it down, increases cooking time, and makes the temperature of all but the most stable smokers impossible to control. I encourage you to try smoking something without a mop, just to test it out for yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised.
Oh, and the usual 15-minutes rest in foil and towels (to keep it warm) after cooking.
We used a 50-50 mixture of Sweet Abi Sauce and honey, cranked the temperature up as high as it’d go (about 330F), and left it for about the last 20 minutes of the cooking time. No danger of burning, and a wonderful rich, sweet, moist, chewy taste.