When I was a wee lad back home in Denmark, my mum would sometimes buy a smoked chicken from the local butcher. Yes, she did not nurture, kill, butcher, and then smoke the chicken herself as some of you might think. It is not that many years ago since I was a little rascal, and it was just more convenient to buy it already smoked.
I do believe that the butcher smoked the meat in large ovens, and not using wood or pellet techniques.
My sister and I would eat this chicken with our fingers, and I just remember it being overly delicious. The taste and texture of the meat were so soft, and I have this vague recollection that it ‘melted’ in my mouth. Hot or cold, it did not matter.
When I left the nest, I never tried to make it and I never bought it at the butchers. It was a mum thing, and something I felt was best preserved as a childhood memory.
I will admit that I ordered smoke chicken in the last few years when visiting the local smoke and BBQ joint while sampling their homemade BBQ sauces and cornbreads.
Smoked chicken on the wood or pellet grills have a very unique flavor, depending on the woods or pellets used.
With the latest addition to the family, the Traeger Pro 780, I had to test my abilities and excel at my pitmaster level to at least novice.
I deemed it time to smoke my first whole chicken. A challenge that I had been contemplating for years, ever since my childhood in fact, and something that would put me into a league of cool dads.
Making a perfect smoked chicken takes time, love, and patience. You can’t just throw the naked cold bird into the oven, crank it up to 250F, and slow roast it. Well, you could, but where’s the fun int that and I’m sure the flavors wouldn’t be great.
We have to do it right, and slow. To start off with, I placed the chicken in a salt and beer brine and let it soak up the flavors overnight. I left it on the stovetop, but others put it in the fridge to cool as well … I did not have room in my fridge!
To do the brine
- Large pot, big enough for at least a gallon of water
- Lukewarm water, enough to submerge the chicken
- 1/2 cup of salt
- 1 can of beer of your choice
- 1/2 cup of Worcestershire sauce
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup of Juniper berries
- 1/2 cup of sugar
I’m not going to write out the steps in details, but there are four key steps.
- Fill the pot with lukewarm water
- Throw in all the ingredients and stir until sugar and salt have dissolved
- Submerge the chicken and cover the pot
- Let it rest overnight, either on the kitchen counter or in the fridge
The next day, you need to calculate when you want to have dinner or eat the chicken. This will determine when you start the smoking process.
You need to give yourself at around 4 hours headstart, as the bird needs to smoke for 3-4 hours depending on the size. Once it reaches an inside temperature of 165F, then it is done.
Preparing the bird
- Drain the bird from the brine and pad it dry
- Massage some vegetable oil on the bird, getting into the little corners too
- Use your preferred dry rub. I used the “Dia de la Fajita” rub from Meat Church.
- Place the prepared chicken in a tinfoil tray, and let soak up the spices
- Preheat your Traeger (or another pellet grill) to 225F, and let it sit about 10 minutes once it reaches the designated altitude.
- Place the chicken in the center of your Traeger, and now it’s just a waiting game
- If you have a wireless or wired cooking thermometer, insert it into your bird, around the thickest part
- Set the target temprature to 165F
- Once the chicken reaches a temperature of 165F, inside, take out the chicken and let it sit 10-15 minutes on the kitchen counter
Serve the chicken with your preferred sides. We used regular salad and my Viking-slaw, and the adults enjoyed a nice Flat Tire beer.
I have to admit, and without bragging, this was the best smoked chicken I ever had – sorry mum!
We can rarely finish a full chicken, but we were pretty darn close to achieving that goal. All the kids went back to the bird multiple times, and even then wings were amazing. I mean finger liking delicious.
The leftover smoked chicken breast was used on sandwiches the next day for lunch, and it was still soft, juicy, and full of flavors.
I will absolutely make this again. Here’s a before and after picture!
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