So my first meal that I am going to smoke are chicken leg quarters. I surfed the web for awhile checking out the different recipes. Once thing that was fairly consistent was using Seasoning Salt and Lemon Pepper for a dry rub. I shocked myself by not having any Lemon Pepper in my house, I have a copious amount of seasonings! I observed that my Seasoning Salt had most of the other dry rub ingredients in it already. I do not know the amounts in the seasoning but here are the ingredients:
- black pepper
I put a plate on the counter and dumped a generous amount of the Seasoning Salt on it. Then I rolled the chicken pieces in it and took some pinches of the seasoning and rubbed it all over. I took all three leg quarters, about 3 1/2 pounds of meat, and wrapped them in foil and let them sit in the fridge for a bit.
They stayed in my fridge for a few hours. I know many people say have them sit for a day or so many hours but I am not too concerned about being perfect right now and I don't have enough time. I just want to eat them! I will plan the rub better for the next meal I make. Now that those are waiting in the fridge and my smoker is seasoned it is time for some errands before I start my smoker up for some tasty deliciousness!
So a few hours have gone by and I am back home from the errands. I start up the smoker the same method used for seasoning it. Only difference is after I get two starters full of coals I add a few chunks of Mesquite wood chunks on top.
Now we have to worry about one thing and that is the temperature. I've checked several different recipes and it seems temp varies plenty mostly anywhere from 215 F to 250F. One thing I've noticed already is this Char-Broil Smoker keeps at 250F very easily. That is one big difference from my vertical smoker. Also it held that temperature without a water source inside of it. My vertical smoker required a bowl with water on the coals to regulate the temperature and keep the meat moist. The Char-Broil did not come with a bowl and the vertical one was too large. So I've decided that if I don't have a bowl and the temp is almost perfect then I'll give it a try without the water. In the future I will purchase a rectangular foil bowl if it is necessary.
After some tinkering with the air flow by adjusting the chimney and firebox covers I managed to get it hovering between 225 F and 250 F.
Now that I managed to get the smoker ready and have some Mesquite smoking away in there it is time to place the chicken on the rack! Here goes nothing!
Now this is the first chicken I've smoked so as I mentioned I've checked several recipes and decided to try three different methods. There seems to be a common complaint that after smoking the skin on the chicken is too tough to eat and some people have some tips to avoid that. Part of the same issue is drying the chicken out by accident. The fix is one and the same. I've also seen that it also depends on your smoker! So depending on what you are using it might not be a problem.
If you look at the chickens above the one on the left has been rubbed with seasoning and is being cooked as is. The one in the middle has had both sides sprayed with PAM, only once just before it goes on the rack. The one on the right will be basted with butter every hour on both sides.
Another important thing to know is that my firebox is on the left side of the smoker. That is important because the heat is going to always be greater right next to the firebox and inevitably it will cool some as the hot air and smoke moves across the meats to reach the chimney. Now how much does it cool? I have no idea it is just what I've been taught and have read in many places. To counter whatever difference this might make I just make sure to shift the meats every hour that I check on them. So the one of the left goes all the way to the right and the other chickens just get shifted over.
First Hour Check!
Here I have already shifted the chicken. I recently realized there were obvious size differences between the pieces as well. The piece with just seasoning is now moved to the right as I said it would be. It also happens to be the smallest piece. The piece now in the middle is the largest and the one I just applied a coating of butter to. The piece now on the left is the one that was once sprayed with PAM at the beginning. I flipped them all skin side up this time around and will continue to flip them, though I must admit I don't know if it makes any difference. Oh they look good...
Second Hour Check!
Now look at that! I am getting hungrier the more I see the progress. Once again all the chicken has been shifted and turned. The largest piece has another coat of butter and the rest are left alone. I did check the internal temperature of the largest piece which was around 140 F. That leads me to an important tip for anyone cooking on a smoker, or even in an oven or on a grill. Get yourself a digital thermometer! I got one from Walmart for about $6 that is also a prong to move meat. You can set a target temperature or even use it as a timer. It displays the target time or temperature on the bottom and displays the current temp or time left on the top. Once it reaches the target it beeps to let you know it is time. I like to avoid spending money on gadgets but this is one that just makes like so much easier. It even has a handy sticker on the back for recommended temps for all the major meats. For chicken it states 170 F. If you don't want your chicken that done just don't wait that long. So...
Third Hour Check!
Oh boy it is looking good. I've got the temperature in the 150 F range now. I've buttered the big boy yet again and done my meat shifting. I've also added a little Mesquite Wood Chunks each check just to keep that smoky flavor coming on.
I am running into a problem however. For three and a half pounds of chicken it can take four to five hours potentially if I continue on. It is around 06:30 pm and my family is getting hungry, never mind my tummy is getting grumpy with me as well. I will let it sit in the smoker a little longer but I don't want to shovel a fresh lot of coals into it because then the smoker will be going for far too long. I'd much rather save my coals and speed up the chicken some other way. I know of two methods to do this.
The oven or the grill.
I wrapped the chickens in foil and heated up my grill. I have a nice two burner Char-Broil grill sitting on my porch. Once that is heated up I place the chickens inside. A few minutes later they are cooking around the 160 F range which is perfect to take them out and let them rest. If you don't know, which I learned earlier this year, when you take food out of the oven it continues to heat up! It is called carryover heat, and a bunch of other things I would imagine. The carryover heat can get you anywhere from 5-10 degrees hotter. The trick is to wrap it in foil and let it rest on the table for about 10-20 minutes.
Once they are rested and the family is sitting around expectantly it is time for the feast! Enjoy!