Get a Good Smoker
Get the most efficient smoker you can
find. Read reviews, read blogs, read forums and think about what you like
to cook. Will the smoker have enough room. How versatile do you need it to
be? Do you grill and want to use a single unit? One of the most efficient
and cost effective grills I've found is the Char-Broil Double Chef Water Smoker
(shown at the right).
Its shape makes the heat distribution excellent. It uses very little
charcoal and seems to hold the heat well. (see a more detailed review
There are two important things to
understand about smoking poultry. First, you must get the internal
temperature of the meat up to 165 degrees F. This means the dark meat as
it cooks the slowest. Putting a
temperature probe into the deepest part of the thigh is best. Second,
smoked poultry takes on a chemical change in the process that turns the
meat a reddish color, especially on the surface. This doesn't mean the
meat is raw, trust the temperature probe. If you're at 165 degrees F in
the thigh, it is done. Check in a couple of places to be sure. Don't bank
on a rule of thumb like 30 minutes per pound. It can vary with the heat of
the coals, the efficiency of your 'que, the air temperature and how often
you open the lid. Remember if you're lookin', it ain't cookin'.
Use a Spray Bottle
Add a good quality,
sturdy spray bottle to your tools. You can load it with a variety of
liquids and spray the meat instead of brushing or mopping. Just be
careful about eliminating chunks that can clog the nozzle. Strain the mixture if you
Vinegar, apple cider and other juices are all possibilities. Don't
hesitate to mix them. Avoid to much sugar content as that can burn during
log smoke sessions.
Consider investing in a
digital thermometer with a remote and corded heat proof probe. It will
reduce the amount of times you need to open the lid and you can walk
around, do some other work or lie in a hammock and still keep an eye on the temperature.
When using a rub that
contains salt, let the meat sit for at least six hours to let the rub
absorb. If you cook the meat sooner, the salt will have drawn out the
moisture from the meat. At six hours the moisture has moved back into
the meat. This is essentially the same as brining but leaves the skin
less rubbery. If you get the rub under the skin of chicken or turkey, the
meat will pick up a lot more flavor. I work my fingers under the skin as
much as possible,
even on the thighs and legs.
When brining, give the meat
between six and twelve hours. Bigger pieces or whole birds should be
around twelve hours. Smaller pieces or chicken breasts take less time.
Ideally find a bird that isn't already injected with flavoring. Rinse the meat thoroughly after brining to reduce the salt on the meat
surface. Pat dry and apply a seasoning rub or oil and spices. Get it
under the skin. Stay away
from rubs that have salt as you already have a good amount from the
Barbequing Chicken Parts
When cooking chicken parts, cut the
breast into about three sections of about the same volume. A good pair
of meat shears will make this an easy task. Pin the skin
down with toothpicks. Separate the thigh and leg if they are together.
At this point, all pieces are about equal in volume for cooking purposes
and will cook evenly. Work your sauce or rub under the skin. When you're
grilling the meat, try and separate the meat from the heat. I use a upright barrel style smoker and put the grill on the top and remove the water
tray. The heat moves up, but not at the level that blackens the skin.
You can also throw some wood chips on the coals and get some smoke up to
the meat. Baste often with sauce or spray with apple juice. I
found the meat stays a lot more moist especially if you take it off the
grill at about 165 degrees F. Use a barbeque thermometer to monitor the
|Water Tray Tips
Lining your water tray with foil can reduce a lot of cleanup later. Rub
the tray with a light coating of vegetable oil. Lay a sheet of foil out
that is a little longer than the width of the water tray. Fold about one
inch over. Layout another sheet of foil the same length and fold the edge
under. Interlock the two edges to form a larger sheet. Line the bottom of
the water tray with the foil and fold the edges over and tuck tight to the
tray. Fill and use the tray as normal. Cleanup is as easy as letting the
tray cool, pouring out any liquid and removing and discarding the foil.