To say that I was excited is an understatement. I'd done some smoking before in a stovetop smoker, but having a larger smoker increased my options.
Larger cuts of meat, more items at once, whole turkeys or whole large fish - they were all possible.
I wanted to dive right into smoking, but first I needed to buy a chicken and then I needed to find a recipes. No problem. Well, no problem buying a chicken.
But finding recipes was another story. I had three different books with significant information about smoking, but instead of finding slight differences in time, temperature, or technique, the three were completely different.
While I rifled through the books looking for some agreement, I brined the bird. That part was easy. Then I let it air-dry in the refrigerator. That was easy, too.
Then I looked at the recipes again. It wasn't just that they were completely different, but in some cases one would say "do this" and another one would say "don't ever do that." So which one was correct?I mean, it's possible for there to be several ways to accomplish something, but these books were practically yelling at each other about who was right.
When it came time to put the bird in the smoker, I just winged it. With electric control of the temperature inside the unit and a temperature probe that I could insert in the chicken, I figured I could just cook it low and slow and let it absorb the smoke and take its time getting up to an edible temperature.
I've got to say that it was a heck of a lot easier than babysitting a stovetop smoker. And the remote digital device actually worked inside the house, so I could see the temperatures without having to go outside and check. Pretty slick.
I mean, I couldn't go all over the house with the remote and have it read, but at least I didn't have to get up close with the smoker every time I wanted to see how things were progressing.
The chicken came out of the smoker a beautiful mahogany brown. Pretty as a picture, but I was more anxious to taste than to take photos.The next day, I heated up the untouched half in the oven. I think I might actually have liked it better that way, but I can't exactly put my finger on why.
I didn't use any kind of glaze or sauce - just the flavor of the smoke. I used maple wood, because I happened to have some. I'll be buying some different wood chips later, I'm sure.
Needless to say, I liked the smoked chicken, but it's just a first try.I have a lot more to experiment with. And there are a lot more things I can smoke.
Meanwhile, here's a nice brine for you.
4 tablespoons Morton's kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried sage
5 dried juniper berries
5 dried allspice berries
1 teaspoon black peppercorns.
Put all the ingredients in a large pot and heat just to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Let the brine cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.
Place the chicken in the brine and weight it down so it stays submerged. Leave the chicken in the brine at least overnight. 24 hours is fine. This brine isn't overly salty, so you can leave the chicken in longer and it won't become over-salted.
When you're ready to cook the chicken, rinse it and pat dry. If you will be smoking rather than roasting or grilling, let the chicken dry, uncovered, in the refrigerator for another 24 hours.