It is an absolutely beautiful weekend here in Rochester. A perfect day to fire up the smoker this afternoon for the first time this year.
I got into smoking meat last summer and wish I had tried it years earlier. It is so very easy and the result is moist, delicious meat.
There are a lot of excellent smokers on the market. Being a Weber fan, I went with the Weber Smokey Mountain and I've been very satisfied with it. I even managed to assemble it by myself!
Right now my chicken is soaking in brine in the refrigerator. I use a simple brine recipe:
4 cups water
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
The chicken needs to be totally covered in water, so I triple the recipe to accomplish this.
Soak a couple handfuls of wood chips (hickory, apple, whatever you like) in water.
About an hour before I'm ready to place it in the smoker, I will take it out of the brine, pat it dry with paper towels and then rub it down with olive oil, followed by using this rub recipe:
4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
a pinch of oregano
a pinch of thyme
Be generous in spreading the rub on the chicken. When I'm finished, I leave it sitting on a cutting board at room temperature for at least 45 minutes. During this time I set up the smoker.
Light up the charcoal. When it is ready, place it in the bottom of the smoker. Throw in the soaked wood chips.
Fill the water bowl almost to the top with water and place that in the smoker. I use silicone gloves to do this since the charcoal is really hot! You can get creative here by placing chopped fresh rosemary in the water bowl.
Next place the prepared chicken on the grate, close the lid, open the top and bottom vents about half way. From this point until the chicken is ready - about 2 1/2 hours, but check with a meat thermometer - all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the wonderful aroma coming from the smoker. Occasionally check the inside temperature of the smoker and adjust the vents to keep the thermometer within the "gray zone." On my smoker, the thermometer has a marked zone which is optimal for smoking meat.
Avoid opening the lid during the smoking process. Towards the end of the smoking time, I will lift the lid and insert a digital thermometer to test for doneness, but actually, after you've done a few chickens, you can tell when it's ready by looking at it.
The Smokey Mountain Smoker has an opening on the side to insert a digital thermometer so that you can gauge the temperature during the smoking process. I've never used that.
When you remove the meat, close all the vents, leave the lid on and leave the smoker to cool down completely and I do mean COMPLETELY! On one occasion last year, I brought the smoker inside the three season room when it was cool to the touch and I was "sure" all the coals were dead. . . WRONG! Now I leave it outside overnight to remove all doubt!
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