One of my blog followers just got a pellet smoker. They have little cooking experience and asked me for a basic, no fuss recipe for cooking a whole chicken.
I had an immediate problem. You can just put a whole chicken in a pellet smoker and get a decent result but you get a much superior result by one advanced technique, spatchcocking. Spatchcocking is just cutting the spine and breast bone out so the chicken lays flat on the grill and cooks more evenly. I discussed this with the follower and referred him to my post on Spatchcocking a Chicken.
He felt he would be able to do it and has since got back to me he has tried it without difficulty. If you want, do this recipe with a whole chicken cooked with the breast side up.
To make the chicken, preheat your smoker to 375 F (190 C). Spatchcock a 1.25 kg (2 1/2 pound) chicken. Sprinkle a rub over both sides of the chicken. You can use a commercial rub or make your own. For this cook, I used my Basic Barbecue Rub. How much to use is a matter of taste. I suggest you start with 15 ml (1 tbsp) a side and adjust to your taste with future cooks.
If you are cooking a whole unspatchcocked bird, rub the inside of the body cavity.
Put the chicken in the smoker, skin side up. It is really much easier if you have a remote thermometer. If so, put the probe in the thickest part of the breast. If not start testing the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast after 35 minutes. Do not cook by time as this usually results in an overcooked bird and that will be drier.
When the internal temperature of the breast is 160 F (71 C), brush the surface of the chicken with barbecue sauce. You can make your own or use a commercial sauce. Close the smoker up.
Cook for 10 minutes to set the sauce.
Take the bird out and let it rest for 10 minutes.
A note on chicken safety, chicken should be cooked to 165 F (74 C) to be food safe but I prefer closer to 370 F (76 C) in the thickest part of the breast for my tastes. The thighs and drumsticks will be a higher temperature but that is the way it should be as they are moister parts. Remember, the internal temperature of the bird will continue to rise when you rest the bird.
To serve the bird, cut it into pieces. Start by cutting the drumsticks from the thighs. Just put the point of a knife in the joint and wiggle it into the joint and then cut through.
Cut the wings from the breasts using the same technique.
Cut the breasts halves apart and then across the breast to get four white meat portions.
This was a delicious chicken. The meat was very moist. The skin was somewhat crispy, easy to bite through and very tasty. If I was served this in a restaurant I would be very pleased.
Of course, you could:
- Brine the chicken to make it moisture.
- Work rub under the skin to get more flavour in the meat.
- Cook at a lower temperature to get more smoke flavour and crisp at higher heat at the end.
- A myriad other techniques smokers have developed.
Yet, when my follower tried this he said his family and guests raved about it and I suspect he isn’t going to be trying something different for a while. I did encourage him to try one technique at a time to see if he likes it better.
So, if you want easy and delicious, here it is!
The Old Fat Guy