We have become turned to chicken legs and thighs as our meat of choice lately. We have become dissatisfied with chicken breasts and Teal thinks the thigh meat also makes better chicken salad for her sandwiches.
The more flavorful and juicy meat responds well to low and slow cooking. I was then looking for a new way to brine and then smoke them. We also had a surplus of Coke left over from a party that I needed to get rid of and neither of us drinks regular soda. So I started searching for “coke smoked chicken” and this yielded a variety of results that were all promising but quite varied in both formula and time to brine. We also had a family get together coming up so I needed a big pile of chicken. The resulting recipe was VERY well received (no left overs).
Brine the chicken for 48 hours in:
- 4 cans Coke, Dr. Pepper or Cheerwine (regular not diet)
- 3 C water
- 2 Tablespoons (T) granulated garlic
- 2 T dried onion flakes
- 1T ground ginger
- 1T Nutmeg, freshly grated
- 1.5 T Allspice lightly crushed
- 2 T dried thyme
- 3T Chili powder
- 2T Salt (yes this is a low sodium “brine”
- 2 T black pepper lightly crushed
- 1/2 c cider vinegar
Mix all, place in a small cooler with:
- 4- 5 quarter family packs of chicken legs and thighs. Cut the legs and thighs apart before brining.
Place the cooler in the fridge or put the small cooler in a big cooler filled with ice. Turn or shake vigorously at least twice per day.
Prep the smoker. I use a Big Green Egg (Large) with a Heatermeter for temperature control. The Heatermeter is a DIY open source temperature controller that makes long smokes easy (but this was a short one) .
Start with the bottom filled with lump charcoal at one edge and two 2-3″ diameter green cherry or apple branches the width of the firebox. Get the BGE up to about 200 degrees F and then add the chicken. I used the indirect method with the ConvEggtor and the 3 layer grate to hold this much meat. The heatermeter was set for 225 degrees F. The smoke was for 3.5 hours. Raise the temp to 325 for 30-45 minutes at the end to crisp up the skin a bit.
Remember when smoking, you don’t want to let the fire get too hot initially and then struggle to get it down to the right temp without putting it out (again).
The chicken should be removed form the brine, dried with paper towels and placed on racks 1-3 hours before smoking. If you don’t the chicken will be sooty rather than golden brown.
In the end, you have chicken that is luscious, juicy, deep mahogany brown and with a nice but not overpowering smoke flavor and a pretty pink smoke ring. It is good hot or cold.
We did sample a couple of legs at the 24 hour mark to make sure the brine flavors were going in the direction we wanted.
If you live nearby, I have plenty of surplus cherry and apple wood for smoking.