Lightly Smoked Chicken

The Chicken

It was brutally hot and humid this weekend (at least for Wisconsin, 78-80 F dew point is not my favorite).  So we were looking for something that we could make that did not not require much attention allowing us to retreat to the air conditioned indoors while it cooked.

The goal was to have a brine that was not critical for timing and then to smoke / grill also at a non-critical temp that did not require constant attention in the miserably hot and humid weather.  We chose legs and thighs to provide juiciness and flavor (and the price was right for thigh and leg quarters.).

We prefer to have air chilled chicken that is not already loaded up with a  brine of questionable contents. In our area the Smart Chicken brand fits the bill. By the time we finished, thunderstorms had moved through the area producing a nearly 20 F degree drop in temperature and providing a pleasant evening.

Brine

5 cups cold water

2 lemons quartered, squeezed of juice into the brine and then thrown in

5 TB Mortons Kosher salt. We are aiming for a 5% brine. Other brands will vary a LOT.

3 nice fresh bunches of sage, oregano and thyme. 3-5 stems each . Leaves of the thyme stripped from the stems and the balance chopped finely.

1 tsp fresh coarse ground black pepper

Stir the brine until the salt is disolved

Add the chicken which has been broken down into the primal cuts. Legs are cut from thighs, etc. You want the recognizable pieces that folks will eat with their fingers .

Put the chicken in the brine and refrigerate for 2-12 hours. Remove, pa dry with paper towels and air dry on a rack at room temperature for 30-120 min . This is critical to dry the skin a bit, develop the “pellicle” and avoid sooty chicken.  The chicken will not be in the “danger zone” long enough to worry.

This light 5% brine will not over-salt the chicken so the time is not critical. We did 5 hours for this batch.

Grill

Start the grill / smoker with lump hardwood charcoal.  Add a couple of good sized chunks of a fruitwood just before adding the chicken. We use cherry.

Close the grill vents down so the grill stays at about 275F . Add the chicken on direct heat skin up. After 30-60 min flip and cook for an additional 30-45 min.  Remove and serve. Skin should be nicely bronzed and slightly crispy.  With the relatively low temps the times are not critical. You do have to watch for fat flare ups that may mar the bronzed perfection.

Yum.