How to Make Smoked Chicken

Smoked chicken recipes are all about flavor and how moist the chicken is. Whether you're cooking thighs or a whole bird, certain steps should be taken to guarantee that with every bite, you're sinking your teeth into tender, juicy, and flavorful chicken.

Adding flavor: brine and seasonings

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First, soak the bird in brine. This step is essential because brine not only provides the meat with moisture, texture, and flavor, it also helps conduct heat so that the chicken will cook faster without drying out the bird. Heat up these ingredients on a stove:

How to Make Smoked Chicken

- 1 gallon of water
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1 cup sugar/honey
- Herbs (optional but recommended)

Once the sugar/honey is dissolved, let the brine cool by adding ice. Then place the mixture as well as the chicken into a sealable bag or cooler, where it can marinate. After four hours, take out the chicken and pat it dry before continuing on with your smoked chicken recipes, namely adding seasoning.

After coating the bird with vegetable oil, place herbs or seasoning under the bird's skin. Many recipes also suggest using spices such as lemon pepper but be wary; strong spices often take away from the smoky flavor instead of enhancing it.

Smoking: Different than grilling

No matter what kind of smoker you use-electric, propane, or charcoal-to cook your chicken, the smoker's temperature should reach 225 degrees Fahrenheit before you start cooking.

Place the chicken's back side down, preferably over indirect heat; after an hour and a half, turn the bird over to ensure that the inside meat stays moist.

Before using pecan or other wood chips in your smoked chicken recipe to add even more flavor, be sure to soak the wood chips in water for an hour or more. After the chicken is inside the smoker, place the wood in a container beside the bird. When the smoker stops smoking, this is your cue to add more wood chips.

The heat source warms the wood chips, which, in turn, heats the water in the water tray. The water and smoke will then slowly cook the bird. This way of cooking will create a "smoke ring," which is akin to a "tree ring," within the bird; once the chicken is done, you can see how far the smoke gets into the actual meat based on what parts of the meat are dark.

After about 4 hours, use a thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken to determine if the meat's temperature is at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that the bird should eventually get up to 165 degrees, which it will naturally do due to carryover heat since the bird continues to cook and its temperature continues to rise even after you take it out of the smoker. Then, wrap the smoked chicken in foil to ensure that the moisture does not drip out.

Once the chicken has been out of the smoker for about 20 minutes, you've waited and been cooking long enough. Now, it's time to enjoy your smoked chicken recipe.

How to Make Smoked Chicken

Ian Pennington is an accomplished niche website developer and author.

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