Note: The original posting of this recipe on 8/12 contained an error which has been corrected. Rosemary is the correct ingredient, not sage. Sorry.
One of our most frequent recipes is Mustard Chicken. It is a whole chicken cooked on a wood fire in the smoker. The cooking method is very similar to the method I always use in the smoker, just with different numbers. A whole chicken can feed 2-4 people, and, yes, it is messy like all good BBQ.
We’re going to mix mustard, garlic powder, and onion powder into a thick paste, and rub it under the skin. Then, add fresh rosemary, if available, under the skin and in the cavity. Lastly, rub the remaining mustard paste all over the skin. Then, cook for two hours in the smoker. Stay near the grill so you can monitor and adjust the temperature. Cut up and serve immediately, with napkins.
Defrost, if necessary, and clean a whole chicken. We buy the largest available, because the small ones can be small for a reason. The meat is more juicy in the large ones. Remove all the junk your butcher might have stuffed in the cavity. Put the chicken in a large flat pan such as the one pictured, with the breasts up, with the cavity facing you.
Put enough Classic/Old Fashioned Yellow Mustard in a bowl to cover two breasts and two legs with a thick coat, plus 20%. Add garlic powder and onion powder in equal amounts, and stir, until you have a thick but not overly dry paste. You’ll need a couple of heaping tablespoons on each side plus the extra.
Using your index finger under the skin on each breast, remove the membranes covering the breast and especially the leg. Try not to tear the skin any more than the butcher did. Then, use a teaspoon to place the mustard paste under the skin. Use plenty. You should be able to see the yellow mustard through the skin over the whole breast and ideally the leg. Do both breasts and legs, and use 90% of the paste.
Put half the remaining paste in each hand and smear it all over the outside of the chicken, including the wings. Place whatever is left inside the cavity.
Add a thin, 6-inch piece of fresh rosemary under the skin on top of each breast and in the cavity. You’ll need 3 pieces. This, of course, is optional.
We don’t use any salt because the mustard is salty, but there are many ways to tailor the taste to your liking.
Now, prepare the fire.
I use the same method on all fires meant to smoke meats. (The method is very different for grilling, but this smoking.) Construct a chimney stack of oak and hickory, using medium-sized pieces. The fire must hold 325-360 degrees (preferably, mostly 350) for a whole 2 hours, preferably without adding wood. I start with a bed of Kingsford regular charcoal, about 20 pieces, and use charcoal lighter fluid to start it. The charcoal will burn away fast, so be ready to spread it and build the chimney on top as soon as the charcoal is mostly gray. Pre-cut about 8 pieces of wood the best size for your smoker. See pictures. Note this is a smaller version of the fire used for the brisket; it must burn hotter but for a shorter time. Drop a few small pieces of kindling down the center of the fire to get it going.
With the vents wide open and the door to the firebox cracked, let the temperature rise quickly to 400 degrees. Then, before it burns your paint, close the chimney vent half way and close the firebox intake 80%, and of course, close the door to the firebox. As the temperature plunges to 350, open the firebox and the chimney vents to perhaps halfway, and begin to stabilize the temperature. Once it’s stabilized, open the smoker lid and place the chicken directly under the thermometer with the cavity toward the fire, and close the lid. After about 1:20 minutes, rotate the chicken to put the cavity away from the fire.
Do your best to keep the temperature above 325 and below 375. 350-360 is ideal. If it spikes to 400, the skin will be burned but the meat is still good. If the temperature is too low, the meat can be stringy or undercooked and people won’t like it. A whole 2 hours does very well, but if you overshoot 15 minutes, it will only get a little dry.
FWIW, I’ve actually done 6 chickens simultaneously in the grill pictured, without changing this method. To do that, I swapped the front and back pairs one hour in. No biggie.
To take it off the grill, lift it from inside the cavity and place it on your cutting surface. I use same glass pan (cleaned of course). Cut it your way and serve very hot.