Wifey and I constantly explore ways to make a whole chicken better. We have the fire, temperature, and cooking time down, but seasonings and preparation are in flux. This is one of the better recipes we’ve done, and because the fire didn’t turn out to be one of the better, I’ll explain the very best instead of what happened today. All the pictures are from today’s cooking, however. Times are in CST.
If you are unfamiliar, all of my cooking is on a closed, wood-fired grill, without gas. I start the fire with a little charcoal at the bottom (using charcoal starter), and build a chimney stack of wood above it once the charcoal is lit. The charcoal quickly becomes a minimal influence on the smell and then burns away entirely, leaving an all-wood fire. I use primarily live oak, mesquite, and other fruit woods as available. I would use post oak, and actually really love it, if it were more available. The location and quality of the thermometer are critically important; all temperatures I mention are from that thermometer, not from inside the fire box.
Preparing the Chicken
Let the chicken come up to room temperature. Remove any chicken parts the may have been packed inside the cavity and rinse and inspect the entire chicken well. Shake off all the loose water. Mix 2 teaspoons of each of the following:
- Onion powder
- Coarse black pepper
- Adam’s poultry seasoning (use your favorite brand)
- Herbs d Provence
- Salt-free seasoning (used Kirkland No-Salt this time; may use Mrs. Dash Original)
- Kosher salt (to taste)
You will also need 4 tablespoons of Yellow mustard (separate from the herbs).
Using your finger, lift the skin above the breast and smear a thin coat of Yellow mustard on each entire breast, to the degree you can without badly tearing the skin. Also smear the mustard inside the cavity and all over the outside on any parts of the skin you eat.
Then, using a spoon, distribute a medium amount of the herb mixture under the skin on each breast. Distribute the remainder, first, inside the cavity, and lastly everywhere else.
This time, she covered the entire chicken with mustard and herbs, as shown in the pic, but in the future the skin will not be coated with mustard or herbs.
Place the chicken in the smoker, directly under the thermometer, with the cavity toward the fire. It will not need to be rotated. Avoid opening the smoker once cooking has started.
Bring the temperature, measured by the thermometer in the pic above, to 350, but not over 375. Start timing when the temperature has reached 325, and try to keep it 340-365 the entire time…. this is hard. For best results, tender and very juicy, cook for 2 hours. If the fire is not hot enough to maintain that range, you risk bloody or stringy meat. If you cook it much longer than two hours, any skin you eat will be bitter and the meat will be dry. On the high side, any exposed meat will be black and very dry. 350 is ideal. If you think you need to add wood, gather the wood before you open the firebox so you can add it in a few seconds.
For a whole chicken, I use 70% live oak, 20% mesquite, and 10% fruitwood. This time, pecan. 100% live oak is perfectly fine. A mixture of post oak and live oak is probably ideal.
The legs should break off very easily when the chicken is ready. If you see red blood in the cavity, it is not close to ready.