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boltsfan 03-18-2013 02:51 PM

WSM 18" - First Chicken Smoke Help
I plan to smoke my first chickens this weekend. I will smoke 2 birds and will not spatchcock for my first time. I have done a good bit of reading here and there is a lot of different methods. Like anything, I know just need to try and learn but thought I would ask a few questions.

I want to brine but need a good basic recipe and for how long to brine (minimum\maximum). Any brine recipe suggestions are appreciated.

I will smoke at high heat (325-350*) to hopefully get crispy skin. I will be using Minion Method with lump and a few apple chunks until breast temp is approx 160*.

I plan to use "Bone Suckin" rub this time with a little butter under the skin.


-How long should I plan the smoke for?

-Should I place both birds on the top rack (if they fit)? I would not want the top bird dripping and possibly contaminating the bottom bird (maybe this is not a concern?). Also, I want birds to cook even and bottom bird would cook hotter (I assume?).

-What vents should I open to get to the desired temp?

Anything else I am forgetting?


superlazy 03-18-2013 03:38 PM

you should get 2 birds on the top rack easily, I don't brine. I try to keep my temp. 400. I also make compound butter of lemon pepper, garlic powder,onion powder and rub it under the skin. should take maybe 1.5-2 hr.
start with all the vents open, close 1 when getting close to target temp nd adjust 2nd one as needed
Why not spatchcock? Try it and you wont go back

boltsfan 03-18-2013 04:48 PM

Thanks superlazy!

Can I get two spatchcocked chickens on the top rack?

superlazy 03-18-2013 05:03 PM

Sure it's a little tight but I always do 2. Your cook time with spatchocking will be around a hour or so. A tip I learned from the brothers is pull the chickens out 45min or so before cooking and put ice packs on the breasts, works really well

code3rrt 03-18-2013 09:31 PM

Sounds like you have it all mostly covered, my only advice is be very careful with the smoke, the chicken soaks it up like a sponge, really easy to get to much.
As for brining, you'll really have a divided audience here......since your cooking two birds, brine one and not the other, cook the birds and see which you like the best.


Mdboatbum 03-19-2013 08:09 AM

If you can swing the extra time, let the chickens sit in the fridge uncovered for 18-24 hours after brining. This will allow the skin to dry and will help a lot in avoiding the rubberiness. Also, the minion method is to maintain your coals over a long period of time on low and slow cooks. Not what you want to do with chicken. Fire off a full chimney of lump, then dump it in and add another chimney of unlit on top of it. You want all the BTU's that puppy can pump out. Run all vents wide open until you get to 400˚. Then start shutting the lower vents by maybe half, but in all likelihood
you're going to need all the air the coals can get to maintain that heat.

HeSmellsLikeSmoke 03-19-2013 08:13 AM

400F gets my whole, unbrined birds done in just a little over an hour. I use the iced breast technique also.

boltsfan 03-19-2013 08:26 AM

Thanks guys!

I brine turkey for Turkey Day and find it is much more juicy. I'll use a similar brine recipe that I use for turkey.

I am concerned about over smoking so is 2-3 apple chunks good?

Mdboatbum - Thanks for tip on the MM... I'll do as you suggested and fire full chimney and then dump more on top to get smoker nice and hot.

Still undecided on the spathcocking.

samfsu 03-19-2013 08:32 AM

I usually use 2-4 chucks of apple/cherry or hickory. Never had an issue with over smoking. 2 birds usually takes 2ish hours. Sometimes more sometimes less. I would suggest a 1/2 full chimney of unlit and then almost a full chimney of lit. This will get your temp up to the 325-350 range where you want to be for just chicken. As with anything, you have to experiment and see what works best for you. Oh and i have fit 3 birds on the top rack with no issue. If you are gonna cook something on the lower, I would either put the chickens in an aluminum foil pan or on the bottom rack. Hope this helps.

Mdboatbum 03-19-2013 09:29 AM

Oh and as for one chicken dripping on the other...well I don't see that as a problem. They're both chickens, and they'll be cooking at essentially the same rate and to the same safe temperature. While it's usually good practice to avoid chicken dripping on other things, with meats cooked to a safe temperature it's generally not a concern. What is is a concern is if undercooked chicken drips on something that's either not taken to 165˚ or if the raw chicken juice gets on the finished product.

TheKomoman 03-19-2013 10:16 AM

I'm a believer in brining chicken, even legs & thighs. I follow the guidelines here:

Scroll down to "the Blonder Brine." I typically add about 1/4 cup of sugar to the brine as well. For a whole chicken I'd want a minimum of 4 hours probably up to about 8 hours.

bigabyte 03-19-2013 11:23 AM

All good advice here.

Most chickens today are already in solution and don't need brining. If you do brine, the ratio is typically 1/2 to 1 cup of salt per gallon of water, so start in the middle at 3/4 cup and see how you like it. I also find that adding an equal amount of sugar in the brine helps to balance flavors out a lot.

Also, if you brined, do let the skin air dry in the fridge after draining off the brine. IT is impossible to get anything but a thick, rubbery skin if you do not do this. I find this works best WITHOUT rub, letting it air dry naked, and then applying rub shortly before going on the cooker.

High heat is the way to go for skin, I like running at 350. Chicken has no problem absorbing smoke, it does not require extended time at all in the smoke, so don't be afraid to cook it fast.

As for placement, if you put one over the other, then make sure not to remove the bottom one until AFTER the top one is done, regardless of temp. With brined chicken, don't worry AT ALL about dried out, overcooked chicken. You will find you can take it to much higher temps like 185...which actually produces a VERY TENDER product, almost to the "pull apart" phase. Nothing is better than tender chicken that is also letting it go to higher temps is something I personally do regularly, but everyone has their own personal preferences and many like the meat texture at the 165 finished temp.:thumb:

For vents, this was also covered. Leave the bottom vents wide open until you get within 50 degrees of your target temp and then start closing them down to dial into your target temp. It is easier to "warm up" a WSM than to cool it down, so try not to go over your target temp. Lump is easier to adjsut downwards, but even then it's best to catch the temp on the way up as opposed to trying to bring it down. Also, if you wind up at a higher temp than you wanted...don't sweat it. Just cook it. People get hung up on temps a bit to much sometimes. A steady temp is good for timing, but if you're just making dinner then running "a little high" isn't going to hurt a thing.

Have fun, and post some pics!:cool:

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