View Full Version : Chicken Skin Experiment

10-07-2007, 12:26 AM
I wanted to do side by side comparisons of various chicken skin techniques at lower temp cooking. I did this cooking at 275 degrees. The variations I did were cooking in the cooker, finsihing on a grill, and finishing by dipping in sauce and holding at 170 in a foil pan. Also, each of these variations were done with chicken that was plain, buttered, oiled and applied with mayonnaise. This made a total of 12 different techniques.

I also wanted to try something different. I was reading up on crispy poultry skin and was intrigued by methods used for crispy duck skin. The idea there is to let the skin air dry before cooking to get it good and crispy. I don't particulary feel comfortable letting chicken air-dry at home, so I started thinking of another way to draw water out of the skin in a faster, seemingly more sanitary way. I came up with the idea of spraying alcohol on the chicken skin a couple times BEFORE putting it on the cooker. Alcohol bonds with water and evaporates quickly. I figured that a couple mists of alcohol on the chicken skin a few minutes before putting in the cooker should cause some of that outer moisture on the skin to evaporate out with the alcohol. I figured the stronger the alcohol, the better the result. So I used 190 proof grain alcohol.

A word of caution, warning, danger, what have you. Grain alcohol, or everclear, or whatever you want to call this kind of hooch is extremely FLAMMABLE and EXPLOSIVE! Use the utmost care when messing around with this stuff. Also, please don't drink it. That's just stupid. I did not put this alcohol directly in the cooker because I did not want my chicken to catch fire. I also did not spray this stuff onto the chicken while it was in the cooker because, well, I shouldn't have to expalin how stupid that would be. I also allowed the alcohol at least 5 minutes to evaporate from the skin before putting it in the cooker so the cooker did not fill up with alcohol vapors and explode. Exploding cookers are very bad.

Now that I have hopefully explained the dangers involved and covered the proper and safe way to attempt something like this, let's proceed. I cooked chicken wings for this experiment. They are small so I can cook a bunch in a smaller space. They also have a good ratio of skin to meat, so that is a bonus since the purpose of this experiment is to see what these different techniques do to the resulting chicken skin.

Here is the list of various techniques I tested. There are 24 different methods in all. The original 12, plus the additional 12 to do them with the alcohol dried skin experiment. For the birning, I used a 3/4 cup per gallon ratio of salt to water. I brined for 90 minutes, then blotted dry and let rest chilled overnight. I used vegetable oil for the oil, salted butter for the butter, and Hellmans mayonnaise for the mayo. for the alcohol, I sprayed each side of the chicken twice with a 1 minute rest between sprayings. Then I applied any oil, butter or mayo, followed by rub and put in the cooker. I place the foil tents in the oven at 170 for 1 hour.

01. Brined, Low Heat, Plain
Skin was good tasting but rubbery. It was just a tad bit tough.

02. Brined, Low Heat, Buttered
Skin was rubbery and tougher to chew. Meat tasted better than #1.

03. Brined, Low Heat, Oiled
Skin tasted good. It was more chewy than #1, but not as rubbery as #2.

04. Brined, Low Heat, Mayonnaise
Skin tasted good. Soft and bite through. Mayo added a slight zing flavor to the meat.

05. Brined, Low Heat, Plain, finished on grill
Skin lost some flavor compared to #1-#4. Skin was crispy.

06. Brined, Low Heat, Buttered, finished on grill
Also not as much flavor as #1-#4. Crispy skin. Meat on this one tasted better than #5.

07. Brined, Low Heat, Oiled, finished on grill
Skin retained some flavor, was more crispy than #1-#4, but not as crispy as #5 or #6.

08. Brined, Low Heat, Mayonnaise, finished on grill
Skin retained some flavor, was tender and bite through with crispy bits. Did not have that extra flavor of #4, perhaps killed off by the grilling?

09. Brined, Low Heat, Plain, finished by dipping in sauce and held warm in foil tent for 1 hour
Flavorful, tender, bite through skin. Meat was good and tender and absorbed some flavors from the sauce.

10. Brined, Low Heat, Buttered, finished by dipping in sauce and held warm in foil tent for 1 hour
Skin was not as tender as #9, but was still tender and bite through. Meat was like #9 only a bit better.

11. Brined, Low Heat, Oiled, finished by dipping in sauce and held warm in foil tent for 1 hour
Falvorful, tender bite through skin. Meat did not taste as good as #10 and was more similar to #9.

12. Brined, Low Heat, Mayonnaise, finished by dipping in sauce and held warm in foil tent for 1 hour
Skin was even more tender than #9 and #11, almost melts in your mouth. Meat was good and tender with lots of flavor.

13. Brined, Low Heat, Alcohol dried, Plain
Skin had a good taste. Skin was not rubbery, but was more firm and tough. It was not crispy.

14. Brined, Low Heat, Alcohol dried, Buttered
Skin had a good taste. Skin was somewhat rubbery. Meat had a little extra something special in it, it was good.

15. Brined, Low Heat, Alcohol dried, Oiled
Skin tasted good, but was rubbery.

16. Brined, Low Heat, Alcohol dried, Mayonnaise
Tasy, tender, bite through. The mayo added something good to the flavor of the meat.

17. Brined, Low Heat, Alcohol dried, Plain, finished on grill
Lost a little flavor, but was good and crispy.

18. Brined, Low Heat, Alcohol dried, Buttered, finished on grill
Lost a little flavor, was good and crispy. Had an extra something good in the taste department.

19. Brined, Low Heat, Alcohol dried, Oiled, finished on grill
Lost a lot of flavor, but skin was crisp.

20. Brined, Low Heat, Alcohol dried, Mayonnaise, finished on grill
Skin was very tender and bite through, with little crisp bits. The mayo really adds a great flavor overall.

21. Brined, Low Heat, Alcohol dried, Plain, finished by dipping in sauce and held warm in foil tent for 1 hour
Was similar in eery way to #9. No noticeable change from the alcohol.

22. Brined, Low Heat, Alcohol dried, Buttered, finished by dipping in sauce and held warm in foil tent for 1 hour
Similar in every way to #10. Meat was more flavorful than #21. Alcohol did not seem to make any difference to skin.

23. Brined, Low Heat, Alcohol dried, Oiled, finished by dipping in sauce and held warm in foil tent for 1 hour
Similar in every way to #11. Meat was also similar to #11. Alcohol did not seem to change anything.

24. Brined, Low Heat, Alcohol dried, Mayonnaise, finished by dipping in sauce and held warm in foil tent for 1 hour
Similar in every way to #12. Skin was more tender than #21-#23. Meat had a good taste. alcohol did not seem to change anything.

Top row, from left: #17, #13, #5, #1
2nd row, from left: #18, #14, #6, #2
3rd row, from left: #19, #15, #7, #3
Bottom row, from left: #20, #16, #8, #4

Left side, from top to bottom: #21, #22, #23, #24
Right side, from top to bottom: #9, #10, #11, #12


Drying Skin with Alcohol
Drying the skin with alcohol is beneficial so long as you do not dip in sauce and tent in foil. This seems to re-introduce moisture back, defeating the original purpose of drying the skin with the alcohol. My favorite that was dried with alcohol was #20.

Grilling to Crisp
Grilling the skin to crisp it up robs the skin of some flavor, but does provide a nice crispy skin. My favorite grilled item was #20.

Sauced and Foil Tented
I thought the sauced and foil tented chickens were the best overall, having the most tender and full-flavored skin and meat. Of these I thought #12 was the best. #24 tasted just as good but required extra effort to add the alcohol. So #12 is the same result but with less effort, making it the best I think.

Of all of the slathers, the ones with Mayonnaise consistently had the most tender, bite through skin. Except for the grilled ones, they also had the most flavor. My favorite with mayo was #20.

The buttered ones consistently had chewier, more rubbery skin, but the butter did consistently add an intagible good flavor to the meat. They were never as good as the mayo ones though, and the mayo made a better skin than the butter every time. My favorite buttered one was #10.

For the most part, the oiled skins did not have much of an advantage over just keeping the chicken plain. The meat and skins on these were never as good as the ones with mayo, and the buttered ones had a better meat flavor than the oiled ones. My favorite oiled one was #11.

My overall favorite was #12.

10-07-2007, 12:49 AM
Fantastic work. You should be proud of your hard work and contribution to the Brethern. I will take your advice to heart and apply it tomorrow.

Thanks so much!

10-07-2007, 01:10 AM
Insparational! What would you think about a brine, then injected with a butter sauce, slathered in mayo, slow cooked, finished on the grill? If you injected the butter you might get some of the benifits of the flavor without the rubbery skin?

Anyhow awesome work!


Don Marco
10-07-2007, 01:45 AM
Holy moly,

Thanks a lot for the awesome work.


10-07-2007, 07:19 AM
Nice work! I think I will try a brine and mayo with a dip in bbq on my next cook.

Lakeside Smoker
10-07-2007, 07:22 AM
Damn thats a lot of chicken! Cant wait to see some pics!

10-07-2007, 07:46 AM
Chris, the term Mad BBQ Scientist is sureley apprapro for you!! I applaud all your experiments through the years from burning spices and temps to crispy chicken skin...well done as usual. One variable I was wondering about was the brand of chicken you used in this process....some chicken because of age and such, is said to have much thicker(therefore harder to crisp) skin.


10-07-2007, 08:01 AM
Great Work Chris, I will try some of this in my cooks. Thanks for sharing!!!

10-07-2007, 11:15 AM
Great job, Chris! When you get the pictures uploaded it would be cool to have the appropriate picture below the description for that pic. I think this will be great roadmap material once the pics are added!

Thanks for the research!

10-07-2007, 11:31 AM
Nice job. I am a devout briner and now need to give the mayo a try. I really like he time you spent on the comments for each style.

I asked about this very thing a week or so ago and learned a lot of you are using mayo on sausages.....

10-07-2007, 11:41 AM
Thanks for all your effort and sharing Chris. I'm going to try #12.

10-07-2007, 12:12 PM
5 Star thread.

10-07-2007, 12:20 PM
I added links to the pics in the first post. I could crop the photos to put each wing under it's number in the review. I'll work on that later and update accordingly.

As for the brand of chicken, it was from Sam's Club, Tyson 100% Natural brand.

10-07-2007, 01:59 PM
nice write-up, Chris. Thanks for the effort.

Poobah, I think this deserves to go in the road map for chicken.

10-07-2007, 02:02 PM
Very good info, Thanks for the hard work Brother.

10-07-2007, 02:05 PM
MAd Scientest indeed

Great report!

10-07-2007, 03:33 PM
Excellent job Chris! This proves that I am actually doing something right.

10-07-2007, 04:23 PM
Great information. Thanks for the hard work. I would say that chicken is going to be the meal for the week.

10-07-2007, 08:38 PM

I'm doing a 4 right now, if time allows I might turn the breast into a 12 since it will finish before the dark half. I'm about an hour into the cook, grate temp about 260.

10-07-2007, 09:13 PM
Awesome job! A+

Thank you for your hard work.

10-07-2007, 09:55 PM
dude, awsome work.

10-07-2007, 09:59 PM
I did do a 12 with the breast, it was great. Here is the finished picture of a 4. I damn near turned it into a 5 while fiddling with the camera. :biggrin:


Overall I was pleased with the mayo. It definitely locked in more moisture than brining alone. I'm not really a skin eater, but tested both. Chris was dead-on accurate in his description.

Bbq Bubba
10-07-2007, 10:17 PM
Get a farken life!! Totally kidding, very impressive stats you have there, have given me some insight on kicking up our chicken for our next comp.
This should definetly be saved somewhere :wink:

10-08-2007, 07:46 AM
WOW! what a post....thanks for your hard work.

10-08-2007, 09:49 AM
Well done. Thanks for the hard work. I will be trying #12 real soon and brining appears to be the key.

10-08-2007, 10:34 AM
That was a lot of work. You get a huge Thank You :icon_cool

10-08-2007, 01:07 PM
Thank you for the effort in putting this review together.
I love the passion.

10-08-2007, 01:12 PM
Nice work Chris.
A little nucking futs but nice work.

10-08-2007, 03:46 PM
Farking awesome thread! I will give the mayo a try!

10-08-2007, 04:08 PM
Great writeup thanks for sharing. Can you provide an indication of how thick you applied the mayo? About the same as a mustard slather?

10-08-2007, 04:41 PM
Absolutely great post!

How as the mayo applied - as I have never heard of doing this.

10-08-2007, 05:06 PM
I put the mayo in a bowl, put a piece of chicken in it, flipped to get some on the other side, and then spread it around with my fingers (in gloves). I then applied rub directly on top of the mayo slather. You could use a brush or similar device for the same effect. It was not a thick layer or glopped on there. Just spread around similar to mustard slather.

10-08-2007, 05:19 PM
Thanks, Again this is a great post. Thanks for sharing with us.

10-11-2007, 09:33 PM
Tried mayo at the end of my smoke, and I need to work on it some.

10-11-2007, 09:54 PM
I did some brined breasts with the mayo, and was very pleased.


10-11-2007, 10:38 PM
Un-farkin-believable! Great work, Chris!!!

10-12-2007, 08:47 AM
Ok somene please explain the mayo thing i have never hear about this.

10-12-2007, 09:36 AM
Ok somene please explain the mayo thing i have never hear about this.

There are bits and pieces about mayo mentioned in various threads. Here (http://www.bbq-brethren.com/forum/showthread.php?t=32160&highlight=mayonaise)is one a few days before this one that has some idears (and not just for chicken)

10-12-2007, 11:05 AM
Next assignment, test top 10 on turkeys. Will stand by for results. Thanks for all the hard work.

Chris Nickelson
10-12-2007, 12:13 PM
Official "wingman" status is in order!!!!