Smoked Chicken #1
To test out the smoker I decided to cook a whole chicken and some bratwursts. The bird was brined overnight using Alton Brown's orange juice brine and I did not apply a rub or any sauce while cooking to keep things simple. Before smoking I washed the chicken in cold water to remove the excess brine.
Based on some web research I went with applewood since it gives a more mellow smoke which is beneficial since chicken is not a very flavorful meat by itself and the smoke can overwhelm the natural flavor (more on this later). The plan was to keep the smoker close to 250 degrees and aim for a meat temperature of 170-180 degrees in the thigh. I estimated a cooking time of around 3 hours. I was able to stay pretty close to the target temperatures and the total cooking time was almost exactly 3 hours.
To start I preheated the smoker to about 150 degrees with 2 handfulls of soaked applewood. There was a lot of white "smoke" initially and I've since figured out that most of that was probably steam from the wood.
Here's a breakdown of the cooking for the chicken process by time. The brats were put in the smoker for the last hour.
Added chicken to the smoker.
Smoker temp was 215 degrees.
Smoker temp was 240 degrees.
Smoker had hit 250 degrees. The wood chips were all burned so I added additional chips. While the lid was off I brushed some olive oil on the bird to promote browning. Chicken temperature was 138 degrees in the thigh.
Added 2 more handfuls of chips. Chicken temperature was 160 degrees and smoker was 220 degres.
Smoker temperature was 215 degrees and chicken was 172 degrees. At this point I removed the chicken from the smoker and let it rest for about 30 minutes before eating.
Because this was my first time using the smoker I expected some technical problems, and while for the most part everything went smoothly I did have trouble managing the temperature. I was using the stock bi-metal strip based temperature control for the hot plate and had mounted it inside the smoker with an external "volume knob" that allowed me to adjust the temp. The problem seemed to be that the temperature control got too hot and was cycling the hot plate resulting in lower temperatures.
The chicken was very juicy and tasted good. It had a very strong smoke flavor that was more than I intended, but not overpowering. I think this was because I used more wood chips that was necessary, especially with a light flavored meat such as chicken. Adding a dry rub or a wet mop would have likely balanced out a bit against the smoke flavor. In the future I'll use fewer wood chips when cooking chicken.