Chicken Thigh Experiment

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by kaz4121, Apr 23, 2016.

  1. kaz4121

    kaz4121 Newbie

    As a newbie to the smoking game, I'm testing out variables to try and make the best smoked food as efficient as possible. This was my first go round with chicken, so I thought I would test to see what impact brine and rub had on thighs.

    Here's how it went down:
    1. Purchased 20 chicken thighs at my local grocery store.
    2. Brined 10 thighs for 12 hours using the Slaughterhouse brine recipe. Left the other 10 in the sealed package.
    3. The next morning, I removed the thighs from the brine and patted them down to help dry them out. I took half of the brined thighs and seasoned them with Shooter's poultry rub. The other 5 brined thighs were left without rub. All 10 brined thighs were placed atop paper towels on a baking sheet and left to dry in the fridge for ~12 hours.
    4. I sliced open the unbrined thighs, and applied the rub to 5 of the thighs. I left the other 5 without rub and returned the opened package to the fridge for ~12 hours.
    5. Heated smoker to 350F using pecan pellets.
    6. Removed all 20 thighs from the fridge, placed in smoker with skin-side down for ~1 hour until IT reached 170 (did not flip or rotate chicken while smoking).
    7. Served to my family without them knowing which was which, in hopes to get unbiased feedback on whether brine or rub really make much of a difference.
    Lessons learned:

    The overall consensus was the following: brine + rub >> brine >> rub > nothing
    • Brine made a MAJOR difference in flavor. The brine + rub was voted the favorite
    • Rub made a MINOR difference in flavor. The brine was better than the no brine + rub.
    In the future I will continue to brine and rub, but I was unable to get the crispy "bite through skin." The meat was very juicy at 170F IT, maybe too juicy? Flavor was excellent but I want to work on that skin. I thought the 350F would have taken care of it. Maybe I need to let them dry for more than 12 hours?

    Any tips? 
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2016
    garyhibbert likes this.
  2. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    WOW, great experiment.   I have never brined chicken, now I will try it.

    At that temp skin side down the skin should have been good.   I only dry for 12 hours or so.
  3. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Good test. Twelve hours is usually good but the longer you let dry, the better the result. A sprinkle and message with Baking Soda helps crisp and with color. The high pH enhances the browning. Skin down will not get as crispy as skin up. Gravity causes all the moisture and fat coming out of the meat to flow down and collect under the skin. There is A LOT of moisture in brined meat, how can the skin dry and crisp holding water like a pool liner? It will dry and crisp eventually but the meat will be over done. Been using my Families favorite brine for over 25 years with great result...JJ
  4. c farmer

    c farmer Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

     Once again we learn from you JJ
  5. kaz4121

    kaz4121 Newbie

    Thanks for the tip. I read skin side down on a Traeger recipe so just followed that, but your explanation makes a lot more sense. I'll definitely extend my drying for 24 hours and try to massage with baking soda ahead of time. And smoke skin side up, for sure!.
  6. garyhibbert

    garyhibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Great experiment kaz.  You pretty much tested for all the variables.  This should give new (and old) smokers a good comparison.


  7. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Great thread!

    Thanks for the input JJ!

  8. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    JJ's got you covered. Dry skin = crispy skin. If you don't have time to dry the skin hit it with a hair dryer on low right before putting it on the smoker.

    When the chicken hits an IT of 155 if the skin isn't crisp, remove it and finish in a hot grill or under the broiler. A propane torch can do the trick too.

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