Chicken thigh taste test- 2 comp styles vs backyard

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by robcava, Jun 6, 2015.

  1. robcava

    robcava Meat Mopper

    I bought some chicken thighs today to practice competition style chicken since I WAS entered for a local BBQ contest (non sanctioned). I found out today it is cancelled bc not enough entrants. Oh well. I decided instead to see how competition thighs compare to just typical home thighs. I made 3 types- 1. competition in butterbath, 2. competition no butter bath, 3) just my regular thighs I make when home.

    I removed the skin from both competition types and put in a bag to freeze so I could de-fat them. I trimmed all fat and that big artery that runs through the middle of the thigh. For the backyard group I just lifted the skin enough to trim the fat and also removed the vein.

    I threw the two competition types into a standard salt and sugar brine with some cayene, garlic, and onion powder. I put some plowboys yardbird rub on the backyard thighs and all in fridge for 4 hours and the skins into freezer.

    After 4 hours, I took skins out and scaped fat off of the inside surface (no fun! yuck!)

    I dried the brined thighs, applied rub, rewrapped in the skins. Then I applied some more yardbird rub. The butterbath group (1) went into a pan with melted "I cant believe its not butter". The comp group no butter bath (2) went into a pan with no butter. The backyard thighs (3) came straight out of fridge and into a pan.

    On the BGE at 300 with just a handful of cherry and apple chips.

    To be continued.......
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2015
    oldschoolbbq likes this.
  2. b-one

    b-one Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Looks interesting! Looking forward to the conclusion of your personal comp.
  3. robcava

    robcava Meat Mopper

    After 1 hour at 300 all moved to grates, brushed with butter and some more yardbird rub.

  4. mike johnson

    mike johnson Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    I can't wait to see how these come out and what you think we're the best. I am entering a backyard joe smoking competition and chicken is one of the entries.
  5. grillmonkey

    grillmonkey Smoking Fanatic

    I can't wait. I love comparisons.
  6. robcava

    robcava Meat Mopper

    For the rub and sauce combo, I decided to use Yardbird rub and then a 50/50 mix of Blues hog original and tennessee red. This is the rub and sauce combo that is really popular on  the comp circuit and has won a grand championship (for good reason).

    After about an hour on the grates, mopped them all with the sauce. It was exactly 165.

    Another 20 minutes to set the sauce and pulled them off. The butter bath comp thighs on left, the non-bath comp thighs in middle, and the regular backyard thighs on right.

    Plated up for dinner with some fingerling taters and Mexico City style street vendor corn.

    We also did a taste test (which is the whole point!). I will write my conclusions in a bit, I am going to have an ice cold IPA with my neighbor first. 
  7. b-one

    b-one Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Your beer is getting warm by now! I'm going to get those sauces seen them around time to try some. Will wait more patiently for your thoughts now what brand of beer?
  8. robcava

    robcava Meat Mopper

    The beer was hob new favorite IPA! 7.3% alcohol so a stiff one too.

    As far as the sauces, they are both great on their own, but mixing them 50/50 is amazing. Tangy with some heat. Im a huge fan of blues hog.
  9. robcava

    robcava Meat Mopper

    SO the results- We had 6 people for the taste test. There is definitely a difference for what I liked from a standpoint of eating the at home where you eat a lot vs the one bite taste test that a judge would experience at a competition (Im definetly not an expert in this regards, but I think the results were obvious).


    I need some practice here, but I learned a couple things today. First off, I think the blues hog mixed sauce gave an awesome color and sheen on all of the thighs. Overall, the 2 comp styles with the scraped skins looked nicer. The skin had a more crispy look. When you put them side-by-side you could easily see the difference between comp and the unadulterated skins (all 6 of us liked the scraped skin appearance better). For a competition, I would de-bone the thighs I decided today. The judges are looking for carbon copy thighs. Im sure a lot of it is practice and from this standpoint Im a novice. I tried to trim the bones to get them roughly the same size, but in a few of them in the non-butter bath set, the marrow bled some and ruined the appearance from the side. De-boning them would not be difficult and it would be easy to fold them up to the same dimensions, plus the skins would fit better when re-wrapping.

    Texture (skin and meat)

    The two comp groups that had the skin removed, frozen, and the fat scraped off had waaaay better skin (again it was unanimous 6-0). It was crispy, paper thin, and the bite through texture that judges are looking for. The backyard thighs, still had crispy skin to some extent but like you would expect, you bite and pull half the skin off, so you lose a lot of flavor on later bites. There was no comparison here.

    As far as the meat, all of them had a nice texture, which isn't surprising for thighs. It is a great cut for BBQ. That said, the ones cooked in the butter bath had a really smooth, creamy texture. It was a noticeable difference (4-2 liked it better).


    The yardbird rub together with the blues hog mix of original and tennessee red give an awesome flavor profile. It is salty, tangy, and sweet with a mild burn to it...just right. I will definitely use this combo when I dont feel like making my own sauce and rub. I was very surprised by this but with this combo of rub and sauce, the unbrined backyard thighs tasted better to us (5 to 1). The yardbird is a salty rub. For a brine I used 1.5 cups of salt and 0.5 cups sugar, plus some cayene pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. The brined thighs were good, but the unbrined thighs had a sweeter flavor that complemented the salty rub and tangy sauce sauce nicely. The butter bath did not really change the flavor of the meat (which also surprised me).

    Bottom line

    For competition

    I would definitely remove, freeze, and scrape the skin.I would also de-bone the thighs to get a better uniformity. At least with this particular sauce and rub combo I would not brine, but I would rub them and let them sit chilled for a while. I would also use the butter bath to get the creamy texture.

    For casual backyard Q (the important part!)

    As far as prep goes, I would not debone. I dont really care what shape they are, I just want to eat them) Scraping the skin was a major pain in the arse, but it had a big pay-off. That was probably the thing that made the biggest difference. Whether I would do it depends on how much time I have, since it takes a while, and whether the company is worth it LOL. Hopefully people who dont rate a skin scraping never read this thread!

    I would not brine. The thighs are a moist/fatty enough cut that they dont need this and with the yardbird rub, they made it a bit salty for my taste. The unbrined meat was awesome with the sauce and rub combo. Along those lines, I would definitely use yardbird rub and the mixed Blues Hog sauce. It really was some of the best flavors I have gotten from chicken thighs. A light apple/cherry wood smoke complemented the flavors perfectly.

    I would also definitely not do a butter bath for home Q. For a single bite, like judges would get, it was nice. After eating a whole thigh it was way too rich for me, not to mention my cholesterol probably went up 100 points from that one thigh. I hope the judges at these competitions are on statins!

    Anyways- It was a fun experiment. I hope you enjoyed.
    bradt35, grillmonkey and tropics like this.
  10. grillmonkey

    grillmonkey Smoking Fanatic

    Great comparison. I always like the side-by-sides.
  11. bluewhisper

    bluewhisper Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks for a great write-up!

    Brining seems to be a mixed bag; a soft finished texture will seem "moist" to some and "mushy" to others.
  12. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Rob Nice write up,to much like work scaping the skin.They all looked great from my seat.

  13. garyhibbert

    garyhibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Great write-up Rob.  I brine thighs--they have plenty of fat and moisture.

  14. robcava

    robcava Meat Mopper

    I am a big fan of brining. I was kind of surprised that the unbrined tasted better. It was really because of this particular salty rub. Thighs come out moist on their own though. Other than the flavor of the meat, there wasn't really a difference. Then again I only brined 4 hours. Overnight may have made a difference for texture. For breasts, whole turkeys, chickens I always brine.
  15. b-one

    b-one Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I'll just smoke wings! Nice read and good luck if you find a new comp!
  16. danbono

    danbono Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Robcava.. Looks like you answered ALL questions I had on smoking thighs.. Great job and info

  17. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Excellent comparison , Robcava .[​IMG].

    I'm not a big Thigh Man , but those looking most inviting [​IMG]  and the IPA sounded good as well , wish I could still drink [​IMG]  .  

    Everything [​IMG]  ,

    Have fun and . . .
  18. learnin2smoke

    learnin2smoke Fire Starter

    Hi Rob. Awesome write up. I have only read and done research on competition cooking, but I think that they have to inspect your meat before you can season/brine/trim so please keep that in mind. I don't think you can bring pre-skinned thighs and frozen skins to any KCBS sanctioned competition. Unless you plan to remove the skin, freeze them, and then scrape them onsite then you should be golden. Just trying to help you gauge any extra time you may need to account for if you're skinning, freezing and scraping onsite.

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