Smoking 3 whole chickens on Saturday - need some advice

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by wklkjn, Jun 30, 2016.

  1. wklkjn

    wklkjn Smoke Blower

    I looked at a bunch of threads on the Spatchcock chicken idea and I want to try it.

    We've got 3 'fryers' fresh that are ready to go.

    The first problem is, I'm new to smoking and my wife is arguing that if I butterfly the chickens and smoke them on my Master built propane smoker, they will be dry.  She wants me to smoke them whole, standing up vertically.

    Well, I've read enough threads here to know that butterflying them is the way to go, and I already use Montreal seasoning so I'm good to go.

    I think I'm going to do an experiment later today with one chicken to see how it turns out before doing all 3 on Saturday.

    I am a little confused on picking the process, understanding that everyone seems to have their own way of doing spatchcock chicken.

    I've read people using heat anywhere from 225 all the way up to 350.  Seems like the main consensus is to use 275 so that's what I'm going to try.

    I'm also assuming that I just put the chickens on the grates - breast side up and leave it that way for the whole smoking process.

    I'm not a big fan of eating the skin, but others that will be at my house do like the skin, so I want to make sure it's crispy.  Do I need to transfer it to the grill to crisp up the skin?

    My biggest fear is my wife saying "I told you so!  It's dry!".  :)

    (She's not really that bad)...

    Also, I do have an I Grill probe to watch the meat temperature.

    How long should I expect it to take at 275?

    Should I baste it during the cooking process with butter/garlic?

    I'm excited to try, I know it will be good.  Just want to make sure i start off on the right foot.


  2. phatbac

    phatbac Smoking Fanatic

    I spatchcock my share of birds. It doesnt dry out but if you want to make sure brine your birds. Put a cup of salt and a cup of sugar in some ice water and keep it cool for 24 hours.

    I usually take off the skin but cookibg at around 300 should help crisp up. Put some olive oil on it. If you leave the skin on make sure to season under the skin.

    At 275 expect neighborhood of 3-3.5 hours

    If you are going to sauce wait until 160 degrees at the breast sauce and then the final 20-30 minutes when it ges upto 165 at the breast and 170 at the thigh you are done.

    Some examples...


    then on smoker

    Then sauced

    Happy Smoking,

  3. sauced

    sauced Master of the Pit

    Brine them before smoking....they will be delicious!! and NOT dry
  4. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Aaron has you started very well. I personally don't brine chickens, but I will brine turkeys. It's just a size thing with me. I rub blue bottle soft butter under the skin and on top of the skin with a little SPOG. Then a dusting of Weber Kickin' Chicken, but your Montreal should be good as well. I also put a little SPOG on the underside.

    275* should be OK, but the closer you can get to 300*+ will give you a crisper skin and will also keep your birds moist. As Aaron said, cook them to about 165-170* at the breast and thigh and they will be great. To crisp the skin, throw them on a hot grill for a couple of minutes.

    Good luck with them. I promise your wife will like them. I do 99% of my birds this way, Joe. :grilling_smilie:
  5. wklkjn

    wklkjn Smoke Blower

    Thanks for the advice.

    As luck would have it, I got out of work early today so I stopped at the store and picked up a fresh 'fryer' to experiment before Saturday.

    I spatchcocked the chicken, patted it dry and rubbed it with Montreal.

    Set the smoker for 275, filled pan with water, and used apple wood chips.

    I have an oven bluetooth thermometer (I Grill) linked to my phone app so I can keep tabs on the smoker temperature.  It stayed pretty steady at 275.

    After 2 1/2 hours, I thought I better check the bird temp.

    It was at 178 degrees already!!!

    Darn it all.  I pulled it out quickly, put it in an aluminum pan and covered it with foil for 15 minutes.

    Although I over cooked it, it was still fairly moist.

    I wondered what the term 'rubber skin' meant, now I know.  :)

    It was not crisp, but kind of rubbery - although it was dry.

    Because it was already at almost 180 degrees I did not put it on the grill or put any sauce on it.

    The meat was so tender, grabbing the leg to move it resulted in all the leg meat pulling off the bone clean into my hand.

    To be clear, the chicken was great.  My wife liked the breast meat and said it was fairly juicy so I got a thumbs up to spatchcock the 3 birds on Saturday.

    I am very confused and surprised though.

    I read some threads where people say they had to smoke a chicken for 8 hours unti lit was done (at 250 degrees).

    How in the world was my chicken complete done - some would say over-done - after only 2 1/2 hours?

    I'm pretty confident that I'm getting an accurate temperature measurement too.

    So lesson learned - start taking the temp of the meat earlier.

    I really should have had the probe in the chicken breast the whole time it was cooking - but my digital remote thermometer only has one probe and I was using it to monitor the smoker temp.

    So, for Saturday, what temperature do you think I should take the chickens out of the smoker and let them rest and finish cooking?  I'm thinking maybe 160 or 165.

    Also, when you say to crisp the skin on the grill, it seems like it would be a little difficult to handle the tender, fully cooked chicken all in one piece and get it onto the grill.  Do you put skin side down on the grill to crip it?

    Sorry for all the questions, but this really is a lot of fun.

    Thanks again.

    Hey, here's a photo of the finished chicken.  i kind of goofed up spachcocking my first chicken a little bit.

  6. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    You won't get crisp skin with temps below 325.

    Spatchcocking a bird won't dry it out either. It is one of the best methods to get an evenly cooked bird. You will also get more smoke to the bird. You need to pull the bird at 165. You do not need to brine to get moist chicken. If you want to brine for additional flavor that is fine.

    Now back to the skin. If you can't get your smoker above 275, you will need to finish in the oven or on a hot grill. You really need to air dry the birds overnight in the fridge uncovered. If you don't have the time then use a hair dryer on low right before putting the bird on. No spritzing, mopping, etc.

    Another method is to smoker fry the bird. This will help get better skin.

    For some more ideas take a look at the poultry section here:
  7. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    You are there and have all of the components in place for successful chickens on Sunday. There is no need to brine them to keep them moist you just need to cook them to temperature and they will be perfect.

    The minimum safe temperature for cooking chicken is 165 F and so do not be tempted to take them out at 160. I always take mine up to 175 F and they are beautifully moist. Resting is also an important factor in keep them moist when carving.
  8. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    8 Hours!?! For Chicken? If you remember the Post, put up a link as it needs some review. You are going to get answers from both sides of the Brine, No Brine SMF Fans. You can always Brine one and let one go Au Naturale and let the guests decide...Anyway, as the guys said 325 will give one step crisp skin. If you chose to go lower then monitor the Breast IT and pull the bird at 145°F. It will hold together while you finish on a Hot Grill until the IT reaches 165 and 175 in the Breast and Thighs respectively. I been brining over 25 years and My Chicken or Turkey is the most requested meal by visiting relatives from out of town and for the Holidays...JJ

    Juicy Smoke-tastic Chicken and Turkey

    Here is a Brine and Rub that is a Favorite with members of my Family. I like Apple and/or Hickory with Chicken or Turkey. We determine doneness by measuring the Internal Temp (IT) in the thickest part of the Breast and Thigh, 165* and 175*F respectively. For a One Step Smoke with Crispy Skin the birds have to be smoked at a temp of 300-325°F. You can figure about 15 minutes per pound to reach the desired IT. Electric smokers usually only go to 275°F. With these you will be smoking at the most common temp range of 225-275°F. You can figure on about 25 minutes per pound cook time + or - 5 minutes depending what part of the range you choose. Usually the skin will not crisp so if the skin is not Crisp enough when the IT is 145*F in the Breast, put the Bird in a 425*F Oven, or on a HOT Grill to finish cooking to 165* and Crisp the Skin...JJ

    Families Favorite Brine

    1/2C Kosher Salt

    2T Paprika

    2T Gran. Garlic

    2T Gran. Onion

    2T Dry Thyme

    2T Black Pepper

    1C Vinegar (Any)

    1-11/2Gal Cold Water to cover Chix

    1/2C Brown Sugar, Optional

    1T Red Pepper Flake Optional

    Mix well and Soak the Bird over night or up to 24 Hours.

    Remove the Chix, rinse if desired and pat dry with paper towels.

    Place in an open container in the refrigerator overnight or up to 24 hours for the Skin to dry.

    This will give a crispier skin when Smokng or Roasting...

    Bubba Chix Rub

    1/2C Raw Sugar

    2T Paprika (I use Smoked if I'm just Grilling)

    1T Cayenne

    1T Gran. Garlic

    1T Gran. Onion

    1tsp Black Pepper

    1tsp Wht Pepper

    1tsp Allspice

    1tsp Bell's Poultry Seasoning or Thyme

    Mix well. You can put directly on the skin or mix with Butter, Oil or Bacon Grease and rub on and under the Skin.

    Reduce Cayenne to 1 teaspoon if less heat is desired. Add 1T Kosher Salt if the bird is not Brined.
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2016
  9. wade

    wade Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    8 hours? I must have missed that bit. 8 hours for chicken is way too long in my book. It is a very tender meat and so does not need long cooking. Cook till it reaches temperature then take it out.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2016
  10. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Sounds like your all set for Saturday.

    Make sure you let us know how everything turns out!

  11. wklkjn

    wklkjn Smoke Blower

    This is all good stuff.  Thanks to everyone.

    As requested, here's the link to the post I read where the 'beer can' chicken was smoked for 8 hours.

    I'm ready to go.

    If I'm understanding it correctly, Chicken seems to be different than pork or beef - in that the Chicken will be tender no matter what smoker temperature you use.  For a brisket or pork butt, I imagine that if you smoked those at 325 they would be tough.  But from what I'm understanding, the important rule for Chicken is watching that the meat temp is around 165/170 - then pull it out and let it rest.

    Got it!  :)

    Just goes to show you, you're never too old to learn.

    Before the other day, when I joined this forum, I had never heard of Spachcooking a chicken.

    When you guys talked about it, I had to Google it to look it up.

    It is so common of a term, I can't believe I never heard of it before.

    Thanks again.

    I'll take pics of the Saturday Chicken.

    And Sunday is actually the big day - I'm Smoking ribs and chicken wings.

    While I'm thinking about it, I'd think I use the same idea with chicken wings.  

    Hmmm.  Does that mean I can't smoke the wings at the same time as the ribs?

    Will I need 2 different cooking temperatures?
  12. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    You certainly can cook brisket and pork butt at higher temps and still get moist tender meat. I've been smoking my pork butt running the pit at 285-300 the past couple of years. Still get the same great moist flavorful pulled pork. Only difference is the time it doesn't take.

    Wings are a different story. High temp is best. Look into injecting your wings.
  13. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Not a big deal as you did a great job with an experimental cook to increase your knowledge but I would suggest reading several posts on cooking a meat you are interested in. If most of the posts say the Chicken took 2-4 hours and one says it took 8 hours, you can pretty much discount the unusual long cook as something went wrong or was done out of the norm. Of course we are here to help so keep asking questions and showing off you work...JJ
  14. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I think your bird came out great. if 275* is all you can get, put your chicken on a Bradley rack and then you can use a second rack to turn it over with the skin side down on the grill to crisp the skin.

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