Smoking Small Whole Chickens

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by rabbithutch, Mar 27, 2012.

  1. I haven't used my MES since the end of last year.  It's been too long.

    So, yesterday I picked up four slightly-less-than-5-lb whole chickens.  I didn't have enough salt to do a brine last night and it was too late to go back and get it.  The birds waited until today.  I could only find space in the garage refrigerator for 2 birds in brine; so I need to know if you think it will be OK to brine the other two birds tomorrow. (I don't think the birds were ever frozen and the transit time from store to fridge was less than 20 minutes.)  The birds were individually wrapped in what appeared to be air-tight plastic packaging.  There was no leaking as you would expect from store wrapped birds.

    I plan to smoke tomorrow using the BUBA approach (beer up a birds a......).  I have 4 racks and I bought some Coors.  I need a reality check on my process and approach.

    First, I cleaned the birds by pulling out the gizzard, heart and neck - had to cut the neck bone to get it out.  I then pulled and pared off all the excess fat and washed the birds in running water until I felt like they were thoroughly rinsed.  Before starting on the birds, I put a gallon of water on the stove to warm enough to fully dissolve a cup of Morton's Kosher salt.  I used only low heat and just enough to get the salt into solution.

    After both birds were thoroughly washed and the salt water was ready, I put them in a 2 gallon double ziploc and put all the water in with them.  I had pulled the skin away from the meat while washing to allow as much contact with the water as possible. There was only a very little space left.  I then put the sealed bag in a plastic tray just large enough to hold the bag and birds.  The tray is about as deep as the refrigerator shelf, about 2/3's as wide and about 5-6 inches deep.  It has a plastic top with to click to close gizmos on it.  I put the whole shebang into the fridge in the garage.  I put all the results of the cleaning in a plastic bag, then in another and then in a ziploc and put it in the fridge to wait until the day the pick up the trash.  I don't want to attract anything to the trash cans.   I then cleaned up the whole kitchen sink area anywhere near where I had the raw chicken and sprayed it down with a bleach-based disinfecting spray (don't remember the name but it's in all the supermarkets).

    ????  If I leave the birds in the fridge overnight, is that too much brining?  Since I won't be able to smoke them tonight, should I pull them after some time (how much?) and rinse and bag in fresh ziplocs until I'm ready to put them in the MES tomorrow?

    What I do with the other 2 birds will depend on the advice you give me.  If I can do a relatively short brine soak (3-4 hours) on them, I can do all 4 birds with one heat of the smoker.  ??????????

    As for prepping the birds before putting them in the smoke, I will rinse them, of course, and rub them down with EVOO.   Can you recommend a quick and easy rub????????   I thought that I would put a sprig of fresh rosemary in one, fresh thyme the other and maybe fresh basil in another just to see if there the spices in the beer make any difference.  Good idea?   Bad?   Anything else I should put in the beer?  (I plan to put about a third of each can in me before sacrificing the remainder to the birds.)

    ?????  What smoke?  I have pellets and the wonder tray.   I think I have oak, mesquite, pecan and a mixture.  Haven't checked yet but I know I didn't use nearly all of it doing the butts and other goodies that I did for darling daughter's out of town wedding guests.

    ????  How long should I expect it to take???????   What temp should I set the smoker for?????  I have probes to tell me when I get there but it would be nice to have some idea.

    ?????  I decided to try 4 birds at once to get practice cooking in greater volumes than the wife and I would normally consume so that I can be ready for larger groups.  I know that we will not eat 4 birds at one sitting and probably not over a week or ten days.  This leads to the question about how to handle and store the excess after it's smoked.  I figured on wrapping them in Saran wrap and putting them in ziplocs and putting them in the freezer.  Good idea????   Bad????   Remember that these will be cooked birds.

    I know this is a long-winded and presumptuous post.  I apologize if it offends.  I DID use the search feature and read many recent posts in the Poultry forum.  I didn't find answers to all my questions in one place; so I decided to try to make a comprehensive list of questions in hopes that some future smoker will find your answers all in one place.

    Oh, yes!  I'll try to remember to get some pics for a results post later, too.  Thanks for your patience and "Bless You!"  if you stuck with all the way here!

  2. mdboatbum

    mdboatbum Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    2 things. 1, what was the temperature of the brine when you put the chicken in it? If it was still warm and it hasn't been too much more than an hour I'd check and make sure it's now below 40˚. If not, get some ice in there asap. Even though it's a salt solution, you're still dealing with raw poultry. In the future I'd dissolve the salt in a half gallon of water and then add 4lbs of ice to get it cooled down.

    And 2, I'd think with a 1 cup to 1 gallon brine 8 hours would be about max. I've left chicken in a brine too long before and gotten a "hammy" consistency.

    Those more experienced than I are sure to check in soon and will get you more reliable info. But do get the brine chilled below 40˚!!!

    Oh, and shoot for 160˚ in the breast and 170˚ in the deepest part of the thigh.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2012
  3. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Rabbithutch, [​IMG]  , if I haven;'t yet. The Boatbum leads you well ; as for Smoker temp., go to 275*f to 300*f . This will help you get a little crispyness on the skin(especially if you rub oil under that loose skin you said you left) . Be sure to watch you temps. , after all that preperation it would be ashmed to have dry Yardbird.

     The Rub ; go get some of Emeril's at the grocery store (a decent starter), then you can play with your own taste and seasonings mixes.  

    Put some Rub under the skin also , it gets into the meat so much better and is Gooooooooood.

    Take some pictures and let us see your progress in cooking , we love to drool[​IMG].  The decision to go BUBA is excellent to learn on , and I like a full Smoker:


    seems to make the food better [​IMG].

    Have fun with your new Obsession and...
  4. scarbelly

    scarbelly Smoking Guru OTBS Member

  5. Thanks all!

    I'll go check the temp of that brine right now.  The water was not warm to the touch when I put it on the birds, but you can't be to careful with chicken.

  6. OK!   All is well.  Brine was about 38 degrees F as is the fridge.  We keep a couple of thermometers in it to be sure the temps don't rise too high in the summer time in an un-AC garage in TX.

    Thanks for prompting me.  I'll dump ice in from the get-go next time.  I added a bit now just to be sure that taking it out of the box caused it to change any.

    The chooks have been in the brine about 4 hours now.  I think I'm going to take them out and rinse them and put them in fresh ziplocs.  I'll do the other 2 tomorrow and smoke tomorrow afternoon.

    Thanks for your help.

  7. jckdanls 07

    jckdanls 07 Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    UH OHHHHH... reading your brine recipe... I hope you put a cup of sugar in with your salt ?... as to what else to put in your beer can, put a couple cloves of fresh garlic and also put a couple teaspoons of the same rub you use on the birds into them...

    But I'm really hoping you put the sugar in the brine...
  8. Well, I guess I'm stuck in it JD07.  And, I don't have any Old Nbr. 7 to console myself.  I used Kosher salt and water: 1 cup to 1 gallon and soaked the birds for 3 hours for 2 and 4 hours for the other 2.

    I finally got the birds on apple pellet smoke at about 1630 this afternoon - almost 3 hours ago.  I set the MES at 275* but it is showing something around 185-190 2 hours into the smoke.

    ?????  Is it normal for the indicator on the top of the MES to show temps lower than the Set Temp setting?  I've only used this smoker twice before and don't remember (I'm old and I've slept more than twice since then).

    I've got temperature probes in the large breast area of 3 of the 4 birds (I only have 3 probe thermometers).  None of them have got to 180* yet, but the color seems to be improving and the birds seem to be cooking.  I've got great wisps of blue smoke but my camera won't capture it on any setting (dang it).

    I took pics of the rub (thanks, Scarbelly!) and the birds oiled rubbed and resting on beer cans.  Also got shots of the birds as they went into the smoker and will get more when they are removed.

    I'll create another post in this thread and show the pics (if I can figure out how to do it) when they are done.
  9. oldschoolbbq

    oldschoolbbq Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Rabbithtuch, I try to find a darker background to see the TBS, a tree , house , a Kiddo with cardboard as a backlight. Kinda like this...


    Make sure you have a "GOOD" therm. for the Cooking Grate level and a probe therm. for each meat you are cooking (for safety). Bed Bath and Beyond has some good Probe type  Therms. for about $20. Check your therms. in "boiling" water (212*f at sea level).

    The best advice I can give you is to be "PATIENT" and "SIP" those drinks instead of sloshing them LOL!

    Also, buy leaving the door to your Smoker "closed", you will increase the flavor , color and cut time down from loss of heat when you open. Don't worry , them Birds aren't giong anywhere , in fact they will 'gift' you a juicier Bird when you get them done[​IMG].

    Have fun and...
  10. As promised, here is the thread about my process with pics.  I hope I didn't over do it on the pics.

    Here is the rub that Scarbelly sent me to. 


    I didn't have any wasabi powder.  I substituted extra hot horseradish - the wet stuff, not powder

    Because I was doing a different herb in each bird - the rub was the same - I needed a way to remember which was which; so I cut some paperclips and attached them to my can holder racks.  One had no clip wire, one and 1 wire, one had 2 wires and one had 3 wires.  I made note on my iPhone of which had which herb in the beer.  Note that I cut the tops out of the cans.  I don't know whether this helped or hurt.


    Meet uncooked BUBA 1 and 2.  Do you hack the necks out of your birds?  I can't tell that it made much difference except to enlarge the upper hole.


    Meet BUBAs 3 and 4, before cooking.


    Here's how much rub was left over after doing 4 birds approximately 5 lbs. each.


    Here are all 4 birds in the smoker.  I had to remove 2 racks but they fit nicely.


    The MES has a built-in probe.  I have a couple of others that we've used inside in the oven over the years.  You see only the indicator units in the pic.  A probe is a probe is a probe.


    BUBAs 1 and 2 after smoking.  They were on the top rack.


    BUBA 1 had only a clove of garlic in the beer.  BUBA 2 had no garlic but had fresh basil sprigs.

    BUBA's 3 and 4 after smoking.  They were on the bottom rack.


    BUBA 3 had a garlic clove and fresh sprigs of thyme.  BUBA 4 had garlic and fresh rosemary sprigs.

    That's all there is about the chicken.  We ate BUBA 1 last night.  BUBAs 2, 3 and 4 have been cut up and stowed in the freezer in ziplocs.


    Bonus pic:

    Here's a shot of 4 pork ribs I did last Dec for guest from out of town.  It was only the second smoke I'd done on the MES.


    Yes, they were DELICIOUS!!!
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2012
  11. Beautiful smoker, oldschool!  I hemmed and hawed about getting a watt burner or a wood burner.  My wife finally told me to buy the watt burner because I was too damned old and forgetful to keep a wood burner properly fed on very long smokes for boston butts.  I'm still keeping my ear to the ground (No!  I'm not Comanche but I'm real close to the sight of the last fight between them and the Texas Rangers on Bird Creek) for word of a good, small wood burner on the used market here in town.

    Beautiful neighborhood you got there!

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