To oil or not to oil... that is the great question - what say you?

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by idahobangbang, Oct 12, 2016.

  1. idahobangbang

    idahobangbang Newbie


    Back in the day, I discovered that I could bake chicken breasts and thighs without drying them out if I a) rinsed and dried the chicken, b) coated with oil (spray Canola or Olive oil), then c) seasoned and baked.

    In my Weber Kettle, I tried a similar technique there too and had good results:

    - Cut up a whole chicken, rinse and dry each piece

    - Oil and season each piece

    - Set up the kettle for indirect heat, coals all on one side, a medium small chunk of apple and a small chunk of hickory tossed onto the coals.

    - Using indirect heat, cook the chicken parts for 23 minutes skin side up, then turn and cook (still indirect) for 23 more minutes, skin side down (lid temp gauge reading around 425-450 F).  Then rotate the whole grate to put all the chicken, still skin side down, directly over the coals for about 5 minutes to crisp (and slightly singe - the way I like it) the skin ...serve right away (hot and crispy skin, not rested and wimpy skin).

    Everyone has always raved about my chicken BBQ'd this way and wanted to know how I did it's my standard go-to way of doing it.

    But last weekend ...I experimented, wondering if I ought to oil those bird parts before BBQ'ing them or not, so I used exactly the same process ...except no oil.  The results?

    - The chicken meat, the part not covered by skin, seemed almost like it has a 'skin' on the outside 0.3 mm of toughened outside meat.  

    - The smoke seemed like it had a slightly metallic taste to it

    - The spice all fell off or something, because the finished chicken was not spicy ...even though I used my usual cajun blend.

    - I expected the skin to crisp up more effectively ...but alas, no difference as compared to the oiled bird

    Anyone else experimented with oiled or non-oiled chicken?  I would've expected better smoke flavor, soaked into the meat a tad more, but while the smoke was about the same in strength ...I can't figure out that 'slightly metallic' taste.  And the exposed meat was not as pleasant, not the same 'bite texture' when eating it.

    Oil was definitely the winner in keeping the bird spicy like we like it... 

    The skin was a draw... same either way.

    Overall, I have to vote for using the rinse/dry/oil/season prep method as being superior.  I wonder if any of you have tried this?  Comments????


    Last edited: Oct 12, 2016
  2. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    No oil or rinsing here. Crispy skin and moist flavorful birds or bird parts every time. Even when we go skinless.
  3. idahobangbang

    idahobangbang Newbie

    I wonder if rinsing is a bad idea?  It takes off whatever natural juices were on the bird and replaces it with water?  I do like how oiling makes the seasonings stick tho'.... but I wonder how to do that without having to oil ...I'd prefer to not oil if I can get similar results either way.

  4. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I give you another idea.  Use mayonnaise instead of plain oil. It's mostly oil base and it works much better IMO and will leave the meat wonderfully moist. Of course it helps the rub stick as well.   I'm about to toss some skinless boneless breasts on the grill and they are going to be coated with mayo and rub first.  You don't need a super heavy coat, just enough to lightly cover so the rub will stick.

    I've used just oil and compared it to mayo and the mayo wins hands down in our tests.  I guess the egg and other flavorings bring something to the party or it could be about the emulsion? Not sure about the science, but it works.
  5. garyhibbert

    garyhibbert Smoking Guru OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Like dward says--mayo works great.

  6. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Be careful with rinsing that you are not splashing bacteria to other surfaces. For instance, wash lettuce and stuff for salad before the bird. I have not tried mayo but am intrigued. The oil , egg and vinegar is in my Pit Chicken and contributes a lot of flavor so it stands to reason mayo would be worthwhile. Many spices have oil soluble components so using oil will give a slightly different flavor than without, especially brings out Chiles heat like from Cayenne.  I usually spray all my birds with Butter Flavor Pam. Super easy...JJ
  7. idahobangbang

    idahobangbang Newbie

    Yes... We're super careful with birds, hands and sinks etc....

    I'm going to try the mayo.... thin layer plus Cajun spice and the same cooking method... just vary the one factor and see how it goes. I appreciate the suggestion.... hadn't heard about that before:)

    Last edited: Oct 13, 2016
  8. smokin kat

    smokin kat Fire Starter

    +1  on the mayo--   my husband despises mayo, but loves chicken cooked with it.  Let us know how you like it!  

    If you're looking to avoid fats, etc. you might try mustard to help the rub stick?  Obviously wouldn't work with all recipes, but just a little something different!  
  9. idahobangbang

    idahobangbang Newbie

    I do always use mustard when putting rub on ribs... it seems to disappear during the cook.  I like mayo ... I should avoid fats (notice my profile pic is of food ...not a pic of me!) ...but hey, I'm betting that most of it is gone by the time the chicken is done.  If the mayo turns out, then I'll use Gary Wiviott's buttermilk brine ...then mayo and rub.

    Gary's brine:  1/2 gal buttermilk, 1 cup warm water, 2/3 cup kosher salt, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup Old Bay Hot (Gary recommends just regular Old Bay tho') ...Our modifications:  sometimes we toss in some cut-up onions, celery, carrots, and some rosemary and thyme.  The fancies are usually added for more special occasions and we find that they work best if we mix the brine up a day early to let it mature for a day before putting the chicken in.  We brine chickens for around 12 hours.  Works on Thanksgiving turkeys too, except we give them an extra day.  I have a programmable wine fridge out in the garage, with all the racks taken out, for brining things can set it right on 38 F and keep it there crowding the fridge inside the house.

    Thanks everyone.

    Nobody mentioned why the smoke kinda had a metallic taste?  Something to do with the chicken being plain and dry I guess... probably won't do that again.

    Last edited: Oct 13, 2016
  10. Brian - I read the other day about a buttermilk brine for fried chicken cited by someone here. Chef JJ I think. Thanks for posting Gary's brine as I bet it would also work for fried. I will try it when grilling and add more heat like you did.
  11. idahobangbang

    idahobangbang Newbie

    Those down south know all about buttermilk brines.  I once tried plain buttermilk and it didn't work nearly as well as the basic brine mixture above (1/2 gal buttermilk, 1 cup warm water, 2/3 cup kosher salt, 1/2 cup brown sugar).  Even though the plain buttermilk is acidic enough, it doesn't soak in and do it's magic without the salt, sugar, and water to thin it down a wee bit.  Note that this amount of brine is for TWO chickens (halved, pieces, whatever).  Make just a half batch for one chicken.  I just use gallon Ziploc bags, one chicken each, for brining.

    The brine by itself doesn't add flavor so much as it tenderizes the meat and lets the natural chicken flavor out.  The spice that's added only seems to be detectable in the chicken if you let the spices leach into the brine for a day ...and the same applies to the herbs and veggies.  Some people simmer the herbs in the water for 10-15 minutes to bring out their flavor.  Some people add cut up carrots too ...but I don't think they add much.  If you DO add these other ingredients and let them soak in the brine for a day, then the chicken for a half-day in the 'matured' brine mixture ...then the good flavors of all the above go clear down to the bone AND the chicken is made super tender and has great mouth feel.  It's my favorite brine.... suitable for all ways of cooking chicken.

    I do recommend buying Gary Wiviott's book ...he's got an "my way or no way" attitude and I think his instructions for using a plain Weber Kettle are way off in terms of heat management, but you can't argue with his results when followed for a WSM or offset smoker.  His book was my intro to low and slow, and for the entire first year of cooking this way, I did it all in a Weber Kettle ...and boy did that experience make me appreciate my WSM!

    Myron Mixon ....can't recommend this guy.  High on ego, short on brainz (sorry if that offends), can't quit referring to his hind quarters... I threw his book away.

    Last edited: Oct 13, 2016
  12. Brain - Thanks for taking the time for such good advice. For all my life I have heard of buttermilk in the frying process but have not understood the advantages of it as part of a brine. I grew up 13 miles from the gulf coast so qualify and proud of being a southern boy. Also surprised as soon as I begin to understand about something new to me like brining that others have been doing it for years--even with buttermilk. Thanks again.
  13. idahobangbang

    idahobangbang Newbie

    Good stuff, Maynard!  Once you start brining birds, you won't quit.  The only time we skip it is if we're in a hurry ...forgot to take the chicken (turkey etc) out of the freezer until the last minute etc.  The only exception that I can think of is if you are going to stuff your bird.  Brining first, then baking with stuffing in the bird, turns the stuffing into soup... yechhh.   If you brine, don't stuff!


    Not chicken ...but instead, my first try at ribs a couple of years ago ...following Wiviott's directions.  They were some of the best that I've ever made, and it was in a Weber Kettle!

    Last edited: Oct 14, 2016
  14. chef jimmyj

    chef jimmyj Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Here is some excellent info on how Buttermilk Brines work on meat by Dan Gill...JJ

    The Magic of Buttermilk

    By Dan Gill

    Buttermilk does wonderful things for food and for us: It is a healthy, refreshing drink that aids digestion and helps keep our systems in balance. People who are lactose intolerant can often drink buttermilk because most of the lactose has been converted to lactic acid by “friendly” bacteria. A combination of acids, enzymes and calcium tenderize and flavor meats, poultry and seafood and are essential in making good biscuits and hot cakes. Buttermilk is used to create a classic southern pie and it is even used for skin care and cosmetics. Real buttermilk is also the best way to cool off after eating hot chili: Capsaicin is fat-soluble, so water, tea, beer or soft drinks only make spicy foods seem hotter.

    Originally, buttermilk was the low-fat by-product of churned butter. The hand-churning process removes most, but not all of the butterfat and there were always a few stray flecks of butter floating on top. It could be sweet or sour depending upon the kind of butter being made. Most country folk used to let cream sour naturally before churning because the butter lasted longer, but some made sweet-cream butter. Before refrigeration, buttermilk and other dairy products were kept in a springhouse or in the well to keep cool. At 55°, it didn’t take raw milk too long to turn. Country folks always had fresh buttermilk on hand and found lots of good uses for it. Practically all buttermilk is now made from pasteurized and cultured skimmed or low-fat milk or even from powdered milk. Any yellow flecks are added during processing. Yoder Dairies makes theirs from whole milk and it is smooth and rich tasting.

    Southern cooks have long known that chicken fries crisper and is more tender and juicy if soaked in buttermilk before cooking. Eastern and Mediterranean cultures use buttermilk or yogurt to improve the texture and flavor of goat and mutton. Many hunters know that a simple buttermilk brine does wonderful things to venison and wild turkey as it mellows strong, gamey flavors. It was long assumed that the acids and enzymes in buttermilk and yogurt tenderized meat. It is now known that calcium in these dairy products triggers “aging” enzymes within muscle and connective tissues, which, in turn, degrade certain proteins that hold bundles of muscle fibers together. The meat industry is now experimenting with genetic selection for these enzymes, increasing dietary levels of Vitamin D (involved in calcium absorption and metabolism), electrically shocking carcasses after slaughter, and injecting meat with calcium chloride solutions. I would rather just soak mine in buttermilk, thank you very much.

    I personally believe that brines are the most effective and reliable method of flavoring meat, poultry and seafood at home. Acid and oil marinades remain popular in spite of the fact that they simply don’t work. Marinades do not penetrate, thus they can flavor and tenderize only the surface of meats. Strong acids, such as vinegar and lemon juice, can actually toughen muscle fibers. Enzymes in plants, such as papaya and pineapple, often added to marinades to tenderize, actually do too good a job and can make the surface of meat mushy without affecting the interior. Brines, on the other hand, are salt based and can actually penetrate muscle tissue through osmosis, taking dissolved flavor components and tenderizers deep into tissues. Contrary to popular belief, salt in brines actually adds water to meat and aids in moisture retention during cooking. I always add cane sugar, brown sugar or molasses to my brines and dry rubs. Sucrose reduces the salty taste, helps retain moisture and improves flavor. Buttermilk can replace part or all of the water in a brine, depending upon the characteristics of the meat. Mild meats, such as turkey, chicken and lamb, benefit from a mixture of 25% buttermilk, while strong flavored, tough or gamey meats require higher levels - up to 100% for goat and venison. Acid in buttermilk is not strong enough to toughen muscle fibers. Enzymes and calcium, with the osmotic assistance of salt, can penetrate tissues to flavor and tenderize even large cuts of meat. At “Something Different”, our Kicken’ Chicken is buttermilk brined, slathered with prepared mustard (so that the baste will adhere) and slowly cooked on the pit. It is basted a couple of times toward the end of the cooking time and then finished off with a light dusting of our KA spice, an assertive blend of (mostly) Caribbean seasonings. The chicken is moist and the flavors go all of the way through without being too spicy.

    Buttermilk is also the key to making light, moist and tasty biscuits, hotcakes and corn breads. Acids in buttermilk react with baking soda to produce harmless bubbles of CO2 gas for leavening. Proportions and timing are fairly critical: Acidity varies with different buttermilks but the rule of thumb calls for one teaspoon of soda to neutralize two cups of buttermilk. Too much soda results in “off” flavors. The reaction rate decreases over time and increases with temperature so it is best to add the soda just before cooking or keep the batter cold. Corn bread, in one form or another, is the traditional and ideal accompaniment to soups, barbecue and seafood. Unfortunately, when made in sheet pans and served during the day, cornbread tends to dry out and become crumbly (in the country, a popular bedtime snack was dry cornbread soaked in buttermilk). Hush puppies can be made to order fairly quickly and are a popular alternative, but they tend to mess up cooking oil and have become somewhat of a cliché. To solve our cornbread conundrum, we resurrected the homely hoecake, so called because early settlers cooked them on the blade of a hoe over coals. Northerners call them “Johnny cakes”, a corruption of “journey cakes”, because they could be cooked ahead and eaten on the trail. Simply a cornmeal batter fried on a flat surface, hoecakes are good hot or cold, plain or buttered, or with syrup for breakfast. Our version contains chopped onions and jalapenos and, of course, buttermilk and soda.

    Buttermilk Recipes

    By Dan Gill

    Basic, all purpose Brine

    Per gallon of liquid (water, buttermilk or a combination) stir to dissolve:

    1 cup of salt (preferably non-iodized dairy, kosher, or pickling)

    ½ cup of sugar (I like molasses)

    2 tablespoons of ground pepper (I use freshly ground)

    1 tablespoon each of granulated garlic and granulated onion

    Just about any other seasonings or herbs can be added for flavor – I always include a little allspice as homage to the origins of barbecue. Ginger, rosemary and red pepper are popular additions. Use a non-reactive container such as plastic, glass or stainless steel (resealable plastic bags work great for small cuts). Cover completely with brine and refrigerate for about 12 hours. I don’t bother with rinsing or soaking in fresh water before cooking.

    Helen’s Buttermilk Hotcakes

    When I was coming along, Sunday mornings were always a special time at our house. First, Daddy put on some classical music; then Mother started cooking breakfast. Sometimes we had salt herring that we had put down in early spring, but usually Mother made her fantastic buttermilk hotcakes. If Mozart didn’t wake me up, the smell of country ham frying in a cast iron skillet certainly did. Mother was famous for her hotcakes and took them seriously. Every once in a while, we made the trip to an old water-powered gristmill in Essex County to get stone-ground white flour and some whole wheat, seconds, or middlings (intermediate by-products of milling grain) for texture and substance. She had a special ceramic bowl and a special fork that she always used to mix the batter:

    2 cups of white or whole-wheat flour or  1 cup flour plus

    1 cup seconds, middlings, corn meal or buckwheat

    Stir in 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda

    Add 2 eggs and 1 Tablespoon of bacon grease and beat the eggs a little with a fork

    Mix in buttermilk until the batter drips from a spoon

    Heat a lightly oiled griddle until a moistened fingertip sizzles when quickly touched. A little salt sprinkled on the hot griddle, and wiped off, supposedly keeps the hotcakes from sticking. Mother also had a special tablespoon to dip the batter and pour five cakes at a time about four inches in diameter. When the bubble holes from escaping gas stopped closing completely on the upper surface, she flipped the cakes to cook the other side.

    Sometimes, if the mood strikes and I get to the store early enough on Sunday morning, I will put on some good music and mix up a batch or two of Mother’s buttermilk hotcakes.
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2016
  15. idahobangbang

    idahobangbang Newbie

    Wow!  Great info, thanks!

    I did forget to state that I don't rinse or soak the chicken after brining either.  I do dry it off if I'm oiling it though (but now will try mayo)....

    Last edited: Oct 14, 2016

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