I had planned on smoking a whole chicken for our Fourth of July dinner, but my brother-in-law Mark generously suggested we grill some pork tenderloins and brats he had purchased and we did that instead. Actually, I used the smoker that I was gifted by my good friends Lynne and Mike for the pork, and it couldn't have worked out better. Brats on the grill over indirect heat are always a treat, and a fine feast was held.
But, I still had the roaster I had been planning to smoke. So after dark on Monday, I mixed up a brine of 2 liters of water, 1/2 cup of kosher salt and brown sugar each and added a tablespoon of black peppercorns and a handful of rosemary and thyme to the solution. I cut the backbone out the bird with my kitchen shears, and put both the bird and brine solution in a gallon ziploc bag. I squeezed all the air out of the bag before sealing it and plopped it in a tray that I stashed in the refrigerator for 4 (maybe it was 5) hours. I then drained the brine solution from the bag and rinsed the bird before placing it in a new gallon bag, that I left open and deposited it into the fridge. There it stayed for 2 days.
Last night, I fired up the smoker and when the firepot was ready, I put the bird on the grates, bone side down and weighted it down with a brick wrapped in foil. After 2 1/2 hours, Brian and I went to look at the chicken. Where the brick didn't cover the fowl, the skin was a dark brown, and since my instant read thermometer said it was at 170°, I pulled it onto a platter and brought it inside to rest.
The breast meat, due to the brining, was moist and succulent, and Brian ate a leg, a wing and a couple big hunks of breast meat, telling me it was among the best chickens I had ever prepared. I sampled some as well, while packing up the leftovers for the refrigerator, and I have to agree. The brining keeps the meat tender and moist, and the herbs flavor the meat. Butterflying the chicken allows for even cooking of the entire fowl, and the smoking with soaked mesquite chunks and apple wood logs adds that extra special flavor. I think the drying out process helps the skin to crisp nicely as well. It takes a bit of time, but the results are definitely worth it.
A big thanks to Mike and Lynne for the gift of their smoker. My summer grilling schedule just got a bit busier.