While the pellet grill hasn't been without its own unique challenges, I've really enjoyed it, and this smoked chicken entree is one of many good examples. Why? Because I can do both, smoke AND grill.
Typically one of the challenges of a whole smoked chicken is that to get the hint of smoky flavoring into the chicken, it needs to be bathed in smoke for a long period of time at a low temperature (typically around 225 degrees for three to four hours, depending on the size of the chicken). By doing this, you end up with a great smoky flavor but chicken skin that is rubbery, which no one likes. Nothing good about rubbery chicken skin.
There is nothing fancy about this dish. Its roots originate from the Italian cookbook "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan. One of her favorite chicken dishes is simply called "roast chickens with lemons," and just as it sounds, it's simply a chicken stuffed with two lemons and baked. The lemons permeate the chicken as it roasts. I took this same recipe and decided to smoke it.
All you need to do is take two lemons, quarter them and stuff them in the cavity of your chicken. I liberally sprinkled my favorite poultry rub on the skin of the chicken and placed it in the smoker set at 225 degrees breast side down. The reason you set it in the smoker breast side down is the breast side has a tendency to dry out quicker since it is leaner. This approach allows the juice to flow downward into the breasts and thereby minimizes moisture evaporation, keeping the breast meat moist. After a couple hours, I flipped the chicken breast side up and cranked up the temperature to 400 degrees until the internal temperature hit 160 degrees. This baking at 400 degrees is what allowed the skin to become wonderful and crispy. If you do not have a pellet grill capable of this, smoke the chicken normally and then finish it off in the oven at 375-400 degrees to crisp up the skin.
We prepared three chickens in this manner and now have leftovers for the week which could include chicken tacos, chicken wraps for lunch, BBQ chicken pizza, smoked chicken salad and a nice pasta dish as well. One will be used to make some delicious chicken broth. Give it a try!
Dave Lobeck is a financial advisor by day and a BBQ enthusiast on nights and weekends. He is also a Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) judge. You can contact Dave with your BBQ and grilling questions at www.BBQ-My-Way.com.