Introduction: Hickory Smoked Chicken Thighs
This is my method for a sure fire chicken grilling hit. It starts with brining, goes on to smoking, and ends with the grill. It takes a day or two of preparation. All of my meat eating guests have asked how I do it. Now you get to see it step by step. Let's go!
Step 1: Brining
The first step to cooking meat on a grill is to brine or marinade. For chicken, it is always about the brine. Start with a big pot of water and get it boiling. I have never taken measurements of the salt and sugar added, and have never had poor results. The rule of thumb I follow is to add the salts until the water saturates. A four second pour of salt and a two second pour of sugar should do the trick. I usually add as the water is boiling until the water doesn't accept any more.
You will now have to wait until the brine cools before adding the meat. I start this on the morning before the day I am going to grill. I then go to work, and when I get home, put the chicken in the pot, and then put in the fridge to grill the next day.
The next day, drain the thighs and then put the strainer back into the pot for carrying into the backyard.
Step 2: Hickory Smoking
To add the flavor, I use a Little Chief smoker. The pan takes wood chips and heats them with an electric coil. I have used fine ground wood chips and chunks, but prefer the chips for this step. If all you can find are chunks, then soak with water and let this step go a little longer.
With the chips, I do it two times, not once, not three times. Twice! Once is too little, three is too much. This step takes two to four hours. This step does not rely on your latitude or attitude. Three times is too much. Trust me, I've been doing this for a while. Even my dog has resisted the three time tests.
I shake the pan of chips at the half hour point. (This works for salmon and pork as well)
Step 3: Get the Grill Started.
The best grill uses charcoal. Propane is OK if that's all you have. Never use lighter fluid! It will ruin your food. This step shows my chimney starting the grill.
Use two full pieces of newspaper and stuff into the bottom. Turn it over and load the charcoal. Light a few spots and watch it smoke. Within a minute the smoke should increase as the lower coals catch fire. Very soon the smoke will waft from the top of your chimney. After ten minutes the coals on top will start getting red hot. Get ready to load the Weber!
Step 4: Cleaning the Grill
Pour the coals onto two sides of your grill. This will allow for indirect cooking later. For now, the coals are hot! Put the grill grate back on and clean it. Move it 90 degrees and clean again. Then pull it off and add your aluminum boat.
Make this out of heavy duty aluminum, no skimping here. The sides should be 1 inch. If you cheat, the boat will fail and the coals will catch your chicken drippings on fire and you will not be able to stop your BBQ from being a char-fest.
If you need to look; Lift your grill slowly. Pop up a side, let it vent, and then slowly lift to the side. This will prevent an updraft from covering your food with ashes.
Step 5: Grilling Time.
Add the chicken to the middle of the grill. Your aluminum boat will catch all the fats so you won't need to worry about watching the grill. Go talk with your guests at this point. There is enough time here to play a game. Go have fun!.
The best part about indirect cooking is that it is done in a range of times. If you pull the lid after one hour, it is pretty close to the same as pulling it at an hour and a half. If you leave the lid on for a good coal burn, that will be about an hour and a half.
Because you've done the brine, the chicken will still be moist. The hickory smoke will add the flavor and nobody will ask for bbq sauce. Add corn or potatoes to the side of the grill halfway through.
Enjoy having your friends over. Remember, life is short, eat well.