Everybody loves barbecued chicken, but all those thighs and drumsticks demand a lot of fussy attention, and they cook too fast to soak up that rich, smoky flavor. The solution, says Ryan Farr, author of Whole Beast Butchery and the chef-owner at 4505 Burgers & BBQ in San Francisco, is smoking the whole chicken. “Whole chickens are cheaper than parts, and it’s easier to get crispy skin,” Farr says. Plus, the meat stays juicier when you cook it in bigger pieces. Farr punches up the taste by brining the chicken first, then rubbing it all over with harissa, a North African chili paste.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
- 1 large chicken (5 to 6 lbs)
- 2 tbsp harissa
- chicken brine
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup salt
- 1 head garlic, cut in half
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- ¼ cup honey
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 sprigs parsley
- 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
Directions (Cook time: three hours)
1. The day before, put all brine ingredients into a large pot and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve salt, then let cool. Place chicken in cool brine; refrigerate overnight.
2. Remove chicken from brine and dry with paper towels. (If you have time, let chicken dry in the fridge for several hours. This will help the skin crisp during cooking.)
3. Preheat smoker or grill to low heat (around 200°). Rub harissa over outside of chicken, then salt liberally. Set chicken on smoker grate, breast side up, and close lid. Check meat’s internal temperature after one hour. It’s done when a thermometer inserted into a thigh reads 160°, typically 2½ hours.
4. Remove chicken from smoker and let rest 45 minutes.
Remove the backbone by making cuts with poultry shears up both sides of it. Flip chicken over, and cut up the middle of the breast to get two equal halves.
Farr serves his barbecued chicken with a fresh salad and what he calls an Alabama white sauce. “Just mix up some mayo, chopped pickled jalapeños, and some of that pickling juice,” Farr says.
“Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce, some ground coriander, black pepper, and salt, and mix it all together.”
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