As a regular reader you may recall that I ventured into the pellet grill/smoker camp this past winter after a lot of due diligence and debate. Specifically, I bought a Green Mountain Grill Daniel Boone Prime Plus. And no, I’m not receiving any compensation from them, which allows me to be brutally honest with you, the reader. Let me give you an example. I had a friend call me yesterday asking for my advice on pellet grills. He shared with me that all he cooks/grills are burgers, brats, steaks and chicken breasts. I immediately told him a pellet grill is not for him. It’s really meant for someone who wants to cook “low and slow” for the most part, although you can grill at high temperatures, well….kind of. 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. It’s 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 to 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 of the carcasses (I hate that word) will be used to make some delicious chicken broth. Give it a try!