I bought an 18.5" WSM yesterday. I was planning to season the smoker by running a full load of charcoal through as hot as possible, then another couple at ~225F with fatty meat scraps, however, I broke down and threw on a couple of chicken quarters after only a couple of hours burning that first load.
I put them on the top rack and they cooked for about 3 hours at about 250F (according to the WSM's temp gage). When done the look of the meat was amazing (beautiful color) and it was incredibly juicy.
However, on the down side:
- the skin wasn't crispy at all (probably because I added some water to the pan halfway through the cook)
- the smoke flavor, in general, was very over powering
- the meat itself was rather bland
As a heat source I used something called Gourmet Lump Charcoal (Mali's) and added perhaps 4 small fist sized pieces of apple wood. I also, after a couple of hours, added about 24 oz of water to the pan (which had been empty). The smoker had been burning for about 2 hours, when I finally added the chicken.
Let me say too that I'm a total novice to smoking and, actually, eating smoked foods. Though I grew up in the south, I only had bbq a couple of times (I'm excluding grilled meat of which I've eaten a mountain's worth
So, I guess some possibilities are:
- Put on less apple wood next time (it might just be as simple as that)
- Perhaps my apple wood (cut from my own apple trees) isn't dry/seasoned enough? I have maple and cherry that I'll try at some point.
- As the WSM seasons more, the smokiness will go down (not sure if this makes sense since it seems that the purpose of seasoning a WSM is to lower its temperature a bit)
- My charcoal is adding lots of smoke flavor (I don't think this should be the case)
- This is just what smoked chicken tastes like and I'll get used to it (hard to believe; just having the plate nearby was smoking me out; incredibly concentrated smoke essence
- Perhaps letting the chicken "rest" (i.e., air out) after taking it off the grill would be good?
- Perhaps my "rub" was flawed (actually all I did was lightly sprinkle the chicken with ground pepper, garlic powder and some red pepper flakes)
I'm supposed to smoke 4 whole chickens today for a dinner with friends tonight. I think I'm going to leave the birds whole which, I'd think, should minimize the smokiness (less surface area?)
I suspect the flavor of the actual meat will be much improved tonight as we'll finally be using our own home raised pastured broilers. We raise about 75 every year, but ran out a couple of months ago and have been using store bought chicken. The difference in texture and flavor between our birds (given high quality feed and lots of opportunity to graze (bugs, clover, plantain, etc...) and store bought is huge.
I have a copy of "Low & Slow" by Gary Wiviott; I'll read his chapter(s) on chicken; perhaps the answer is in there
Thanks for any feedback or advice,