Smoked for first time on WSM - too smokey! - BBQ Central

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Old 06-22-2014, 08:51 AM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2014
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Smoked for first time on WSM - too smokey!

Greetings all,

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,

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Old 06-22-2014, 12:01 PM   #2
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Well thats why happens when folks buy books from dumb yankees from Chicago. 250 is too low to get decent skin on chicken..try 350. Chicken skin is a barrier to flavor. Got to get some seasoning under it. Try less wood. Sounds like you were burning a nasty in not getting enough air to it. Give it some air. Also aint ruling out nasty charcoal. Never heard of that brand. Ozark Oak lump is the very best..but doubt you can find any. Forget the cheery wood. The Lord gave us that stuff to make furniture. Whole chickens need to be split into halves in order to cook right. Second best is spatchcocked..if you got to leave the birds whole cook them face down the entire time and dont spill the just which accumlates on top of the breast. Now Rotessing is the best for birds did you get a rotess with the WSM? Keep us posted.

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Old 06-22-2014, 12:16 PM   #3
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Generally, the skin when smoking is not crispy, unless it kisses the grill after the smoke for a few minutes. Normally when i smoke chicken I only allow smoke to hit it for about 1 hour to 90 minutes then I wrap in foil. Foul does not need alot of smoke. As for your chicken being bland, I take it you used not rub, or seasoning. When I smoke just plain old chicken, I take a stick of butter and mix it with:
1tsp salt
1tsp pepper
1/2tsp thyme
1/2tsp sage
1/4tsp garlic powder
1/4tsp onion powder
1/4tsp poultry seasoning
I will mix all of that together, then rub it under the skin of the breast and thighs. I also will stuff the birds cavity with an onion that has been quartered, along with a few whole cloves of garlic.

A nice trick that one of my Chef friends taught me was to rub the skin down with cooking oil, and on the cooking oil rub in about 3 or 4 TBSP of Kosher salt.

As for the seasoning of your wood, normally I would let it set for a year before using it, but as little a six months is good depending on how big the pieces are. Actually the more you cook on your WSM, the more it will acquire a better and richer flavor on your food. Your charcoal does not really add anything (in my opinion). You should let anything you take off grill, pan, smoker, whatever, rest for atleast 10 minutes to let the juices reconstitute back into the meat.

And really B-Dub, dumb Yankees? Some people never learn.
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Old 06-22-2014, 01:16 PM   #4
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I was hanging with ya till we got to using tinfoil on a chicken. That is a highly un-natural act. I keep getting an aroma of antagonists in the War of Northern Aggression. Who has the rope and hog knife?
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Old 06-22-2014, 10:28 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by bigwheel View Post
250 is too low to get decent skin on chicken..try 350. Chicken skin is a barrier to flavor. Got to get some seasoning under it. Try less wood.
This much of BW's answer I totally agree with. Not sure that chicken is not better done on the grill rather than the smoker. I am a fan of spatchcocking. BTW Welcome to The Forum!
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Old 06-22-2014, 11:03 PM   #6
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Leave the water pan dry, wrap it in aluminum foil for easy cleanup, and run your WSM hot for chicken. For best flavor on chicken brine or inject it and rub it a couple of hours before you plan on cooking it. Easy on the wood chunks, chicken takes on smoke very easy and can get oversmoked pretty fast.

Low and slow smoked whole chicken are good too especially if your just going to pull it but the skin will be rubbery and you'll have to ditch it.
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Old 08-09-2014, 12:38 PM   #7
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Hi all,

It's taken me a while to get back here. Thanks for the comments

The chicken that I've done since have been MUCH better. I think my issue was: too much wood and putting the chicken on while the charcoal was still starting to burn (I had lots of the wrong color smoke coming out).

Thanks again,
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Old 08-12-2014, 12:26 PM   #8
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Sounds like your swinging up hill rapdily. Congrats. On the water smokers I like just a little water in the pan..and crank up the heat as insanely hot as it will go. If it takes longer than an hour to get four halves to 175 in the "thigh" that is too long. When done..wrap in foil and stick in the insulated box for at least an hour. That lets the residual heat clear up any bloody joints. Keep us posted. Don't be poking any holes in the breastes.

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