Apple & Hickory Grilled Chicken

After several straight weekends of fun with the WSM, I felt like throttling things back a little with some simple grilling on the Weber Performer. Bone-in chicken is one of my favorites for grilling therapy, as you can drive things as simple or complicated as you want.  Regardless of whether you’re going smoke or no smoke, marinade or a simple spice rub, grilling chicken is always a nice way to spend an hour-plus in front of the grill.

For Sunday’s dinner, we went with four bone-in chicken breasts, and two thigh-leg quarters. Unlike steaks, I always grill more chicken than we’ll use that evening, as the Mrs. likes to use leftovers for different dishes throughout the week.  This was more chicken than the Weber could accommodate in an indirect-heat configuration, so I also fired up the Smokey Joe for the thigh-leg quarters.

For both grills, I used about a chimney and a half of Stubb’s briquets. In the past I’ve largely used hardwood lump charcoal for chicken due to its significantly higher burn temp, but Stubb’s will get me to 600F+, in my experience a great temperature for poultry cooking.  I also decided to use some of the smaller wood chunks from the Fruita wood shipments for a pop of good smoke flavor.  Most times I’ll soak the chips in water for a couple hours beforehand, but in this case, after placing the meat on the grill over indirect heat, I added a 50/50 mix of a few hickory and apple chunks to the hot coals for quick and voluminous smoke. Within 10-15 minutes, the chicken skin had a nice smoke luster.

I used to maintain a slow but steady stream of wood chips in my early grilling days, thinking ‘the more smoke the better!’, but this resulted in an over-infusion of smoke oils and flavor in the meat and skin. Nowadays I’ll focus a good punch of smoke at the onset and let things settle in as the rest of the chicken comes up to 165F, with much better results.

chk1

I’ve also learned that saucing the chicken shouldn’t happen too early in the process.  I remember bathing chicken thighs in BBQ sauce before the meat went on the grill, and flipping sauce-charred links of meat over sauce-globbed grills – a hot mess.  Once the chicken is reading 155F on a digital thermometer, I’ll apply one even layer of sauce and close the grill lid for 5 -7 minutes of radiant indirect heat, allowing the sauce to settle and caramelize.  For this grilling, I used a local favorite – Kinder’s Mild BBQ Sauce; not too sweet, not too spicy or smoky, a great all-around sauce.

chk2

All in all, this kind of chicken grilling is pretty simple.  The smoke adds a good punch of flavor, and the sauce isn’t a burned-on, blackened mess of carbonized sugars, but rather a good layer of sweet and spice. We paired the chicken with my wife’s excellent onion-roasted potatoes and a side salad (the crispy hot dogs were for the boy, I can’t grill anything without him requesting some nice blackened Bar S dogs). I also paired the meal with an excellent Ballast Point Pale Ale, which I’ll review in a separate post.  

Thanks for reading!

Colin 

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