Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chicken Breast - Smokenator style!

Those poor chicken breasts didn't stand a chance.

You might recall that I got the Smokenator this week and promised I'd be breaking it in soon. Well today was the day. The Smokenator, in all its glory, took it to 8 unsuspecting chicken breasts (with bone, skin, and rib meat for those keeping track).

The meat was prepared by first removing the skin since I don't eat it and wouldn't want it getting in the way of the smoke anyway. I then used some of my Base Rub minus the chili powder on 4 of them. The other 4 got a dose of Emeril's Essence that I mixed up today. I let them sit for about 2 hours in the fridge.

I fired up the Weber kettle with Smokenator installed according to Don's excellent instructions, starting with 24 Kingsford briquettes. I also added a couple chunks of Hickory for smoke.

One problem I had was that I hadn't gone out and bought some more thermometers yet. I had either misplaced my old ones or they'd stopped working and I was in need. But being the rebel I am I pressed on anyway.

The Weber was smoking real good when I put the chicken on the grill, bones-down. I set my timer for 20 minutes and headed out to the store to buy some thermometers. Relax. I left my wife in charge of the timer. She was instructed to check the Smokenator water pan when it went off and add water.

Everything worked out with the wife acting as water-girl. When I returned everything was still intact.

Don (Smokenator Don for those not keeping track) suggests that you run the Smokenator without food once just to get an idea of how things go, temperatures, etc. Well, remember where I mentioned that I was a rebel? Ya, I didn't heed Don's warning and decided this chicken would be the test.

Needless to say, Don had some good advice. This is my first time using briquettes. I usually use lump charcoal. The biggest challenge I had was working with the briquets to keep a consistent 225-250 temperature at the food level. I was averaging around 200-210 with the top vent on the kettle full open. I think I was supposed to close it down some once it reached the target temp. but I didn't. I was afraid it would cool off. I think I'll open the bottom vent a little next time and see if that helps.

I checked the water every 20 minutes. I added wood chunks every hour or so as well as a few fresh briquettes (usually 6-8). I didn't touch the chicken other than to check it's temp. with an instant read thermometer. I never turned it over.

After the chicken had been cooking for about 3 hours I decided to finish it off on the gas grill. I just cranked it on with one burner active so I could have consistent indirect heat to "bake" the rest of the way. This probably wasn't necessary but my family was getting anxious and even though I had achieved consistent heat in the kettle it was still low and slow.

I didn't take any pictures but the breasts came out looking wonderful. The smoke had definitely penetrated and given it a great flavor. The Essence style chicken had a bit of a bite to it due to the pepper in the Essence. If you like your barbecue with a little spice and are looking for a nice all-around rub, Emeril's Essence works great. The chicken rubbed with my Base Rub was also great but much more mild in flavor.

I told you I had 8 breasts of chicken. The family at 3 (one got vultured before we even sat down). I shredded the remaining chicken and stored it in the fridge. Tomorrow night I'll be making smoked chicken enchiladas for dinner. Those will be awesome! The rest of the chicken will be added to salads, quesadillas, etc.

I can't say enough about Don and his Smokenator. It is a simple system that really turns the Weber kettle into an even more versatile piece of barbecue gear. Don's instructions are excellent and a great guideline to getting started using your Weber kettle as a water smoker.

Next on the Smokenator agenda will be a Tri-Tip roast I think. I'll let you know. Whatever it is it's going to kick ass because that's what the Smokenator and Weber kettle do!

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