After a few times posting about pressure cooking, I figured it's high time to do a post about smoker cooking.
We got into smoker cooking a little over a year ago when we bought a Traeger Professional Grill. We've used it lots and love it. It's definitely a different form of cooking that takes some practice, but once you've got some of the basics down, the end product is fantastic.
The one thing about smoker cooking is that you have to plan ahead It's not the kind of thing where at 6:00 p.m. you decide you want a smoked meal and it's ready by 7:00 (there are some options, such as smoked pizza, but that's another blog).
The bird I had in hand was an 8 lb organic chicken (pretty much a small turkey). At 12:30 p.m. I prepared the chicken by first butterflying it, or spatchcocked as they would say in Britain, which is my preferred term. I cut the bird down the middle of the back and flopped it open. Normally you would remove the back, but given my hurry (lame excuse) I opted not to, as it wouldn't affect the end product apart from appearance - so perhaps this was a semi-spatchcocked bird? I rubbed a sweet dry rub all over the breast side of the bird and let it sit for 15 minutes to get tacky. The dry rub was a Traeger rub that came with our grill and is fantastic, so I don't have the recipe, but I think I may have recently found one that might be comparable and will report back sometime in the future if it's as good.
While I prepared the bird, my husband prepared the smoker (no stereotypes here!). He filled the bin with a mix of Cherry and Alder pellets. The pellets are the fuel that the Traeger smoker uses. The cherry and alder options are a lighter smoke which I find works best with poultry as stronger smokes are too overpowering. He turned the temperature setting to 450F* and let it heat up for 15 minutes. We then turned the temperature setting to 250F and slipped the semi-spatchcocked bird onto the grill.
This is the nice part of smoking. Once the meat is on there's relatively little work to do, if any. In the case of the extra-large organic chicken, the only relative work over the next 5.5 hours was to spritz it with apple juice every 45 minutes to help it remain moist. This is key, as the first time I did a chicken on the smoker, I simply let it cook low and slow and it got very dry.
The end product was amazing. Incredible taste. Not too smoky. Juicy, but not in an icky chicken way. And the rub added incredible flavour - even the crispy skin which sometimes grosses me out was delicious.
*One of the best things about the Traeger Grills is that that they can heat up to a high temperature and can have a temperature gauge that provides specific temperature information beyond low and high. If you ever consider one, I highly recommend this option.