We are now in year 4 of raising our own chickens. We started with layers only as the wife grabbed any ‘dent and ding’ bird that was around and with COVID, there were all kinds of folks getting into the chicken game and then just as quickly getting out, we had lots of opportunity.
We then decided to host a local farmer who taught chicken husbandry classes (you can check out my pod interview with her here) at our farm where we absorbed the process of raising “meat” birds (commonly called broilers) from chick to table so to speak.
We set out to do it ourselves and now are now in full meat-bird mode. Every year we sit down in winter and plan when our chicks will arrive and then order them (yes they come in the mail at 1-3 days old – no joke) and raise them for 6-8 weeks and then have a prescheduled butcher day. I even created a butcher day playlist that includes songs like: “Circle of Life,” “This is the End,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Welcome to the Jungle” and of course “Rooster” as well as so many other meaningful songs.
As a BBQ fan and someone who has made many Sunday roasted chickens, I really wanted a smoked chicken program that I could take 1-3 chickens that we raised and harvested and then pulled apart and ate. I found something I liked and you can use the meat for a meal, chicken salad, chicken tacos, chicken soup and about a zillion other things. Make it over the weekend and you can chicken you can pull from all the rest of the week.
First, the brine.
Second, the smoke.
1 gallon water
3⁄4 cup kosher salt 1⁄2 cup sugar 2 lemons halved 1 onion coarsely chopped
1/2 head of garlic – smashed, skins OK
Optional additional seasonings as desired could include bay leaf, sage, rosemary, thyme, other leafy herbs. Combine all the ingredients in a large pot and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled. Add the birds and weigh down with a plate to keep fully submerged for a minimum of 2 hours and up to a day. Remove, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry with paper towels.
2 whole, brined chickens
4 cups BBQ sauce – your favorite
Sprinkle chickens evenly with rub and then smoke for 90 minutes at 225-250 degrees.
Take BBQ Sauce and slather and then let chickens smoke for at least another hour or when temp registers at 165 degrees at thickest part of the birds.
Let rest and serve BBQ sauce on side or when cool, take a part and fill up your fridge
Note: You can skip the BBQ sauce step if you don’t want those flavors to compete with a future dish.