We always tend to attribute smoking meat with the “low and slow” method of cooking and I will be the first to tell you that smoking meat the way I, and many others, like to do it is, for sure and without a doubt, a low and slow method in a device made specifically for that purpose.
Having said that, I have folks who constantly ask for ways to smoke meat on a grill or even how to apply more natural smoke flavor while they are grilling and I have to admit that this is a completely valid way of cooking and can still be considered smoking meat.
The mango habanero smoked and grilled chicken in this week's newsletter is a fine example of the best of these two worlds brought together in such a way so as to produce something quite spectacular.
I can call it spectacular because I have seen it, smelled it and tasted it and I can tell you that I got a full blown smokiness in the meat of the chicken as well as some very nice char and grill markings on the outside of the meat that we all love so much. The mango habanero glaze made from my very own barbecue sauce as a base was the icing on the cake and this entire recipe was a hit in every sense of the word.
Here at smoking-meat.com, I am always looking for those gaps in the learning cycle that need to be filled in and I certainly think that using the grill while smoking meat is a big gap that could stand some filling in. I purpose to do a little more of that over the coming weeks and I hope you enjoy the adventure and wherever it leads us!
- Prep Time: 2 hours 30 minutes including brining
- Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
- Smoker Temp: 225 F
- Grill Temp: Medium High
- Meat Finish Temp: 175 F
- Recommended Wood: Hickory
- 12-14 chicken thighs and/or drumsticks (skin on)
- Jeff's rub and sauce (purchase recipes here)
- Large foil pan(s)
- 64 oz Mango juice (or juice mixture containing mango)
- 1/2 cup Kosher Salt
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I highly recommend that you use the rub and sauce on this mango habanero smoked and grilled chicken.
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It amazed me how many folks still do not know about this wonderful thing called brining. Brining in it's most basic form is simply soaking meat in a water/salt solution for x number of hours in order to make it more juicy and/or flavorful.
Without getting into the science too much, when you mix 1 cup of salt per 1 gallon of water or other liquid together and then put poultry down in that mixture, the mixture somehow ends up inside the meat. I call it magic but there is a lot of science that goes into exactly how that happens.
I will not bore you with that now but Google is full of information on it if you care to do some research.
Pretty interesting stuff!
How does brining make the poultry more juicy you might ask.. well, the way I understand it, poultry has a certain amount of moisture within the meat and when you cook it, some of the moisture remains but much of it cooks out.
Brining somehow adds even more moisture to the inside of the meat so that even though much of the original moisture cooks out, since you added even more, you are left with a lot more moisture making the meat a lot more juicy.
And what about the “making it more flavorful” part? Well, same principle. If you use, say, Tabasco as some of your liquid then, you will notice after brining and cooking that you can taste the Tabasco deep within the meat. The brine and whatever is in that brine gets pulled deep into the meat along with the flavors that are present.
It's outstanding and I rarely cook chicken, turkey, or any poultry for that matter, any more without brining it.
Brining is just too easy and the payoff is too big for me to skip it!
One last point to answer a question that I know all of you are wondering about.. how does it not end up too salty? Well, I don't know how it doesn't but it doesn't.
It will be slightly salty and I mean very slightly using the ratios that I recommend but not so much so that I change the salt content in the seasoning or in the gravy or any other part of the meal. It is simply not an issue if you do it the way I recommend and I've been brining poultry for about 10 years now.
Mix 64 oz of the mango juice or juice mixture with 1/2 cup of kosher salt in a plastic or glass pitcher.
Stir until the salt dissolves.
Place the chicken into a very large zip top bag and pour the brine over the chicken.
Seal the zip top bag while pressing out most of the air and place the bag in the fridge for about 2 hours.
Note: I recommend placing the bag of chicken/brine into a foil pan or large bowl to contain any possible leaks.
Mango Habanero Sauce
This is a great thing to do while the chicken is brining.
If you don't have them then you have a couple of options, you can try using a store-bought sauce which would probably work but I can't vouch for it completely or you can just purchase my recipe which is, not only, very good but, it supports the site and keeps the information flowing.
- 1 cup of my barbecue sauce
- 1 mango, cubed
- 1 habanero
- 3/4 cup of mango juice or juice mixture containing mango (I just stole this much from the 64 oz container used for brining and replaced what I took away with water to save having to buy an extra bottle of juice. You can cheat a little like I did or just buy an extra bottle of juice.
Make my sauce per the ingredient list then, when it is finished, mix 1 cup of the sauce, 1 mango (about 1 cup of cubed mango goodness) and 3/4 cup of mango juice together.
Simmer the sauce on low heat until the mango starts to soften and break up some.
This is where it gets fun!
Add the mango sauce to a food processor with 1 habanero (seeds and veins removed) and pulse it until the mixture is fairly smooth.
Caution: Habanero peppers are quite hot and what I like is not necessarily what you'll like so I highly recommend that you add the habanero into the mixture gradually and take small taste tests each time to ensure that you get it right for your taste buds.
Also be sure to wear gloves as you do not want to get the habanero on your hands, eyes, nose, etc. IT WILL BURN!
I only added 1 habanero since we had kids eating but I think 2 habaneros would have been perfect for me and I'm not even a chili head.
This will make somewhere around a pint of mango habanero sauce depending on how many times you taste it and how well you scrape out the food processor when you are done.
Note: If you don't have a food processor, you can use a blender but make sure the habanero is chopped pretty good before you add it in.
Once the chicken has brined for about 2 hours, remove the chicken from the fridge and rinse it really well under cold water.
Lay the chicken onto paper towels to drain and while they are laying there, pat the top and sides with a paper towel to help dry them.
Ultimately we want the chicken skin to be somewhat crispy and drying them out some before you place them on the grates will help.
We want to place the seasoning on the meat itself rather than on the chicken skin and in order to do that, we have to pull back the skin so we can get to the meat.
This is not difficult to do and it also gives you a chance to get rid of any extra fat that might be under or around the skin.
The thighs are a little easier but on drumsticks, you can simply pull the skin down away from the larger end.
Dry the underside of the skin as well as the meat with a paper towel once it's pulled back.
Once seasoned, pull the skin back up around the meat where it was originally.
We are now ready for the smokin' and the grillin'!
Note: You can cook these on whatever grill you have. This tutorial uses a gas grill but if you want to use a Weber charcoal grill or even a hibachi, you can make it work by placing the coals on one side and then placing the chicken on the side of the grate opposite the coals. You will have to experiment to figure out how many coals it takes to maintain 225 degrees with the lid closed.
To get any gas grill ready to cook, you simply:
- Light all of the burners
- Make sure the grates are clean using a grill brush
- Wipe down the grates with a damp paper towel to make sure there are no little pieces of the grill brush left on the grate.
- Wipe some cooking oil onto the grates for good measure.
Since we are wanting to SMOKE the chicken for a while at a low temperature on the grill, we will turn all of the burners off except for one. My grill has 4 burners so I left the one on the far right on low and turned all of the others OFF.
If you have 3 burners or only 2.. it's still the same thing. Leave one burner on the side ON and all of the others go OFF.
I clipped one of the probes from my Maverick ET-732 to the bottom of the warming/overflow grate so I could get a good read on the actual temperatures. Grill thermometers are renown for being off by as much as 50 to 100 degrees so I just don't trust them.
If you have a way to verify the actual temperature, it's a great idea.
Introducing the Amazen Pellet Smoker (AMNPS)
Several years ago, a buddy of mine from the forum invented a device that uses sawdust/pellets to create smoke. The device, once filled up and lit can produce smoke for up to 10-11 hours depending on the particular size that you are using.
The first ones that he made used sawdust and they worked really great. Some of you may remember my cheese smoking tutorial where I used his device with sawdust.
His new and improved units, now use pellets as well as sawdust and they work extremely well.
You simply fill it full (or partially full depending on how long you are needing smoke) of pellets.
I had a few hickory pellets in a bag and I finished them off by filling 1-1/4 rows.
With a small butane torch, I held the flame to the pellets via the hole on one end until it became a bright red cherry and was flaming real good.
The flame went out a few minutes later.
See the smoke coming out of that thing? Beautiful!
So why is this device so wonderful you might ask?
It is a great way to create smoke without creating a lot of heat. Perfect for cold smoking and perfect for adding some smoke to whatever you are grilling as well.
Oh.. and by the way, if you are interested in owning one of these, they are not expensive and his customer service is off the charts good.
Check out his products at http://www.smoking-meat.com/amazen
I just sat it right on the grate, the side that had the burners OFF and next to some holes in the side of the grill where it could get a little air. Like any other burning thing, it has to have a little oxygen to keep it going.
So now we have 225 degree heat on the grill, plenty of smoke so where is the meat?
Place the chicken on the side of the grill that has the burners OFF. You can put the chicken fairly close together to conserve space as long as there is just a little bit of air space between them to allow the smoke to get to everything.
You will notice that all of the seasoning is on the meat and under the skin. None is on the skin itself.
Let the chicken slow smoke for about 3 hours keeping the temperature at about 225 degrees.
Keep an eye on the internal temperature of the chicken as well.. once it gets to about 145 degrees, it is ready for the grill. This could happen sooner than mine did depending on weather, wind, and other variables.
Remove the Amazen Smoker from the grill grate.
Turn all of the burners on and all the way to HIGH for a few minutes to heat the grill up quickly.
Move the chicken to the side where the burner has been on since it will be the warmest starting out.
Give the chicken a few minutes to start sizzling then brush on your first coating of the mango habanero sauce.
Just a light coat will do.
Once the grill has heated up considerably, turn it down to a medium setting.
Keep a close eye on the chicken and when it starts to get some good marks on the bottom it is time to flip it over.
Note: Mine was ready to flip in about 15 minutes. Then another 15 minutes or so and they were done for a total grill time of 30 minutes
Once flipped, baste this side as well with the mango habanero sauce.
Once again, wait for some good grill marks, not too dark but just right.
Flip the chicken once again and brush on more sauce for that final finish.
Check the chicken with a super-fast thermapen if you have one and when they reach about 175 degrees or so, move them to the warming rack or put them in a pan covered with foil to keep them hot but to stop the cooking.
Note: normally chicken is cooked to about 165 degrees but I like to grill these thighs and legs to a little higher temperatures to bring in some extra tenderness and because they are brined and because they are thighs and legs (more fat in the meat) they can handle it without drying out.
Be ready to serve the chicken just as soon as it gets finished.
One of my guests said, “Wow, how did you get the chicken so juicy!” I just smiled.
I love to layer on flavors and especially when I use components that compliment the meat without overpowering it. I could taste my rub on the meat and I could taste the mango habanero sauce on the outside. I could also taste the mango juice on the inside of the chicken from the brining process.
All of these components worked flawlessly together to make a meal that still has me drooling just thinking about it.
I recommend you try this at your house.. and very soon!
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