|left, with glaze ~ right, without|
Now for you folks who are not the barbecuing and grilling enthusiast, this might seem like a very long list of ingredients, a lengthy process, a lot of steps to take in getting chicken on the table. But it is not really, in fact, you do not need to do all four, but it is sho 'nuff good. Most items you should have in your cabinets and as for the time taken, well like most delectably well eats, time really means little when the foods are so enjoyed.
In barbecuing some chicken breasts last weekend, I used my go-to brine, rub and mop that I use for most poultry whether grilling, barbecuing, baking or roasting. This might be the first time I actually wrote it down as I prepared each step. Of course, I normally change out a few ingredients from time to time depending on the outcome of the meal. Mexican or Western, South Seas or Oriental, Southern, Cajun or Creole - whatever you fancy, you can change out a few spices to better suit the overall taste. I also added a glaze to half of the chicken at the end.
There are times that I might use a brine, mop and glaze, then there are other times that I do the rub, mop and glaze, or maybe just the rub and mop. Notice the mop is always in the mix. There is no only one way to outdoor cooking. Today I did all four with delicious results and used hickory and cherry chips in a smoker box. Here are the 4 steps of cooking poultry and how I barbecued the latest chicken. Enjoy!
Pump in Moisture by Brining
Brine poultry solely to aid in moisture retention and marinate adding a slight level of flavor in impoving the overall quality. Folks say once you brine a bird for barbecuing or grilling, you'll never do it another way. Well, there are many ways to barbecue which is cooking over indirect heat. Grilling is cooking over direct heat and most birds I know prefer low, slow indirect cooking times, that is, unless you liked yours blackened. I like to brine in the solution below as well as use a buttermilk brine sometimes too. Both I think are exceptional. And then there are times that I do not brine at all. In other words, it is a preference how you go about cooking your bird and the desired outcome you want.
My All-Purpose Poultry Brine
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 to 2/3 cup Kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon course ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cumin (for western flavor) or mustard seed (for all other)
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic toes, minced
1 large bay leaf, torn into thirds
2 cups tap water (room temperature)
2 to 4 cups cold (iced) water
juice of 2 lemons, limes or small sweet oranges, optional and depending on outcome of taste
The ratio of salt to water might vary depending on how much water it will take to cover the poultry. That is why there is a differential in amounts. Whole chickens will require more than cut-up or quarter pieces and a turkey might require doubling the recipe.
Combine vinegar, salt, sugar, pepper, cumin or mustard, onion, garlic, torn bay leaf and 2 cups of tap water in a medium bowl or saucepan. Heat in microwave or on stove until warm and aromatic. And to sealable bag or container to which the poultry will marinate in and add the cold water. Place poultry submerging in marinade entirely. Seal and refrigerate desired length of time, see below. (I placed the chicken breasts in the fridge for 4 hours.)
Note about Brining Times: Do not leave meats in a brine for long periods as the salt and acid will break down and overly tenderize the meat. A good rule of thumb is the following:
Whole Chicken - 6 to 8 hours
Flattened Chicken - 4 to 6 hours
Cut up Chicken - 2 to 4 hours
Cornish Hens - 1 to 2 hours
Whole Turkey - 20 to 24 hours
Game - 2 to 18 hours depending on size
Improve the Taste by Adhering a Rub
Use a rub to add flavor, to wake up the senses, crisp the surface and to aid tenderizing a bit. Think of it as a herbal/salt/acidic dry type of marinade. Using a rub enhances the taste of cooked chicken when the herbs and spices are cooked onto the outside of the poultry which also creates a barrier of sorts. As the meat heats up, the moisture from the poultry is drawn into the rub and a flavorsome crust is formed and properly cooked with a sop, will add so much taste that many times, a finishing sauce or glaze is not needed. Adding a glaze early in the cooking process will burn whereas a rub does not, unless it contains too much sugars or is cooked over too hot of heat.
1/3 cup Hungarian paprika
2 tablespoons course ground black peppercorns
2 tablespoons seasoning salt (omit or reduce if using with a salty brine)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon dehydrated garlic bits
1 tablespoon dehydrated onion flakes
1 tablespoon Coleman dry mustard
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried crushed thyme, tarragon or rosemary depending on desired taste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Combine ingredients in a sealed shaker, container or jar for storage. Store in a dark, cool cupboard.
When ready to use, pat dry the poultry (inside and out if whole) and coat with the rub. Let rest for at least an hour to reach room temperature or not more than 6 hours refrigerated for cut up poultry and 35 hours for whole birds.
To cook outside, sear the rub onto the poultry by placing it over medium heat (350 degrees F.) for just a few minutes followed with off heat cooking at a lower barbecuing range of 250 degrees F. until chicken is cooked (about 2 1/2 hours for the pieces today) and the outside is nice and brown. Use the sop during the last 2 hours of cooking time to baste the chicken adding flavor and moisture.
To cook inside either by means of baking or roasting, after allowing the rub to rest on the chicken for at least an hour (overnight for whole birds), cook at desired oven temperature until internally done (160-165 degrees for me). Of course, depending on the poultry, it's size and whether or not it has been brine will determine the length of cooking time. Do not overcook poultry with a rub, remove after it comes to the correct temperature and is a beautiful, roasted color.
Moisten the Poultry with a Flavorful Sop
My All Purpose Poultry Sop (Mopping Sauce)
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 lemon, quartered
3 garlic toes, crushed
1 teaspoon Sriracha (Rooster Sauce)
1 to 2 cups water (depending on size of poultry and time of cooking)
Add ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until butter melts and sauce is hot. Remove and squeeze out the lemons prior to using. Use to mop on the poultry every 30 minutes or so to keep the outside moist. It is important that you mop and not brush when using a mopping solution as you do not want to wipe away any of the rub.
Finish with a Tasty Glaze
There are some folks who insist on their barbecued or grilled foods having a sticky, finger-licking sauce that aids in adding further taste and makes eating such foods so darn messy that in many BBQ joints the plates come with a bib. A good BBQ sauce added at the last turn or two of cooking bakes and caramelizes on the surface creating a most delectable outcome.
BBQ Sauce of choice
OR this easy standby:
1/2 cup of your favorite spicy barbecue sauce
1/2 cup of jam or marmalade
Heat in a small saucepan until blended and smooth. Mop on the chicken during the last turn during the cooking process coating all sides. Allow the glaze to cook and adhere to the poultry but be careful, the sweet glaze will burn quickly.
Now, sit down and enjoy tender, moist poultry like we do, every time.