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Spatchcock BBQ Chicken

SPATCHCOCK! No, that’s not a dirty word or an insult or anything along those lines, this isn’t that type of blog.  Spatchcock is simply the term used to describe a chicken, turkey, or any other type of whole bird that has been split along the spine (removing the spine) to allow it to open up and lie flat.

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I love whole chickens. Whole chickens give you the ability to prepare both white and dark meat at the same time while the bone and skin give the meat a huge boost in flavour.

The idea behind spatchcocking a chicken is it allows you to cook the chicken fully on the bone as you would with a whole chicken but much faster. The body cavity (where we usually jam stuffing) insulates the bird during cooking.  This insulation slows down the cooking process and also makes the bird cook unevenly.  Spatchcocking removes this cavity.   Birds are weirdly shaped with big pieces of meat intertwined with much smaller pieces.  This process helps the breast and dark meat sections to cook at relatively the same pace.

To start, you are going to need a whole chicken, a very sharp knife or kitchen scissors and a cutting board.  Safety tip; use sharp knives!  People are afraid of sharp knives as they think they are going to lop off a finger or an entire appendage.  If you are careful, a sharp knife is actually safer than a dull knife.  Dull knives force you to push harder than needed, which increases the chance of the knife slipping and cutting you.  If your cutting board has a tendency to slide around while cutting with it try putting a slightly damp kitchen towel underneath it.  This should stop the sliding.

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Place the bird so the spine is resting on your cutting board.  Either with your knife or your scissors cut up either side of the spine and remove. **Please note that the chicken in the picture above is actually the wrong way up.  Please do not attempt to cut it in this manner unless you are using scissors.**

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Note: in the above picture the spine is still attached on the left side.

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Now that the spine is gone take both hands and push down firmly on both breasts at the same time.  You will probably feel and hear some snapping as this will break some of the rib bones and allow the chicken to lay as flat as possible.

Season the chicken liberally on both sides with your favourite BBQ Seasoning.  I like to do this the day before I cook the bird or at least a few hours ahead.  This allows the spice blend to really penetrate the meat.

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To cook, preheat one side of your BBQ to medium heat but leave the other side off. If using charcoal, have one side of the grill with a bed of coals that have fully lit and are fully grey, then wait 10 minutes, no charcoal at all on the other side.  Cook skin side up for 10 minutes with the lid closed.  Flip and then cook for another 10 minutes skin side down with the lid closed.  Now, place the chicken on the cold side of the BBQ and cook for another approximately 20 minutes with the lid closed or until the breast meat is at 165 degrees.

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Enjoy!

Spatchcock BBQ Chicken

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken
  • BBQ Spice
  • Kitchen Scissors or a sharp knife

Directions

  • Use kitchen scissors or knife to remove the spine by cutting up either side.
  • Place both hands on the breasts and push down flattening the bird.
  • Season liberally on both sides with BBQ Spice
  • Place in a ziplock bag and allow to sit for up to 24 hours
  • Preheat one side of your grill to medium heat and leave the other side off
  • Place the chicken skin side up directly over the heat and cook for 5-10 minutes with the lid closed.
  • Turn chicken over and cook skin side down for another 5-10 minutes with the lid closed.
  • Move chicken to the indirect side of grill and cook for another approximately 20 minutes with the lid closed or until the chicken is 165 degrees in the breast meat.
  • Cut chicken into individual pieces (breast, thigh, drum, wing) and serve.

 

 

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Chicken Drumsticks

Chicken Drumsticks is one of my youngest boy’s favourite items out of the smoker. He asks for them from time to time and of course his Dad takes any chance he can get to play around on the smoker.

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I use a simple rub of black pepper and seasoned salt on them.

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Get the smoker running at 275 degrees and add a couple chunks of wood. I used hickory.

Place the chicken in the smoker.

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Cook the chicken until it reaches about 180 degrees internal temperature. This will usually take about 45 minutes with medium size drumsticks. Once we reach 180 degrees we need to deal with the skin.

One of the issues with cooking skin-on chicken in a smoker is the texture. If you don’t cook it right it turns into rubber and is not pleasant to eat. So, at 180 degrees I will remove the water pan and wood tray from the smoker so the chicken receives direct heat. I also crank the temp up to full blast. This is a huge benefit of a gas smoker as this process is easy and fast. You could do the same with charcoal by removing the water pan in your smoker and opening up the air vents to get a higher temperature it will just take longer for the coals to get to full whack.

Cook the chicken at high temp for about 10 minutes, turning the chicken often. You will see the skin brown up nicely. You won’t get crispy skin but you will get bite through skin that tastes great.

At this point you can add sauce if you like or just serve as is. I personally like it with no sauce.

One thing to be prepared for however is pink meat. Smoke turns meat pink, there is no way to avoid it.  Whenever people see pink chicken they get nervous. You didn’t screw it up. This is why we use a meat probe. If you hit 180 degrees and then blasted it for 10 minutes over high heat it will be cooked. I promise.

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Serve and enjoy!

MD

Chicken Burger

So I wanted a Chicken Burger for lunch today.  When I get this craving the last thing I do is hop in the car and head to the Golden Arches or go to the freezer.  I reach right for my trusty boneless skinless chicken breast.  It tastes better, is quicker than the frozen kind and you get WAY more meat in your sandwich, trust me.

The big difference between cooking the breast for burger destiny as opposed to just on our plate with some sides is in the prep.

I want my chicken to be burgerish.  Now in its original state it’s not, and would require more cooking over a lower temperature than we cook most burgers.  It’s lunch, I’m looking for something quick that I can throw over high heat to get it done as fast as I can.

So I pounded the snot out of it.

I used the flat side of a meat mallet to flatten the whole chicken breast to about a 1/2 inch.  This does 2 things.  It will make it cook substantially quicker since it is thinner and it will also make sure it all cooks evenly.  Plus, more surface area gives us more space for seasoning and char.

If you don’t own a mallet, no biggie, use a pot, frying pan or even a wine bottle.

 Notice I put the chicken in a ziploc bag before I started beating it into submission.  This helps protect the meat from tearing as I hit it.  Another trick is to take your time.  You don’t have to get it perfectly flat in 3 hits.  This probably took a good minute of pounding.

Now I just brushed on a little olive oil on each side and seasoned with Lowry’s Seasoned Salt and ground black pepper on both sides.

Off to a preheated grill set to Maximum (High).

Follow the same principals here as in any other meat on the grill recipe.  Try to only flip it once and once it’s on there leave it alone until it is ready to flip.

Because we pounded it out so thin it will only take about 3-4 minutes a side.

Flip halfway through cooking and continue to cook on the other side.

When I flipped it this is when I took the opportunity to grab a nice seasame seed bun and throw it on the grill to toast up as well.  Be careful, we are cooking on high, we don’t want that bun to burn.  Use your top rack if you find it getting too toasted too quickly.

 Once the bun is toasted and the chicken is cooked, it’s off to the kitchen.

Time to build our burger.  Sliced tomato, iceburg lettuce, Mayo and some pepper is all I did here.  I cut up the chicken into pieces that would fit on the bun.  Plus it looks massive when you pile the chicken up like that 😉

And voila, it’s lunch time.  Total time from start to finish, 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

MD

Chicken Breasts

Let’s tackle an easy one.  Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts.

Probably one of the most commonly cooked pieces of meat and probably one of the things I get asked about the most.  Truthfully, not my favourite. I’m a thigh man myself.  I guarantee you that one will be coming soon.

As common as chicken is it gets brutalized fairly often.  I know a few people who will not go near white meat because they complain that it’s always too dry.  Here comes the truth…it’s not the chicken’s fault.

White meat can be plenty juicy and very enjoyable with a couple of simple tips.

First, when buying the chicken try to buy pieces that look to be similar sizes.  If you have one huge piece and 2 tiny pieces, you are either going to have 1 undercooked piece or 2 dry pieces if you cook them for the same amount of time.

Second, dry those babies off.  When you pull them out of the package they will probably be wet.  We want our chicken to be dry(ish) when we start to season them.  This will ensure the chicken gets evenly seasoned and you don’t have your seasoning running off.

 

The seasoning….Now, you can put anything and everything you like on your chicken at this point.  Some things to keep in mind.  If you use any rubs or sauces at this point that have a lot of sugar in them it will probably burn and go black and gross on you before the chicken has a chance to cook.  If you use a rub with a lot of salt, be careful.  It is very easy to make your chicken too salty this way.

Me personally, I use 3 things on my chicken…olive oil, salt and pepper.  That’s it.  Now to be truthful, its not regular table salt I use.  It’s Lawry’s Seasoned Salt.  The salt and pepper are for flavour obviously…but why the oil?  Two reasons.  It will hold the seasoning to that chicken like it’s life depended on it and it will prevent the chicken from sticking to the grill.  I use a very very small amount.  Just a light brushing on both sides before I apply the S&P.

Notice I didn’t go crazy on the seasoning.  Enough that you will know that it’s there but not so much it will overpower the chicken.

Now toss those bad boys on the grill.

 Here’s a little known secret about BBQs…they have more than one setting…That’s right!  Despite common thinking, you do not have to cook everything on High/Max heat.  Shocker, I know.

Notice I have my BBQ at just over Medium heat for the chicken.  Too high and the outside will burn before the middle is cooked.

Here’s another tip.  Shut the lid.  The chicken isn’t going anywhere.  By shutting the lid we create an oven like environment.  This will cook the chicken quicker and more evenly.  The chicken is probably going to take 7-10 minutes a side.  As long as you remembered to put it on medium heat you will be fine.  Now if you want to open the lid and check from time to time no problem.

 Flipping the chicken.  The meat itself will tell you when it is ready to be flipped.  If the chicken is sticking to the grill, shut the lid and check again in a few minutes.  Your chicken only needs to be flipped once.  That’s right, once. Not nine thousand times. Notice on my chicken below nothing stuck and you get nice looking grill marks on the chicken. Also, it’s not too dark.  Thank you Mr. Medium Heat Setting.

 Close the lid again and cook for approximately 7-10 minutes more or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees F internal temperature.  A good meat thermometer will be your best friend and almost mandatory for a lot of things you will cook on a BBQ and definitely in a smoker.  I use a Thermapen.  It was expensive, but worth every penny.

If your chicken is getting too much colour before you reach your desired temperature, move it to the top rack or to a burner that is off and shut the lid.  Let the heat of the burners that are still going turn the BBQ into an oven and finish the cooking that way.

If you wish to use BBQ sauce, now is the time.  Apply the sauce to both sides and let sit on the top rack for 5 minutes to set the sauce.

Now the hard part.  When you take the chicken off let it sit for a good 3-5 minutes before you serve it.  I know this is the hardest thing to do but it is so worth it.  This will allow the juices in the chicken to stay in the chicken.  If you cut it right away you will watch all your hard work literally pour out of the chicken.  We did a lot of work here to keep that chicken juicy, don’t take a shortcut now.

 I don’t know if these pictures capture it properly, but you could literally see how juicy the chicken is at this point.  Also notice it’s cooked all the way through and no pink anywhere in sight.

 Any questions, leave a comment here or get in touch directly and I will help you out.

Enjoy!

MD

Jerk Chicken

If you’ve never heard of it before you really don’t know what you’re missing. If you’ve been lucky enough to travel to Jamaica and have this right on the sandy beaches as you roast in the carribean sun you know what this is all about.

Now here’s my big confession…I’ve never been to Jamaica!  I can hear it now…”How could he possibly know how to make jerk chicken and have the nerve to call his close to authentic if he’s never had it in Jamaica?!”

Easy.  I didn’t and I won’t. I will say this. I have made it for a few people who HAVE been to Jamaica; and recently for some people FROM Jamaica and other places in the Caribbean and have been told it’s as close as they’ve had since they’ve been there. I’ll take it.

The big secret? The wood. Jamaican jerk chicken is traditionally cooked over Pimento wood. So, I found some. I got it at Ontario Gas BBQ in Vaughn. It is not cheap but worth it in my opinion. You could make it without the wood but you will be missing something.

As for the marinade, here comes another shocking secret, I use a bottled marinade. Now here’s the catch. It’s from Jamaica. I have made the marinade from scratch before but found I spent 10 times longer and 10 times as much $$$ to produce a marinade that tastes exactly like the bottle that’s $4. I have tried as many brands as I can but I prefer the Graces brand. Now there is one benefit to making your own. You can control the heat.

Now for the prep. I try to marinade my chicken pieces at least 24 hours. I prefer using bone in, skin on, dark meat but use whatever floats your boat. Place in a zip lock bag and add as much or as little marinade as you like. It will seem like you need a lot as it is a thick paste but a little does a big job. I personally will get the pack of thighs from Costco and use almost the whole bottle if not the whole thing. It will be hot. Not “hot” like when you order wings and they aren’t. I mean tear producing hot. I love it.

The cooking process is easy. Cook on a smoker preferably or indirectly on a BBQ at about 275 degrees until the chicken is fully cooked. I will blast it at the end over full flame to give some char and crispify any skin. Make sure you either use the pimento wood in the smoker or make a smoke pouch for the BBQ. The wood is good.

Make sure you have lots of drinks available and go at it.
Enjoy.

MD