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My, (Dan's) basic method of preparing and smoking
  an award winning Chicken is as follows


There is pretty much only one type of Chicken that I go for.  That is the 3 1/2 - 4 pound bird.  Brand or type are never usually an issue with me.  I find heavier simply has a taste that I don't enjoy as much.  Lighter, well I simply do not see them out there lighter,  but don't look either.  Sometimes I will buy quarters (legs and thighs attached) which we can get from 29 - 49 cents a pounds around Los Angeles.  I find the Latin stores have quarters aT lower costs more often however.  I will split my legs & thighs prior to cooking.



Reference to trimming I like to do my whole Chicken two ways:


- SPLIT, and cooked flat. I will take a butcher knife, put the back of the bird down against a cutting board, then press the knife through the entire length of the bird.  This is an easy way to split a bird fast.  Then take the bird and slightly notch above the wishbone a slice.  Then break the two halves apart and spread flat.  Then remove the cartilage type backbone.  Then remove the wishbone. While cooking maybe just bend the wings back behind themselves to make a nice appearance and let all the skin brown.


- WHOLE, and sitting on a wire Chicken rack/throne that is purchased at most cooking and BBQ places.  No trimming or anything else.  Maybe just bend the wings back behind themselves to make a nice appearance and let all the skin brown.



I like legs and thighs a lot.  Much more tastier to me than breast.  So, for catering and myself I might buy quarters, REAL CHEAP, and split.  I can split a 10 lb. bag of quarters in about 3 minutes.  Once you get the hang of where to cut, it goes FAST!.



Seasoning is pretty simple on Chicken.  I might marinade in my favorite concoction (homemade or purchased), then put my favorite rub on, and that is it.  OR, I might inject my favorite concoction (any combination of soy sauce, teriyaki, honey, garlic, seasonings, melted butter, or oil) into all the major parts.  What ever pleases you at the moment works.  Sometimes I will season with just lemon pepper and garlic granules after marinating.  It is a matter of producing a moist bird and almost any seasoning combination works.  I usually lay the bird breast down on the grill, season moderately, then turn over (breast/skin up) season moderately, and let it rip on the Smoker or Pit for about 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hours at 245+. 


So, bottom line is I just lay the the bird out, season, and let cook for up to 3 1/2 hours.  I will start basting with my favorite mixture, or spraying with apple juice about half way through the cooking process.  If you let it go half-way through the cooking process your seasonings have firmed up enough so that the baste will not wash them all off.



Put the bird in the cooker breast/skin side up.  Just pick a nice spot that has even heating and go for it.  I will typically cook Chicken with Pecan or 80% oak and 20% hickory, my preferred woods, or all Mesquite as a last resort.  Pecan and Oak are easier to come by in California.  Hickory is harder. Neither is as easy, or cheap, as Mesquite to come by. Oak is not as strong of a smoke flavoring.  Hickory is a stronger flavoring wood. Mesquite is Mesquite, it makes good food product, but I prefer the Pecan, Oak and Hickory more.  Why even mess with wood like mesquite one might ask.  Well, here in California they sell it, in lump form, in every store out there in 5 - 40 pound bags VERY cheap, $11.99 per 40 lb. bag.  Oak and Hickory is hard and expensive to come by.  Also, I actually like mesquite on my butt, and brisket but NOT my Chicken or Ribs.  We are probably talking a 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hour cook-time.  I would baste the first time at 1 1/2 - 2 hours. I don't like dry Chicken so I WILL always use a temperature gauge to check internal temperature of the bird.  I will start checking about 2 hours in.  I for myself will pull at 164 - 168.  For a catering gig I go to 170 - 178.  Rather be safe with the general public.  And, dark meat is much more forgiving to a higher temperature, maybe even  better! 


There are lots of people that will marinade their Chicken.  I like to when I have the opportunity.  I will either use a soy, teriyaki, or Italian type marinade of some type with my favorite rub.  Will put the prepared bird in a zip lock with the marinade, and leave for whatever time I have.  I do not want to leave in for longer than 12 hours however as I get the sense that the bird gets chemically cooked (causes a breakdown or mushiness in the skin and meat) and is not quite what I want.  Hey, whatever pleases you is the right thing.  BUT, I do think a marinade helps.  Reference to a brining.  Well a lot of people do it, swear by it, and love it.  I have never found that it is something I am driven to do for whatever reason.  If you do you can get by with a bucket full of water, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of salt, your favorite herbs and seasonings, and put in the bird.  Folks leave it that way for 12 - 36 hours in the refrigerator.  It is important to keep this bucket very cold.  Remember bacteria and salmonella are concerns between the temperature ranges of 40 - 140 degrees, especially in the bird.  I am VERY conscious of handling and cooking a chicken for myself, family, and catering events in terms of being cautious of not erring and causing food poisoning.



Here in California glazing is almost mandatory.  We are a state of "sticky, sweet, and gooey" on our BBQ products.  Now, if you were in Texas or maybe Kansas City MO, it would be a different story.  You might not glaze, and if you did it might not be sweet, sticky, and gooey.  Hey, sticky and gooey is fine with me.  While in California do as the Californians do!  Since most glazes (BBQ Sauces) have bunches of sugar I wait until the last 30 minutes to put my glaze on.  So, when just about done I pull, glaze, then put the bird back in for 30 minutes.  After that 30 minute period they are done.



The final product is going to be the BEST Chicken you have every had.  No matter how you cut it or what parts you used.  REMEMBER, moisture is the key to good Chicken, especially the white meat, again, dark is much more forgiving.   If you follow the concept of the guidelines above your Chicken will come out tasty, moist, and great I am sure.


Dan Cannon



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