There are probably plenty of better smokers out there, but my affection is reserved for a simple aluminum box with the words “Little Chief” painted its face. I grew up in small town Oregon, with a father and three brothers who were rabid fisherman. My memory of fall includes the image and aroma of a soggy back porch on which at least one – and often two – Little Chief smokers were billowing away with the latest catch inside. Smoked salmon! That was back in the 70’s, when there were still plenty of salmon to be caught in the rivers of the Willamette Valley.
In the late 90’s, I moved to New York City, where I didn’t think about fish, fishing, or my past life in Oregon for the better part of a decade. When my husband and I took up fishing again (I should write a post about fishing near New York City) I wanted to smoke our catch the same way we had when I was a kid in Oregon. I ordered a Mini Chief – the smallest of the Little Chief brand of smoke houses. For a long time, fish was the only meat I cured in my smoker.
These days, we live in a cabin 60 miles north of The City, where we maintain a chest freezer packed with meat bought in bulk from local farms. As I teach myself how to prepare this wondrous bounty, I am discovering the versatility of my Mini Chief smoker.
For recipe details and notes on smoking a chicken, follow the Read More link below...
Notes on smoking a chicken:
Smoking meat and cooking meat are not necessarily the same thing. You can “cold smoke” meat without having it reach an internal temperature that cooks it. (Bacon and Nova Lox are examples of meats that are smoked but not cooked.)
When I smoke a chicken, I “hot smoke” it, meaning that enough heat is applied that the chicken is cooked at the same time.
I don’t want to confuse you, but another point to note is that you can also use your smoker to cook without smoke. Let’s say you prefer a less intense smoky flavor to your chicken: you can burn a single pan of wood chips then continue cooking the bird in your smoker without wood chips until it’s done. Some people even finish the meat off in their kitchen oven. Not me.
My smoker runs at 200 – 210F. I have found that a 5 pound chicken will be fully cooked in about five hours at this temperature.
About wood chips: The Mini Chief smoker comes with a bag of wood chips that are more like saw dust. The chips burn fast and create intense smoke. I prefer to use larger chips (easily ordered online) that burn slower and longer, with less intense smoke. I apply this less intense smoke for pretty much the entire time my chicken is in the smoker. If you are using faster burning chips, you may want to cook with smoke for less time.
Brine, per gallon of water:
1 cup sugar (brown or white)
about 4/5 cup of kosher salt
What I put in the rub:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T brown sugar
1 T paprika
1 T garlic powder
1/4 t cayenne
1/4 t black pepper
1/2 t kosher salt