a note on hot and fast chicken


Mike Shook

I have always sworn by Chris's recipe on the website, which indicates "You want the WSM to run as hot as possible." It also indicates "If you can run the WSM even hotter, say 350-360°F, you may be able to shorten the cooking time even more." So I wondered.... what happens if I open it all the way up? What will this chicken be like if I really run my 22 incher as hot as possible on 1.5 chimneys of coals?

Using Kingsford professional, which to my mind runs hotter than the original coal, my unit pegged out at 410. I shut down all the low vents and watched it stall at 390 or so grate temp. Other than this, I used a decent rub and the Kinder sauce that Chris used, and targeted the temps in to recipe. Rub went over and under skin. Cooked without water pan, following the recipe. Pulled the meat at higher temps than indicated.

Result: great tasting meat, good smoke flavor. But still flabby skin.

I have to assume that there is a sweet spot at which the meat is on long enough to cook and the skin to crisp, without anything getting out of balance. I will keep searching for the best optimal. But "as hot as possible" yielded meat at temp before the skin gets crisp. Somehow. Suggestions welcome.
There are several ways to get crispier skin and Im not sure the WSM is the best device for doing so. If your doing spatchcock or chicken halves the best options maybe to seperate the skin from the meat and rub some butter or oil in between. You could also try a salt brine (1/2 tsp per lb) on a wire rack uncovered in a refer for 8-12 hours then cook hot and fast. The baking soda trick certainly works great on wings, legs etc. but Ive never tried it on larger pieces like white meat. With dark meat you can also get crispy skin with a a little glaze and a high heat convection device, like a vortex. Cook the protein (legs, wings and thighs) up to 195-200 degrees and the skin usually crisps quite well at those temps. My 2 cents
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Agree with Brett and Tim. Baking powder and time in the fridge helps... you may try poking some holes in the areas where the skin appears to be thicker. The skin isn't bad when I hang chicken halves pit barrel style in my 22" - it normally renders enough so it isn't chewy but it doesn't really get super crisp either.. BUT I haven't tried lighting off that much charcoal at once to get the cooker that hot (maybe I'll do that). If your meat is done before the skin is crisp - maybe the birds are too small? Seems like they vary from about 3.5 lbs to 5.2 or so in my mega mart.

Here's a pick of my 22 with hanging half chickens. I put some extra wings on a skewer there too. This is my favorite way to cook chicken and ribs. I generally don't feed huge crowds but cooking 4 whole chickens like this would be pretty easy... 8 racks of ribs, not a problem either.

I’ve done the Basic BBQ Chicken 3 times this year. Cooked skin side up until it’s done. Then skin side down with the grate sitting right over the coals for a minute or so to crisp the skin. I use an empty foiled pan per the recipe.

Could always crisp the skin on the coals with the Hot and Fast if the skin is not crispy enough.