Why am I getting near black chicken skin?


 

Paul Pearson

TVWBB Fan
I have smoked chicken pieces several times in my WSM and almost every time the skin comes out very dark brown or almost black, but not totally crisp.

I run an empty water pan, no foil and shoot for between 325 and 350 lid temp. I also added a 2nd lid vent to cook at higher temps. On some cooks I notice a lot of white smoke coming out as the fat renders from the chicken, could this be the source of the excessively dark skin?

I smoked some wings recently and was able to run 350-375 the entire time and did not have near the smoke plus the skin was excellent. I think partially due to the higher temps and partially because they were on the bottom grate.

I don't really want to foil each time I use the WSM, would a Piedmont Pan be a good solution?
 

Jay

TVWBB Super Fan
I have smoked chicken pieces several times in my WSM and almost every time the skin comes out very dark brown or almost black, but not totally crisp.

I run an empty water pan, no foil and shoot for between 325 and 350 lid temp. I also added a 2nd lid vent to cook at higher temps. On some cooks I notice a lot of white smoke coming out as the fat renders from the chicken, could this be the source of the excessively dark skin?

I smoked some wings recently and was able to run 350-375 the entire time and did not have near the smoke plus the skin was excellent. I think partially due to the higher temps and partially because they were on the bottom grate.

I don't really want to foil each time I use the WSM, would a Piedmont Pan be a good solution?


sounds like stale smoke
 

Paul Pearson

TVWBB Fan
I normally use Custom Culinary pork spice for the chicken, I would have to check the ingredients but it is very salty so I dont think there is much sugar in it.

I normally use one or two fist sized chunks of apple or one apple and one cherry. Could the smoke from burning fat in the empty water bowl be the cause?
 

Dave Russell

TVWBB Honor Circle
I normally use one or two fist sized chunks of apple or one apple and one cherry. Could the smoke from burning fat in the empty water bowl be the cause?

Maybe so, but it doesn't take too much sugar to blacken if cooking the chicken real hot and long to higher ITs. Charcoal smoke will also darken the meat, at least to some extent. If you want to cook chicken HH on the wsm though, why not just cook without the pan?
 

Paul Pearson

TVWBB Fan
20130921_190154.jpg
 

T Perkins

TVWBB Fan
Next time you do chicken, use same rub and temps and go with no water pan or a foiled water pan and see what the results are. I'd bet the fat burning on the bottom of the empty pan is likely your cause of the black chicken.
 

Dave Russell

TVWBB Honor Circle
Might be some bad smoke, but a lot of it is simply overcooked. Like anything else, the window of perfect doneness is much narrower cooking at high temp. Sure makes it hard if you have a lot of chicken on multiple racks, too. That's why I don't cook chicken HH in the wsm with a dry pan anymore.
 

Paul Pearson

TVWBB Fan
I normally use my thermapen to check meat temps and the meat is not dried out, so I'm not thinking the color is from being overdone.

I normally put the dark meat on the bottom grate so it finishes up when the white meat does.
 

Dave Russell

TVWBB Honor Circle
Next time you do chicken, use same rub and temps and go with no water pan or a foiled water pan and see what the results are. I'd bet the fat burning on the bottom of the empty pan is likely your cause of the black chicken.

It looks a little different on the laptop than it did on my phone last night, so you and T are probably right. Just a lot of bad smoke. As T suggested, always an air space between the foil and the pan if cooking dry. Also, I'll only use maybe one wood chunk if I'm getting any visible smoke from the charcoal.

I'm in the minority, but I prefer no pan or water in the pan if cooking chicken in the wsm. When I've tried to cook multiple racks of chicken with a dry pan, it all seems to get done at different times and much of the skin comes off in one bite. I have much better luck with my grills. I know that the complaint of low-n-slow chicken is rubbery skin, but I find that most of the skin gets bite through tender if cooked long enough. Skin down seems to work best.
 
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Paul Pearson

TVWBB Fan
I wonder if there is a foil pie pan of the right size that I could just set into the waterpan instead of using foil every time?

That or the Piedmont pan might work for this setup. I cook chicken regularly and couple turkeys a year so it would be worth it to build one.
 

Jak Stepan

TVWBB Pro
yep exactly, too much smoke. but i want the smoke flavor so i discovered that covering the birds with foil (not necessarily wrapping them in foil all the way around) keeps the skin lighter but gives me the smokey flavor i like in bbq poultry.

don't lift the lid...
 

John Tate

TVWBB Member
Just a thought from a novice, I had a similar issue of black chicken (looked just like Pauls photos)in my early chicken cooks and learned that the chicken needs to be dried off somewhat after cleaning and rinsing.
 

Paul Pearson

TVWBB Fan
I forgot to mention that I have done 3 turkeys so far and never had the black skin problem, but I only cooked on the top rack and had a drip pan on the bottom grate each time so the drippings weren't burning.

Seems all signs are starting to point to the burning drippings.
 

Bob H.

TVWBB Hall of Fame
Paul, if you like your chicken at the higher temps that you mentioned, why not try a batch in the kettle and see if it makes a difference
in the color?
 

Cliff Bartlett

R.I.P. 5/17/2021
Hey Paul, there are many great suggestions given to you here, all viable. If you don't mind my two cents, I think Mr. Perkins post right above this one, might be the culprit. If indeed, you're not using water or foil, I think the juices from the chicken are boiling in the empty pan, then burning and creating smoke that is causing the blackness. I'm surprised the chicken doesn't taste a little funky as a result. I had an experience similar to this that I'm a little embarrassed to cite, but if it possibly helps someone else out, I'll forego my carelessness and tell a quick version of the story. I recently smoked a large brisket on my WSM. It was around an 11:00 hour cook. I use water in my pan, and did so on this cook. At about the 9:00 hour mark I had to refuel. I was trying to hurry the cook along as it was getting late, so I didn't refill the water pan. It was probably around a quarter full at that point. As I said, I pulled the brisket off at around 11 hours. The brisket was great, my best one ever. I noticed as I was removing it from the grill that the water pan was pretty low, not empty, but low. As I mentioned, I'd just refueled a couple hours prior. It was late and we were all tired and extremely eager to eat. Eat we did, and had a great dinner. I completely forgot to close off the vents and kill the heat. The next morning I went outside, doing some clean up and got within about 10 feet of my WSM and noticed the most putrid smell emitting from my WSM. The pan had of course boiled dry and all my drippings in the pan congealed and proceeded to burn through the night. I had to spend a day scrubbing out the smoker, grates and the pan. Then I had to burn a dry run, with a full load of charcoal, vents all open to sanitize the smoker and get rid of the smell. A stupid mistake on my part, but I was tired and will admit to a couple of "adult beverages" during the cook. I think, on a much smaller scale, this might be what is happening with your chicken and the black color. Just a thought. Apologize for the length of this post.
 

 

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