Introduction to Smoked Chicken
We believe smoking Traeger chicken breast is much more than simply cooking a chicken. The art requires the right ingredients, patience and time. The result is a tender, smoky, juicy and delicious chicken. Although the process is not fast, we believe the results you will achieve are worth every minute. The best reason for smoking a whole chicken is the flavor. As your chicken slowly cooks over the flame, your meat will absorb the tangy, natural and unique flavor of the smoke.
People all over the world have chosen smoking as the ideal way to flavor chicken for thousands of years. The flavor of your chicken depends on the type of wood you are burning. As your chicken absorbs the smoke, a tangy, spicy and dark bark forms. We believe the bark is one of the best parts of your smoked chicken. You need to smoke chicken slowly for a long period of time to prevent evaporation of the moisture from happening too fast. The result is a perfectly juicy and tender chicken.
Slow cooking also gives the connective tissues and fats enough time to break down and become soft. The melting point is high. If you cook your chicken too fast, your meat will be dry, tough and difficult to chew. The reason smoking is the preferred method is because your chicken becomes, soft, tender, juicy and pulls apart easily. Smoking does not disrupt the natural flavor of your chicken. Smoking was invented to enable people unable to afford better quality meat to enjoy delicious meals.
Whether you are cooking Traeger chicken breast on a gas, wood or charcoal grill, you are creating a flame resulting in a unique flavor. Each type of grill offers you a slightly different taste. When you use a combination of charcoal and wood to smoke a whole chicken, you are creating a smoky flavor guaranteed to tantalize your taste buds. Smoking traps the juices and moisture of your chicken while creating a beautiful sear on the outside and tender and juicy chicken on the inside.
You can choose wood with many different flavors. The right wood is dependent on your personal preferences. Some of the best woods are described below.
- Hickory: Hickory is considered a hardwood. The taste is both strong and sweet. Hickory will burn slow and hot. If you are smoking a smaller chicken, use fewer hickory chips or your flavor will be bitter. For an exceptional taste, we recommend a combination of cherry wood and hickory wood.
- Apple Wood: Apple wood is both fruity and mild, making it ideal for smoked chicken salad. You will need to allow several hours for the flavor to work its way through your chicken.
- Maple: Maple offers a mild and subtle flavor. The heavy wood is sweet and burns slow and hot.
- Cherry Wood: The wood has a sweet, mild flavor that burns hot for a fairly long time.
- Peach Wood: Peach wood first became popular in the south due to the sweet, light flavor provided for smoking chicken. The wood burns hot for a fairly long time. We recommend using freshly cut wood because the flavor is lost quickly once the wood has been cut.
The combination of charcoal and wood chips is ideal for smoking a whole chicken. Without the wood chips, your chicken will not have nearly as much flavor.
Pro Tip: Always select the wood chips offering the best compliment for your chicken. We recommend pecan, apple, cherry and mesquite.
The Best Techniques for Preparing Your Chicken for Smoking
No matter which technique you choose, you always begin by thoroughly rinsing your chicken, then trimming off the excess fat and skin. One of our favorite techniques for smoking chicken is called spatchcock. You start by removing the backbone of your chicken. Take a sharp knife and cut into the side of the backbone approximately one-half of an inch deep. Continue cutting from the neck to the tail. Repeat the procedure on the other side, then remove the backbone.
Once you have removed the backbone, you will be able to spread out your chicken. Gently use a paring knife to cut and remove the breastbone. Now your chicken will lie flat.
Pro Tip: Cut your chicken in half to increase the surface area of your chicken. Not only will your chicken absorb even more smoke, but you will be able to smoke more chickens at the same time.
If you are just now learning how to smoke a whole chicken, you are most likely confused by all of the different options such as brining, using a dry rub or marinating. If you decide to brine your chicken, the taste will be saltier. To brine your bird, submerge it into a combination of water, spices and salt for several hours. The process is similar to marinating because your chicken will become more tender while absorbing your brine.
We recommend either brining or using a dry rub, but not both. Both methods often use a combination of kosher salt, garlic powder, dark brown sugar, ground black pepper and cayenne pepper. You can also use onion powder, ground cumin, sweet paprika, espresso beans, ground coriander and chili powder. To use a dry rub, you simply rub your chosen mixture all over your chicken prior to smoking. For marinating, place your chicken in a container then cover it with your chosen marinade. Cover and place your chicken in your refrigerator overnight.
The Best Recipes for Smoked Chicken Salad
To smoke your chicken, you will need to have the correct equipment. You can use either a grill with a combination of charcoal and wood chips or a smoker. You will also need heavy-duty barbeque gloves, a probe thermometer and strong tongs with a long handle
Healthy Barbeque Smoked Chicken Salad
You will need:
- One whole chicken (cut in half or Traeger chicken breasts)
- One-third cup finely chopped scallions (approximately one medium)
- One-half cup mayonnaise
- One teaspoon hot sauce
- One-quarter cup barbeque rub
- One tablespoon fresh lemon juice (one lemon)
- Three-quarter cup finely chopped celery (approximately two medium stalks)
- One-half teaspoon celery seeds
- One teaspoon smoked paprika
- One tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Kosher salt (season to taste)
- Fresh ground black pepper (season to taste)
- One fist-sized piece of smoking wood (light wood like cherry or apple)
Step One: Rub your entire chicken with your chosen barbeque rub.
Step Two: Fire up your grill or smoker. Continue adding chunks of wood until the temperature is 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Place your chicken with the skin side up.
Step Three: After one and one-half to two hours, insert your thermometer into the thickest section of the thigh. When the internal temperature is 160 degrees Fahrenheit, take off your chicken and let cool for one hour or until completely cooled.
Step Four: While waiting for your smoked chicken to cool, combine your mayonnaise, scallions, vinegar, paprika, celery, lemon juice and celery seeds in a large bowl for your dressing.
Step Five: Pull your chicken off the bones and chop roughly. Add your chicken to your dressing and mix well. Season to your taste with salt and pepper. If you do not serve your smoked chicken salad immediately, put it into your refrigerator in an airtight container. Your smoked chicken salad will be good for as long as three days.
Creamy Smoked Chicken Salad
You will need:
- Two cups leftover smoked chicken (cut into cubes)
- One-half onion (chopped)
- One-quarter cup celery (chopped)
- One cup mayonnaise (you can use low fat)
- One tablespoon mustard (regular or dijon)
- Three pickles (minced)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
Combine your leftover smoked chicken with the above ingredients in a bowl. Make certain everything is well mixed.
Pro Tip: You can make delicious chicken sandwiches by using cheesy, hot garlic bread.
Smoked Chicken Salad
For the salad:
Honey Smoked Chicken Salad
You will need:
- Three to four Traeger chicken breasts (smoked)
- 125g rice vermicelli
- One cucumber (cut in half lengthwise)
- One-half cup fresh mint (chopped)
- Two to three teaspoons ginger (minced)
- One carrot (peel and cut into sticks the thickness of matches)
- Two to three teaspoons chili (minced)
- One-quarter cup chopped parsley or coriander (fresh)
- One-half cup lime salad dressing
Pro Tip: add one-half cup honey-roasted peanuts for flavor and an extra crunch
Step One: Finely slice your Traeger chicken breasts
Step Two: Boil water and add salt. Add your rice vermicelli and cook for four to five minutes. Thoroughly drain than randomly cut your rice vermicelli.
Step Three: Remove the seeds from your cucumber. Cut your cucumber into thin slices on an angle.
Step Four: Mix your Traeger chicken breasts, rice vermicelli, carrots, coriander, ginger, cucumber, mint, chili and lime salad dressing thoroughly in a large bowl.
Step Five: Garnish your smoked chicken salad if desired and serve.
Delicious Smoked Chicken Salad
We hope you enjoyed one or all of the above recipes and learned about the different options for smoking chicken.
Pro Tip: Using different types of wood chips will give each recipe a unique and slightly different taste.