CHICKEN BARBECUE CATEGORY
Start with two whole chickens either Tysons brand or range-fed. I usually buy range fed chicken at a gourmet grocery because it does not contain flavor-altering growth hormones. Tysons chicken also produces excellent results. Five pound or slightly larger birds work best. I also use 2 to 4 chicken thigh fillets. The thighs have the best flavor. For the rub I use Prime Cuts “Chicken, Pork & Rib Barbecue Seasoning” or another seasoning made just for chicken – they taste about the same. A lot of other seasonings work fine. For a finishing sauce I use Original KC Masterpiece sauce from the local supermarket.
Start with a sharp filet-knife, the sharper the better. Wash the chicken in water and cut out a double breast section. Snap the hips out of joint and cut out two leg and thigh quarter sections, slicing out the meat and skin along the side of the back. Then cut off 2 separate wings from the double breast section, by severing at the joint. Remove excess fat but leave the skin on. Throw away the back.
Marinate all the chicken pieces in Wishbone Italian dressing for at least 2 hours. Do not marinate overnight because it can reduce smoke penetration. Remove all air from the marinade container to prevent spoilage. Keep the chicken in a cool place as it marinates.
Start the charcoal in a chimney starter. Pour it in the charcoal reservoir, and add enough charcoal to last 5 to 6 hours – this is about 1/2 to 2/3 of a bullet cooker’s charcoal capacity. Chicken is the only category that cooks with the charcoal reservoir partially filled. It is the most delicate meat category and it tolerates very little heat and smoke abuse compared to the others.
Get out all chicken pieces except the breast meat and drain off the marinade. Apply the seasoning of your choice to the underside of the dark meat pieces, and put them on the cooker grid with the skin side up. Sprinkle seasoning over the skin side of the pieces while they are in place on the grid. Fill up the lower grid and put the rest on the upper grid, leaving space for the breast meat to go on later. Add some water to the water pan.
After the charcoal burns off to clean white embers, add 5 to 6 chunks of choke-cherry wood. Don’t stir the fire because charcoal ashes can give chicken a bad flavor and appearance. Let the wood burn about 5 minutes. Put the cooker together and operate as discussed in the “Barbecue Cooker Operation & Processes” section. Cook at about 215F.
After the dark meat has cooked for about an hour, prepare the double breast white meat. Apply seasoning to the underside. Stir the charcoal embers very gently, just enough to get a little smoke going. You don’t want to kick up a lot of ashes. Wait a minute or two then put the double breast sections on the top grid and sprinkle more seasoning over them.
Cover with the lid and continue cooking the white meat for about 3 hours until it reaches 155F internal as measured with a meat thermometer. Take it off, it’s done. Any longer and it will just dry out and get tough. The dark meat should be done after about 4-1/2 hours of cooking time at 175-180F internal temperature. The meat should be tender around the leg and thigh joint and it should not stick to the bone.
Let the chicken cool a bit and brush on KC Masterpiece sauce or the sauce of your choice. Do not mistake the pink color of the meat -- the meat is cooked done, and the pink color is the smoke ring. Chicken tastes fine when it is served warm.