I have a lot of barbecue experience (low and slow smoked meats), but I've never been happy with my smoked poultry. Need to please some non-mammal-eaters, so I want to get it down this time. Veteran bird-barbecuers: Help?
I make killer pork shoulder and brisket (if I do say so myself), but my chicken has always turned out... not great. It's fine, especially for people who don't eat pork, but it's never a co-star.
I have this Brinkmann electric smoker
, which is essentially like a WSM with an oven coil in the bottom. I know it's not as flexible or "authentic" as smoking over coals, but for long cooks, the plug-and-forget thing is worth it.
I gather than I want higher heat (the smoker usually gets up to 200-225), but I'm not sure how to get it. (Especially since it'll be 45 degrees out if I'm lucky.) Is it stupid to put charcoal in there WITH the electric element? (I'm thinking "yes".) Or should I take the element out and use charcoal instead? (I've never used it for a long cook before, and I'd like to keep the ease-of-use.) The other option would be to give it a lot of smoke for an hour, then move it to a 275-300 degree oven. Will that impart enough smoke to be worth it?
Also, the meat: I can probably fit four smallish birds in there whole, but I usually butterfly it for roasting. I think I could only get two butterflied chickens in there, which isn't as much as I wanted. Even quartering it would be less space-efficient than whole. (There's not enough vertical space for "beer-canning" it, and I'm also not convinced of the advantage of doing that.) But is whole going to give me a decent temperature distribution? (150-155 in the breasts, 160-165 in the thighs is the goal.)
I'm planning to brine it, which I usually don't do for shorter, higher-temp roasts. But I'm looking for maximum flavor with minimal effort, so brining is a good call, right? Was planning to brine for about 12 hours, then drain and rub, and leave that to "marinate" for another 8-12.
Finally, what should I do with the skin? I've had two thoughts: either take it off after the cook and chop it up, mixing with the pulled meat, or take it off, crisp it on a baking rack in a hot oven, and serve alongside the meat as cracklings. Any other options? I'm really trying to avoid the sheets of rubber I've gotten in the past.
Any other thoughts would be totally welcome. Thanks!