Classic Barbecued Chicken
This recipe highlights the distinction between grilling and barbecuing. Barbecue is a low-heat, slow-cooking technique that imparts a smoky undertone to the meat over a longer period of time.
For the chili rub:
- 3 Tbs. coarse salt
- 2 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbs. paprika
- 1 Tbs. freshly cracked pepper
- 1 Tbs. granulated garlic
- 1 tsp. dry mustard
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 2 fryer chickens, each about 3 1/2 lb., neck, giblets and wing tips removed, and chickens split in half
- 1 to 3 lb. wood chips or chunks, such as mesquite, hickory or applewood, soaked in water for 30 minutes
- 2/3 cup basic barbecue sauce or molasses barbecue sauce, plus more for serving
To make the chili rub, in a spice grinder or blender, combine the salt, brown sugar, paprika, pepper, granulated garlic, mustard, cumin, chili powder and oregano. Process into a coarse powder. Use immediately, or cover tightly and store for up to 1 week at room temperature.
Rinse the chickens under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Generously season each bird with the chili rub. Using your fingers, carefully loosen the skin from the breasts and the legs and massage the rub under the skin. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 20 minutes before grilling.
Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect grilling over medium-high heat. Brush and oil the grill grate.
For a charcoal grill: Rake the coals to the sides of the grill and place a drip pan with 1/2 inch water in the fire bed. Sprinkle half the soaked wood chips over the coals. Place the chickens on the grate over the pan, cover the grill and cook until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced, 60 to 75 minutes. Replenish the coals and wood chips every 15 minutes to maintain constant temperature and smoke. Remove the pan and rake the coals to the center. Move the chickens over the coals. Brush with the barbecue sauce and grill until caramelized.
For a gas grill: Increase one burner to high. Heat a smoker box half full of soaked wood chips until smoking, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Place a drip pan with 1/2 inch water over the heating elements. Place the chickens on the grate over the drip pan, cover the grill and cook until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced, 60 to 75 minutes. Replenish the chips every 15 minutes to maintain constant smoke. Remove the pan. Move the chickens over the heating elements. Brush with the barbecue sauce and grill until caramelized.
Transfer the chickens to a carving board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately with barbecue sauce on the side. Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma On the Grill, by Willie Cooper (Oxmoor House, 2009).