Crispy, crunchy chicken is loved by many. There’s a certain flavor and texture to it you can never find in other kinds of meat. The question is: how to get crispy chicken skin in a smoker?
Cooking chicken in a smoker is quite different from cooking other kinds of meat. For example, you need to cook it at a higher temperature than at what you’d normally cook other forms of meat at, and need to make sure the chicken was dry in the first place. As a general rule, the more you dry the chicken, the crunchier result you’ll get at the end.
Read below to know more about the various guidelines, tips and techniques to keep in mind in order to cook chicken that’s delicious and crispy.
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Getting Crispy Chicken in a Smoker: Things to Remember
1) Make Sure the Chicken Skin is Dry
The key to achieving perfect crispiness in smoked chicken is to make sure it’s dried well especially right from the beginning. To dry chicken skin, all you need to do is to get some paper towels, wrap them around the chicken and press them. Don’t apply too much pressure – just give the chicken a ‘pat.’
2) Leave the Chicken Uncovered in the Refrigerator
The next step, which basically further dries the chicken for added crispiness, is to leave it uncovered in a tray for about 4-5 hours in the refrigerator. 4-5 hours is the minimum duration – if possible, you can leave the chicken in the refrigerator for 12 hours to further improve the crispiness.
The reason why you need to remove moisture from the chicken is because chicken skin naturally has a lot of moisture. Excessive moisture during the cooking process will give you rubbery, soggy chicken at the end which isn’t what a lot of people prefer.
Performing these first two steps will suffice to give you delicious, crispy chicken, but if you want to go even a step further, you can use salt and baking soda as mentioned in the techniques below:
3) Using Salt to Pull Out Moisture
This is very similar to how drinking salty water makes you thirstier. You can apply the same principle to chicken in order to remove moisture from it, leading to a crispier end result. It’s best to salt your chicken 1-2 days prior to cooking it, so the salt has enough time to penetrate the surface of the chicken and drain out moisture.
To salt your chicken, you have to first spatchcock it, and then rub kosher salt over it thoroughly (avoid using table salt). Afterwards, you need to store the chicken in a refrigerator for 1-2 days to let the salt settle within the chicken deeply. Then, you rinse the chicken and dry it with paper towel dabs, followed by finally smoking it.
4) Using Baking Soda to Dry Out the Chicken
Like salting, this is to be done before smoking. Directly applying baking soda on chicken helps dry it out. You can make this process more interesting by adding seasonings along with the baking soda such as onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder etc.
5) Knowing How to Control Temperature
With most of other types of meat, you would want to adopt the low and slow technique as it allows the meat to be cooked evenly and flavorfully over a long period of time. This fails to work with chicken though, because if it is cooked at a low temperature and for longer hours than needed, it will turn out soggy and rubbery.
The low and slow technique usually involves a temperature of 200 degrees Celsius, which helps rich flavor to be infused within the meat over time.
You can do the same with chicken, except for the fact that you’ll need to increase the temperature to about 300 degrees Celsius if you want to achieve a rich, crispy result without compromising on the flavor. High temperature ensures that the fats in the chicken will be rendered properly, leading to a good texture and taste.
There’s another way of going about this too, which goes like this: instead of starting low and slow and increasing the temperature later on, you start with a high temperature, and bring it down after some time so you don’t overcook or burn it.
Using a digital thermometer, measure the internal temperature of the chicken. If it is 79 degrees Celsius, it means your chicken has been perfectly smoked and is ready to be grilled!
6) Finish Off By Grilling Nicely
Once you’ve smoked the chicken, you’re all set to finish it off by grilling it. You’re supposed to grill the chicken immediately after smoking it.
For added flavor you can add a few drops of vinegar or apple juice. These liquids basically create a nice interplay of moisture and crispiness in the chicken at the end. Make sure to not add too much as that will make the chicken too moist and defeat the purpose.
It’s best to grill the smoked chicken for about 2-5 minutes at high temperature, and then to give it some ‘rest’ so it regains the moisture from the vinegar or juices that it lost during the grilling process. And there you have it: delicious, crunchy chicken ready to be served!
What Should You Avoid While Trying to Cook Crispy Chicken in a Smoker?
There are some things you should avoid while cooking chicken. Read below to know if these are some of the mistakes you might be making while trying to cook crispy chicken:
1) If you want crispiness, avoid marination, as you don’t want too much of liquid to seep into the chicken which will give a soggy result at the end.
2) Avoid using sauces before cooking the chicken. If you want to use sauces, always do them right before you’ve finished grilling the chicken.
3) Avoid cooking at a low temperature if you want crispy chicken. The chicken needs enough temperature for allowing the fats to render. A low temperature will not only give a rubbery result at the end but also take it longer for the chicken to be cooked.
How to Salvage Rubbery Chicken Once It Turns Out That Way?
If you’ve accidentally made rubbery chicken, there are still a few ways you can make it crispy. It wouldn’t turn out as crispy as if you had cooked it the right way from the start, but you can still manage to make your chicken taste decently crispy.
You basically sear the chicken with the side of its skin facing downwards in order to remove moisture from the skin. This will cook the chicken more and maybe burn it a little bit, but it will leave some sear lines on the surface which are inviting and aesthetic to look at.
Another way to go about it is to simply remove the skin from the chicken. This is usually in the scenario your chicken turns out rubbery to the extent that it is not enjoyable at all.
Removing the skin will affect some of the flavor and strip off the seasoning, but you will still get tender chicken at the end which you can cut up in pieces to serve it as a skinless, tasty dish.