Smoked Chicken Breasts and Thighs in Bulk

The three odd men out

The three “odd men out” riding it out on the gas grill.

I may have went a little overboard with this weekend’s smoke session. I wanted to try something simpler like chicken breasts. Sweetness wanted thighs because their a little higher in fat and thus better for her and her keto diet. I figured there was no harm in doing a little bit of both so we headed to Costco on Wednesday (I don’t know if I’ll ever try to go shopping there on the weekend again) where we bought some bulk packages of both breasts and thighs. We decided that we’d do about half of each package and freeze the rest for another time. We unpacked the rest of our groceries and went on with the rest of our week until Saturday came.

I didn’t get started until mid-afternoon on Saturday but I was in no rush. Everything I read about smoking chicken pretty much said that it doesn’t make more than an hour or so. Thighs need to get a little hotter so I planned for up to an hour and a half. I lit a chimney full of charcoal, mixing in some partially used charcoal…I hate to let that stuff go to waste. While I waited for the charcoal to get up to temp, I mixed up a batch of all purpose dry rub (recipe here) and once I started to apply the rub to the breasts and thighs I realized my first mistake. Using only half-package each of breasts and thighs, it became evident that I still wouldn’t have enough space on the two tiers of my little Weber Smoky Mountain and on top of that, I also ran out of rub before I was done.

Basting time

The rest of the soldiers around the one hour mark ready for basting.

Alright…I can fix this. I set aside the last three breasts and found a container of a different blend of herbs and spices. I poured some of that into my bowl and coated the last three breasts with it. I decided that since these three were seasoned differently, I might as well toss them on the gas grill with a low temp and that should hopefully provide enough space for the rest of everything. By this time the coals were getting hot enough to dump into the smoker and get the cooking started.

I selected a couple chunks of both cherry and hickory for the smoke and moved quickly from there. I assembled the middle section with the water pan empty but wrapped in foil to keep it from getting messy. As it turns out, I had just enough space between the two tiers for all but the three breasts that I had set aside anyway. It was a tight fit, but it worked. The temperature went up quickly enough toward where I wanted it. Meanwhile I babysat the gas grill, trying to keep the three “odd men out” cooking at a similar pace. That’s not an easy thing to do on a gas grill but I managed to keep the heat low and indirect.

homestretch beer

A beer to get me through the homestretch

Around the fifty minute mark I pulled the lid to check the temperatures and baste some of the chicken with barbeque sauce. I was disappointed to find that I was still a long way off. I’m assuming it was the sheer mass of cold meat that kept it from cooking within the hour as expected. Regardless, it was looking and smelling good. Dinner would be delayed but it would be delicious when it was ready. The “odd men out” were pretty much ready to pull so I did that, sampled a bit and declared it awesome. These were to be destined for salads for lunches later in the week.

The bulk of the chicken still had a ways to go. The cooker temp was in the target zone but the meat temp rose slowly. I knew it would slow things down every time I pulled the lid off to check temps again so I did it as infrequently as I could, hoping that I wasn’t overshooting my target temps. While this was going on, I decided that beer would help me get through the homestretch.

Eventually, I pulled the lid, checked temps randomly throughout the chicken on both the top and bottom rack and saw numbers pretty much close enough to where I wanted them. I pulled the chicken, closed all the vents on the smoker to force it to let it choke itself out and I headed to the kitchen. It was chow time. Sweetness had made up some coleslaw. I made a quick batch of crescent rolls. The barbeque chicken was damned good. Satiated and satisfied, we cleaned up and systematically portioned and prepped the rest of the meat for this week’s meals. We decided to not bother with freezing any. There was a lot of it but I think that between the two of us, we’ll be able to get through it by the end of the week.

I just hope that I don’t get sick of it, but that’s not likely.


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