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Basic Barbecued Chicken

Basic barbecued chicken halves, finished over direct heatHere’s an easy barbecued chicken that requires no attention to the cooker’s temperature. It’s a good choice for your first cook in a new Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker.

What You’ll Need For This Recipe

Important: This recipe may not work if you do not use Kingsford Charcoal Briquets and a Weber Chimney Starter for measuring the amount of charcoal used. The amount of charcoal used in this recipe is overkill, but it ensures that no matter what the conditions, your WSM will run nice and hot, and you won’t run out of fuel before the chicken is cooked. You can experiment with using less fuel the next time you cook this recipe.

Choose The Smoke Wood

Use three chunks of oak, apple, cherry, or other mild fruit wood. As an alternative, you can use two chunks of any of these and one chunk of hickory. Do not use mesquite for this recipe.

Each smoke wood chunk should be small, for example 3″ x 2″ x 2″ or similar.

There is no need to soak the wood or remove the bark before use.

Learn More Later: All About Smoke Woods

Prepare The Rub

Mix up a batch of this dry rub.

All-Purpose Dry Rub

  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 4 teaspoons table salt
  • 4 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Prepare The Chicken

Chicken halves with rub applied

Remove the backbone from each chicken and split into two halves:

  • Place the chicken breast-side down with the tail facing you. Using kitchen shears, cut along one side of the backbone, then repeat on the other side of the backbone.
  • Turn the chicken breast-side up and spread it out on the cutting board. Press down on the breastbone with the palm of your hand to flatten the chicken.
  • Use a chef’s knife to split the chicken into two halves.
  • Trim any large pockets of fat.

Sprinkle a moderate amount of rub on both sides of the chicken halves.

Learn More Later: Chicken Selection & Preparation and How To Butterfly A Chicken

Fire The Cooker

Light a full Weber chimney starter of Kingsford Charcoal Briquets:

  • Loosely roll a double-wide sheet of newspaper on the diagonal from the upper left corner to the lower right corner. Bring the ends together to form a circle that fits inside the bottom of the chimney. Repeat with a second sheet of newspaper.
  • Put the rolled newspaper in the bottom of the chimney (second photo above).
  • Place the chimney on the charcoal grate and fill to the top with briquettes. Light the newspaper in several locations with a long match or butane lighter. Two sheets of newspaper is usually sufficient to get things started under normal conditions. If not, repeat the process with additional sheets of newspaper.
  • It will take about 15 minutes for the charcoal to light. You’ll know they’re ready when flames are licking at the briquettes at the top of the chimney and they’re just starting to turn gray (fourth photo above).

Spread the hot coals evenly over the charcoal grate.

Measure another 1/2 chimney of unlit briquettes and spread them evenly over the hot coals.

When all the briquettes are covered with gray ash, place the smoke wood chunks on top of the coals.

Now assemble the cooker:

  • Put the empty water pan in the middle cooking section.
  • Insert the middle cooking section into the charcoal bowl.
  • Put the top cooking grate in place.

You’re now ready to cook!

Learn More Later: Firing Up Your Weber Bullet, How To Use A Chimney Starter, and Using A Water Pan In Weber Smokers

Barbecue The Chicken

Arrange the chicken skin-side up on the grate and put the lid in place.

Chicken goes into the cooker

Set the lid vent and the three bottom vents 100% open and leave them that way throughout the entire cooking process.

You’ll see a lot of smoke coming out of the lid vent and maybe from around the lid and access door. This is completely normal and will eventually subside.

Cook the chicken for 45 minutes. No peeking allowed!

When you hit the 45 minute mark, remove the lid, quickly brush the skin with a thin coat of your favorite barbecue sauce, and replace the lid.

Chicken brushed with barbecue sauce

Cook for another 15 minutes and then check the internal meat temperature using an instant-read thermometer. The chicken is done when it measures 160-165°F in the thickest part of the breast and 170-175°F in the thigh.

Crisp The Skin

Crisping chicken skin over direct heat

As a final step, crisp the chicken skin directly over the hot coals:

  • Remove the lid and set it aside.
  • Carefully lift the middle cooking section off the charcoal bowl and set it aside.
  • Place the cooking grate directly over the hot coals.
  • Turn the chicken skin-side down and grill for just a few minutes. Don’t take your eyes off the cooker! Watch carefully and remove the chicken when you have crisp skin and nice grill marks.

Serve the chicken immediately with extra barbecue sauce on the side.

Basic barbecued chicken halves, finished over direct heat

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