Apple-Wood Smoked Chicken Thighs
I like most animals.
Some of them medium rare.
Chicken, however, has to be cooked thoroughly. Or, in this case, smoked.
My lovely wife Therese also likes animals. She went off to volunteer at the Edmonton Humane Society one sunny Friday afternoon at the end of March, so I hijacked the Castoff Kitchen blog again. Might be my last chance.
So I put a mess of chicken thighs in my bee-yoo-tee-full Weber smoker — which looks a bit like R2D2 — for about two and a half hours at 250 degrees over hardwood lump charcoal and soaked apple wood chunks. The only pink thing about that chicken at the end of the day was the delicious smoke ring under the skin.
Now, there are few things more manly than a meat smoker. It’s basically metal, fire and sizzling protein, which takes the male of the species back to his origin story. The first smokers on the planet were probably big old caves in what is now Uzbekistan. Not great for the Neanderthal respiratory system, but those poor saps weren’t living much past 40 anyway, so why not go out with a belly full of smoked woolly mammoth ribs?
Anyway, as I said, Therese was out walking British bulldogs on a lovely spring afternoon and I was in charge of the evening meal preparation, which follows a simple formula when the weather turns for the better: meat + potatoes + barbecue/smoker = dinner.
Kitchen Castoff used
Half a bag of charcoal. Not really a castoff, but no need to break protocol
This is how we did it
- 10 chicken thighs
- Pinch of garlic powder
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 3 tbsp ketchup
- 3 splashes Worcestershire sauce
- 2 splashes lemon juice
- 2 squirts sriracha sauce
- 1 splash balsamic vinegar
- 1 small glob honey
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp paprika
Everything south of salt and pepper on that ingredient list goes into a bowl, gets mixed thoroughly, and becomes homemade barbecue sauce. Easy, peasy.
The labour intensive part of any smoked meal is setting up the machine itself, particularly when it’s been sitting in the garage over the eight months of an Edmonton winter. I actually got to use both the barbecue and the smoker on this day, because I had to burn off whatever the heck was left on the grate inside the smoker. So I fired up the cue, got it to 400 degrees, and placed the grate inside. After it heated up, I took a wire brush to it and erased all remnants of the smoked whatever, then gave it a thorough wash. Good as new.
Meantime, I put the apple wood chunks (chips are OK, too) in a bowl and soaked them in water for about half an hour. Wet wood produces better smoke.
My smoker requires the manual lighting of charcoal briquettes, which in turn requires dousing said lumps in enough lighter fluid to get a good burn going. Not enough to alarm the dog, or the neighbours, but I like a pretty tall fire to start things off.
With the blaze underway, make sure the water reservoir inside the smoker actually has water in it. Again, after a winter hibernation, it will need a cleaning first.
When the briquettes start to turn powdery gray, which means all that lighter fluid and four old boxed matches did the trick, plop the middle section and the cover on, allow the heat to reach 200 degrees as indicated by the thermometer on the lid, throw the apple wood chunks on the briquettes and wait for the heat to rise another 50 degrees before putting the thighs on the grate.
I dusted my thighs with salt, pepper and garlic powder. I also put some on the chicken.
Once thoroughly seasoned, I chucked them on the smoker, skin side up to start with, flipped them every now and then, brushed the homemade barbecue sauce on a couple of times, starting with an hour to go in the smoking process, and let nature take its course.
The thighs were on the grill for about 2½ hours and were fully cooked. If you’re short on time, anything you put on the smoker can be finished in the barbecue or the oven.
Curious about my “Kitchen Castoffs” concept? Here’s the explainer describing my 100-day project.
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