Nov 1, 2010

Smoky Chicken Breasts

Smoky Chicken Breasts

I love me some smoked chicken, but in all honesty; it’s not always as easy to fix as it seems. They can easily get over-cooked, over-smoked, dry and flavorless. Sure, you can buy smoked chicken breasts in the supermarket but come on, that takes the fun out of cooking! Plus, they don’t taste as good as they do home-smoked. Nothing ever does.

The secret to a great tasting smoked chicken breast is the chicken brine. It’s very hard to get it right without brining the chicken first. The right brine for the exact right amount of time makes all the difference.

I kept this one basic because I needed the chicken for a specific recipe, but feel free to add as much flavor and spiciness to them as you like. Add honey, fennel seeds, a hint of sugar, curry powder, cayenne, orange juice, lemon peel or tabasco for extra flavor. Basically anything goes.


Ingredients:

3 chicken fillets (or 4)
smoking chips (I’ve used apple)
10 cups of water
1/2 cup salt (scant)
black bruised peppercorns
black whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
pinch of dried thyme
pinch of dried rosemary


Directions:

Start by pouring 8 cups (2 liters) of water in a large pot and add 1/2 a cup (scant) salt. This brine, though it’s basic, will add flavor and tenderness to the chicken.
Smoky Chicken Breasts

I’ve added bay leaves, bruised and whole black peppercorns, cloves, bruised garlic, dried rosemary and thyme (but you can use fresh as well).
Smoky Chicken Breasts

The extra flavors you add to the salted water will be carried to the meat as well. I kept it fairly basic but the sky is the limit. Add whatever you feel like.
Smoky Chicken Breasts

Bring the water to a boil.
Smoky Chicken Breasts

As soon as it boils, turn off the heat and add 2 cups really cold water.
Smoky Chicken Breasts

Let the brine cool off completely and then put it in the fridge. A lot of people let their brine get to room temperature (somewhere between 65F and 70F) before using it, that is a no go, people. Safety for all. The brine should stay below 40F (4C). So store it in your fridge until it gets to that point. It’s like canning; do it right and safe or don’t do it at all.

Go outside to get some fresh air and shoot some pretty autumn pics while you’re at it.
Smoky Chicken Breasts

As soon as the brine has the right temperature, add the chicken. Pop the lid on and put the pan in the fridge. Leave it there for 1 1/2 to max 2 hours. I prefer 1 1/2 hours, don’t want it too salty. Make sure the chicken is completely submerged.
Smoky Chicken Breasts

After 1 1/2 hours, I remove the chicken from the brine (toss the brine), pat them dry with paper towels and let them air dry for a while. I only rinse when I have to use the drippings and don’t want them to be salty.

When you do rinse, for God’s sake, be careful. It’s a sure way to spread bacteria throughout your kitchen.
Smoky Chicken Breasts

Soak a moderate amount of apple smoking chips for about 1/2 to 1 hour. I’ve used apple, but you can use cherry or any kind of combination. Don’t overdo it though and keep it on the light side, chicken doesn’t need a lot of smokiness.
Smoky Chicken Breasts

I fired up the pit and got my Big Green Egg (with plate setter) steady at 200F (100C).  Drained the smoking chips, added them, put the dripping pan in there and placed the chicken breasts on the grill.
Smoky Chicken Breasts

I know that it generally takes them 2 to 2 1/2 hours at this temperature to be fully cooked. I didn’t check them until 2 hours afterwards and they were a perfect 165F (75C). Chicken needs to have this core temperature in order for it to be safe to eat.
Smoky Chicken Breasts

Let them rest (wrapped in tinfoil) for 5 minutes before slicing them.

These are so good. Perfectly seasoned with a really nice, light smoky flavor. My kinda chicken.
Smoky Chicken Breasts

Smoky Chicken Breasts
Ingredients
    3 or 4 chicken fillets
    smoking chips (I’ve used apple)
    10 cups of water
    1/2 cup salt (scant)
    black bruised peppercorns
    black whole peppercorns
    2 bay leaves
    pinch of dried thyme
    pinch of dried rosemary

Directions
    Start by pouring 8 cups (2 liters) of water in a large pot and add 1/2 a cup (scant) salt and add the spices and herbs. bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat and pour in 2 cups cold water.

    Let the brine cool off completely and then put it in the fridge. Keep it below 40F (4C) for safety purposes. As soon as the brine has the right temperature, add the chicken. Pop the lid on and put the pan in the fridge. Leave it there for 1 1/2 to max 2 hours. Make sure the chicken is completely submerged.

    After 1 1/2 hours, I remove the chicken from the brine (toss the brine), pat them dry with paper towels and let them air dry for a while. I only rinse when I have to use the drippings and don’t want them to be salty.

    Soak a moderate amount of smoking chips for about 1/2 to 1 hour. I fired up the pit and got my Big Green Egg (with plate setter) steady at 200F (100C). Drain the smoking chips add them to the hot coals, put the dripping pan in there and placed the chicken breasts on the grill.

    Check them after 2 hours. The chicken breasts need to have a 165F (75C) core temperature in order for it to be safe to eat. Let them rest (wrapped in tinfoil) for 5 minutes before slicing them.
Meal type: main course
Servings: 3 to 4
Copyright: © kayotickitchen.com

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    18 Comments »

    1. 1

      it’s look so easy to make.

      foodbin on Nov 1, 2010 @ 9:27 am Reply
    2. 2

      You make it look so easy! Yummy.
      Love the autumn shot. Would it be possible to get it in print version, Kay, pretty please with a cherry on top?

      Lori on Nov 1, 2010 @ 12:19 pm Reply
    3. 3

      Do have tips for a smoking method that doesn’t require a huge and expensive American contraption?

      Karohemd on Nov 1, 2010 @ 12:52 pm Reply
    4. 4

      @ Karohemd:

      I think your aversion against anything American is worrisome. They have therapy for that, you know :)

      You can buy a basic smoker for 30 euros these days.

      Kay on Nov 1, 2010 @ 1:18 pm Reply
    5. 5

      My family would love this!

      Katrina on Nov 1, 2010 @ 1:20 pm Reply
    6. 6

      Great post on good smoking techniques! You’re right, the purchased pre-smoked ones are not so good. They often have an artificial smoke flavor added. Doing it yourself makes all the difference.

      Lana @ Never Enough Thyme on Nov 1, 2010 @ 3:41 pm Reply
    7. 7

      @ Lana:

      Know why? That’s because they are often artificial. When you smoke a chicken breast you lose weight. So what they do instead is put them in a smoke flavored brine and then grill them. There’s not even real smoke involved.

      Kay on Nov 1, 2010 @ 3:45 pm Reply
    8. 8

      I love the final result! great golden color!
      I use coarse sea salt for cooking, when making this, would the same amount be used as the fine table salt?!

      Ashjan on Nov 1, 2010 @ 9:43 pm Reply
    9. 9

      @ Ashjan:

      You’d probably have to use more. Not entirely sure though.

      Kay on Nov 1, 2010 @ 10:24 pm Reply
    10. 10

      the chicken would be nice to top a salad!

      peachkins on Nov 2, 2010 @ 2:35 am Reply
    11. 11

      Kay – thank you so much for this lovely recipe.  My hubby and I just bought some smoking chips recently and were wondering how to use them!  We’ll give your method a go at the weekend. Can’t wait to try it. :-D

      keralucu on Nov 2, 2010 @ 6:14 am Reply
    12. 12

      I have never had smoked chicken but it sure looks great! I’ll have to try it sometime!
      Magda

      my little expat kitchen on Nov 2, 2010 @ 12:45 pm Reply
    13. 13

      Hi Kay, love the pictorial guide and I’ve tried out some of your recipes with ease :) I’ve seen the green “smoking” contraption several times on your posts, can you recommend yours? Seems pretty handy in the backyard

      HonestVanilla on Nov 3, 2010 @ 4:09 am Reply
    14. 14

      @ Honestvanilla:

      Yes, yes, yes and yes :)

      The grill is amazing. Well, grill, it’s basically an extra oven but one that creates such moist and amazing meat, fish or chicken dishes. Can’t live without it anymore.

      Kay on Nov 3, 2010 @ 7:38 am Reply
    15. 15

      I meant a method that doesn’t require buying equipment one is unlikely to use very often (or have storage space for).

      Karohemd on Nov 3, 2010 @ 5:36 pm Reply
    16. 16

      @ Karohemd:

      No idea. I’m sure someone will have found a way to do this in their oven (and hope your house doesn’t smoke up), but you’d have to google it.

      Kay on Nov 3, 2010 @ 5:41 pm Reply
    17. 17

      Great tutorial! Definitely going to be trying this at home.

      Marisa on Nov 5, 2010 @ 5:22 pm Reply
    18. 18

      Sort of followed the recipe; looks good and tastes fine. I’m cooking a shallot/tangerine/tomato chutney in the oven right now to go with it.

      Your notes with regard to the appropriate temperature for the brine are highly applauded. Food safety is easily disregarded and the time it takes one’s average domestic fridge to cool any substance is usually quite wildly underestimated.  I’d cool 2 litres of liquid overnight to make sure. 

      cheers

      Jos
       

      Jos Jansen on Aug 7, 2011 @ 4:57 pm Reply

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