I’ll warn you right now: there are no money shots of the finished chicken. I earnestly photographed all of the prep, but I was making these chickens for dinner guests and it seems rude to make hungry people wait for the sake of some photographs. Also, I kinda forgot. Never mind, I can share with you what I learned from the first burn in my new ProQ Excel.
Ok, it’s chicken, so how much prep can there be? More than you might think. I decided to brine my chickens overnight. This seems like overkill but it produces beautifully seasoned, juicy chicken. I made a 6% brine by dissolving 60g of table salt and 30g of brown sugar in 1 litre of water. This was just enough to cover one medium chicken. If you have a bigger fridge, make more brine. Meathead will give you exact amounts, but don’t be too worried about it. You just want your chicken to absorb some moisture, salt and sweetness from the brine. The next day I drained the brine and patted the chickens dry. I wanted a sweet barbecue flavour, so I liberally applied Meathead’s Memphis Dust to the skin, and directly to the flesh by lifting up the skin on the chicken breasts.
This was my first time using the ProQ and one thing is immediately apparent: it is one fuel hungry grill. Compared to that little kettle grill anyway. When messing about with the kettle I bought myself a chimney starter so I could get coals going quickly, and add more hot coals as and when necessary. I had no idea that not all chimney starters were alike, so when I saw one that was a fiver cheaper than the Weber starter I was about to buy, I went ahead and bought it. Big mistake. Here’s why:
That little starter was fine for my kettle grill, but using it to get the ProQ going was a nightmare. It took two chimneys of charcoal to get the temperature climbing and a further two to finish cooking. Argh. So if you’re buying a starter get the bloody Weber one. Because of this it was difficult to get my temperature up. Chicken doesn’t need to be done low and slow like pork shoulder. It can take much higher temperatures of 300F and above. Anyway, I opened a couple of cans of beer and drained a little out, before daintily inserting them into the cavity of the chickens. I set them upright on the grill and gave them some apple wood smoke. I struggled to get the temperature up to 300F and had to give the chickens a quick 20 minute blast in the oven to finish it off.
The chicken was fantastic. Really juicy with a sweet barbecue flavour. The more important conclusion here though is to not sabotage the whole exercise by scrimping on something as important as the starter.
Along with the chickens I decided to do some more hot smoked salmon and try my hand at smoked mackerel. I brined the salmon and mackerel in a 6% brine overnight.
Once I removed them from the brine and patted dry I gave the mackerel a tiny little spot of French’s mustard and smeared it across the flesh. This acts as glue for whatever you want to coat them with. I went for a combination of cracked black pepper, mustard seeds and chilli flakes. I did similar with one of the salmon fillets and used honey and brown sugar for the other one.
I might give the brine a bit more salt next time, but otherwise they turned out very good. The salmon especially was delicious.