I would like to thank Kalaju for hand delivering the spice rubs we used in this post. They were delicious and can be purchased directly from their website by following this link.
When I was old enough to have my own grill I quickly saw that there could be more to a back yard barbeque menu than hot dogs and hamburgers. I discovered that the true art of barbeque was expressed in unprocessed meats that have long cook times like brisket and chicken quarters.
It soon became a summer Shabbat dinner tradition that I would be responsible for smoked chicken leg quarters on the grill. These would be served along side other dishes such as hearty mushroom and barley soup and a nice bbq chicken salad. I spent the afternoon getting the heat just right for a long slow cook. The results rarely disappointed. Everybody sharing summer Shabbat dinners with us knows that there is always something special from the grill to look forward to.
I always like to use chicken leg quarters for this recipe. Using the right cut of meat is crucial to success when smoking. I like to use the chicken quarters because they contain the leg and the thigh. When it comes to size, the bigger the better. You do want to be conscious of the size of your grill so make sure that the quarters are not too big which will limit the amount you can make during one cook.
One step most people miss is preparing the chicken leg quarters before they are seasoned. You want to make sure to loosen the skin of the chicken quarters before applying any seasoning or rubs. This ensures that the skin will have a chance to crisp up while it is smoking over the next few hours. This happens because the fat is allowed to render off. Also, loosening the skin creates a pocket where additional seasoning or rub can be applied underneath the skin. Loosening (but not tearing the skin) allows you to seal in the moisture and flavors for the long cook ahead.
Since the smoked chicken quarters will be cooking for a long time you want to make sure that you are able to monitor the temperature. You are looking for a temperature of between 250º-300º. Too much heat and the quarters can dry out; too little heat and you will never hit your target internal chicken temperature of 165º. Most grills have the option of a display that shows the temperature but if your grill does not have one of these then you can always pick one up, they are usually pretty inexpensive.
I now use a dedicated charcoal gravity feed smoker for making kosher smoked chicken quarters, but that is something new. For most of my meat smoking career I used a charcoal barbeque grill.
The key to smoking meat on a barbeque grill is to control the temperature and use indirect heat. You can control the temperature by starting with a small amount of charcoal and slowly adding to it until you hit your target temperature.
This refers to heat that is not directly underneath the meat you are smoking. You can get your coals to the right temperature in a pile at the bottom of your grill and then move them to one side and place the meat on the other side. A good long pair of tongs is a nice thing to have for doing this.
It is a health hazard to eat any poultry that has not been cooked to an internal temperature of 165º. I know it can be tempting to remove the smoked chicken leg quarters from the heat early and they will look done before they actually are. Make sure that you test the internal temperature with a meat thermometer.
Smoked Chicken Quarters
- Charcoal grill or smoker
- spice rub or spice blend
- 4 chicken thighs
- Loosen the chicken skin from the chicken quarters. Do this carefully and be sure not to rip the skin.
- Sprinkle the spice rub or spice blend over the entire surface of the chicken quarters. Also make sure to sprinkle the blend or rub inside of the pocket you created by loosening the skin.
- Massage the spice rub into the chicken quarters liberally. The reason the spice rub is called a rub is because it needs to be rubbed in.
- Heat the charcoal grill to 250º-300º F.
- Bank the coals to one side of the grill. This places the heat on one side so that the meat can be placed on the other.
- Cook the chicken quarters on the side of the grill opposite of the side containing the heat. This will take between 2-6 hours depending on the actual heat, the thickness of the quarters, and the time of year in which you are cooking.
- Check your heat every 30 minutes to make sure that you are staying within the range of 225º-275º. If the heat is too high you can sprinkle some water on the coals to cool them down; if the heat is too low you can add a few more coals.
- Remove the chicken quarters when the internal temperature reads between 165º-175º. Do not remove them before they reach 165º!
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