Grilling up a good feed on a bbq is one of the most satisfying things in life. It tastes that much better when you’ve slaved away for hours getting it just right. Slow roasting a good piece of meat is one of my favourites, and I’ll share my not so secret method in the next few minutes.
I was converted to charcoal barbequing about a year ago by a family member. If you have the time, as it takes a bit longer than a gas bbq, it imparts a lovely smoky flavour to the meat that you just don’t get from gas. Plus you get extra bloke points because it requires more technique than just firing up a gas bbq. Kinda like shaving with a cut throat razor rather than a safety razor. I purchased a Weber Smokey Joe last summer, and it’s been a great success. I got the smallest in the Weber range as I wanted something I could throw in the back of the 4×4 and take hunting and camping and to the beach etc.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started roasting a whole smoked chicken.
- Charcoal bbq
- Fire starter cubes
- Charcoal or Briquettes. I recommend the hardwood variety
- Wood smoke chips of your choice. I prefer hickory as a good all-rounder, and the large chips last a bit longer than sawdust
- Chimney starter – to get the charcoal heated up really good and hot. Once you’ve used one, you’ll never do it any other way
- Disposable aluminium drip tray
- One whole chicken, or two if you desire
- Assorted seasonings and general kitchen stuff
- Some cold beverages
Thaw the chicken in its bag overnight on the kitchen bench. It’s best to be room temp when you bang in in the bbq.
Put your bbq in a safe place where it isn’t a fire hazard and small kids, and pets can’t get to it. Have a bucket of water on hand too just in case. Wear shoes to protect your feet. Hot cinders have a habit of falling on the ground, and your feet have a habit of finding them. A protected foot gathers no burns.
Put a cube or two of the fire starters in the bottom of your chimney starter. Fill your chimney starter with briquettes or coal to about 2/3rds or ¾ full. Light the starters from underneath and place the chimney somewhere safe on stones or concrete or dirt. It will leave a black soot stain so don’t put it somewhere you want looking pretty afterwards. A good place is just to stand it inside the bbq if it fits, my Smokey Joe was a bit small. It usually takes about 10-15 minutes to get up to temp, so in this time you can get the chicken ready.
Open the chicken bag and rinse the bird off. Place the chicken on a board or plate. Drizzle it with olive oil and rub the oil all over the chicken. Prepare your seasoning – I used salt, pepper, paprika, and thyme, but it’s really up to your imagination and preference. You can even just cook it au naturale if you like, but I recommend at least oiling it first to prevent burning. Stuff the bird with stuffing or a couple of segments of lemon if you wanna get fancy. Experiment a little.
Right, your charcoal should be good to go by now. An even coating of white ash on the briquettes is a good indication, and it should all be red hot. It’s important to get this step right, because if it hasn’t gotten hot enough to get that coating of white ash first, it’ll give your meat a horrible gasoline flavour, especially if it’s charcoal. Your guests won’t want to come back for seconds, and they’ll probably quietly flick their firsts to the dog. Empty the hot briquettes into the bbq taking care not to burn yourself. Pick up any cinders that fall on the ground with some tongs. Rake the briquettes into piles on the sides of the bbq as you don’t want direct heat for this stage.
Put the meat grill onto the bbq. Place the chicken straight onto the grill in the centre away from the direct heat of the briquettes. Scatter a good handful of the wood chips onto the briquettes evenly around the bbq. Place the lid back on the bbq, checking that the bottom vent is fully open and the top one-half open. Leave for 15-20 minutes to get smoked all over.
Remove the lid and grab your aluminium tray. The tray catches all the fat and juice from the chicken which you can use for a tasty gravy, plus it keeps the bbq clean and stops fat fires. Pop the chicken onto the tray and check the briquettes aren’t getting too cold, rake together as necessary. Replace the lid and leave for an hour while you enjoy a cold beverage, then come back to check it. Rake the coals again if necessary, you’ll find that if they’ve gotten cold, just removing the lid should get them glowing again. Spoon some of the liquid in the tray over the chicken if the skin is looking dry. Pop the lid back on again and leave for another half hour or until cooked to the desired tenderness – it should fall off the bone. Experiment with the vents on your bbq to get desired results with the heat, if you’ve got a bbq thermometer about 160-180°C would be ideal. Use the broth in the tray to make a tasty as gravy while the chicken rests on the bench. If you don’t want so much fat in it, just spoon it out or use a slice of white bread to soak it up like a sponge.
Another variation I like is to do two chickens, eat one hot and let the other cool and pop it in the fridge. You can pick away at it over the next few days and use it in sandwiches or salads.
It’s a bit of an art getting everything just right, but that’s all part of the fun, and you’ll get good at it after a few times. The taste is absolutely worth it!
Do all of the steps as above getting the bbq lit with coals in, but maybe a few fewer briquettes as you don’t want it too hot. You can put a nice dry rub on the ribs the night before and leave to set in the fridge, but make sure they’re room temp before BBQing. Smoke the ribs in batches for about 15 mins each.
You’ll need an oven on low heat or a slow cooker for the next step, or you can use an aluminium tray in your bbq if it fits them all. Make up a tasty broth to slow cook the ribs in – plenty of good recipes online. Make sure there’s a good amount of liquid in there – you don’t want them getting dry. Cover with tin foil or a lid and cook on a low heat for 5-6 hours.
In that time, enjoy a cold beverage and make a saucy glaze for the ribs, again there’re great recipes online. I like mine with bourbon and a bit of kick to it! Check the ribs after about 4 hours to make sure they don’t dry out and turn them if necessary. Have another cold beverage. About 30 mins before you’re ready to eat, get your bbq up to a decent heat but not too hot otherwise the glaze will just burn.
Chuck your ribs straight onto the hot grill, basting the glaze on thinly at first and turning periodically so they don’t burn, but get a nice caramelization on them. On the last basting a few seconds before you pull them off the grill, give them a good thick layer of glaze. About 30 secs sizzle twice each side is a good point to start, again it’s up to your preference, but don’t be stingy with that glaze and don’t let them dry out!! Cover with tin foil to rest for a bit and serve, then listen to all the appreciative noises from your guests.
Handy Tip: Chuck the meat grill into hot water as soon as you’ve finished grilling. That sticky glaze becomes a SOB to clean off if it hardens on the grill. After your meal, it’ll be heaps easier to clean after soaking in the water.
Keep experimenting and tweaking the process, you’ll come up with something unique and tasty of your own no doubt!