One of my pals asked me what would be a good thing to cook on his bbq, nothing fancy and nothing too difficult. Just something simple that would taste good. I had a think and said “Spatchcock chicken” – Now I usually cook my chickens on the rotisserie so I said I would do a test run and write it up.
Looking through my “To cook” list I spotted a few spatchcock chicken recipes listed but one stood out “Bourbon Brined Spatchcock Chicken” maybe it was the Bourbon that swung it!
The recipe is in the Grillstock book and as usual I tried to do as much prep as possible the night before. I decided to cook it on a Sunday as the family roast so added Roast Potatoes and Yorkshire Puddings to the cook list. I was going to use Kenji’s recipe for roast potatoes again and I had recently found his recipe for Yorkies too and was keen to try them on the BBQ.
The chicken was from Farmison and was supplied by Herb Fed so was free range and dry plucked. I got our Christmas Turkey from Herb Fed (through Turner and George) and was really impressed with it so wanted to try their chickens too. As with the turkey it was a quality looking bird and the skin felt good from being dry plucked.
The 2kg birds are £13.95 so not as cheap as your supermarket chickens but you can’t compare them really, this is a quality product.
The chicken sits in a brine for 6 hours before it’s cooked so I made the brine and left it sitting out overnight. It’s fairly simple, just bourbon, sea salt, soft brown sugar and peppercorns. I don’t usually brine my chickens as Kenji says you are better not to brine it http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/11/the-food-lab-the-truth-about-brining-turkey-thanksgiving.html#flavor – but this one had bourbon in so it had to be worth a try!
A word on Kenji, I realise I have mentioned him 3 times in short succession here. If you haven’t read his articles go and have a look on Serious Eats, better still buy the book. He approaches cooking with science which appeals to the geek in me. I always try and learn from each cook so I can improve the next time, (hence this blog) his scientific approach with testing small changes really strikes a chord.
Next up I made the Chicken Rub which is a mix of sea salt, sugar, paprika, garlic salt, celery salt, chipotle powder and ground black pepper. I put this in a bowl and covered it with cling film until the morning.
Then I made the Yorkshire pudding batter and put it in the fridge to rest overnight. Pretty easy to make and just hit it with the whisk. This recipe has more eggs than I am used to but it did seem to help, as did leaving the batter overnight. 1 small change I made to the recipe was that I used some plain flour I had previously cold smoked, not through trying to be clever but because I had run out of normal plain flour but it gave me a good excuse to use it and see if it added anything flavour wise!
The picture below shows the flour after it was cold smoked for 4 hours using Whisky Oak, you can see the top layer had a yellow tint to it. I did shake it a few times during the smoking, I would probably smoke it longer and shake it more often next time.
That was all the prep I could do the night before so the next day I put the chicken in the brine (whole so it would fit in the pan!) and after 6 hours I took it out and spatchcocked it. If you haven’t done this before it sounds worse than it actually is. Just turn the chicken over so the breasts face down, take a pair of scissors and cut along the length of the chicken either side of the backbone. I used standard kitchen scissors and they weren’t up to the job so used a more robust pair but it was still quite tough to cut, I think I will get a pair of poultry shears (about £10 online) to make it easier next time. The backbone is about an inch wide (just under) and once you have removed it turn the chicken back over and push down with the heel of your hand until the chicken sits flat. Job done!
This chicken took on a bit of a pinky hue from the brine, it was much paler before it went in.
I dried the chicken down with paper towels and then filled up my rub sprinkler (Shaker Stainless Steel, Large holes from GlobalFSE) :
I put the chicken in a roasting tray to try and contain any excess rub and then applied the rub to the underside then flipped the chicken and applied it to the top side. I made sure to pull the legs and wings about to cover all surface areas with the rub.
I set the spud pan up to par boil with the boiling water, salt and baking powder then lobbed the spuds in for about 15m until the knife passed freely into the potatoes.
When I first kicked the spuds off I had gone out to light the bbq chimney. I used Oxford Charcoal hardwood blend as it lights easily, gets hot and burns a good while. I then went back to the kitchen and made the garlic and rosemary flavoured oil for the potatoes.
When the potatoes were ready I drained them, put them in the pan and bashed them about a little before pouring in the flavoured oil and some salt/pepper. I then tipped the spuds into a roasting tray and put them on the BBQ over direct heat. Previously I have cooked these mainly over direct heat, flipping them after 20m and taking them off after 40m (total). I did the same this time and killed them, they were very crunchy! I think my new method for these potatoes on the BBQ will be 5m direct then move to indirect for 15m, flip and move back to direct for 5m then move off to indirect. Keeping an eye between 30m and 40m (total) – next time I will test this!
The chicken recipe calls for direct heat on the underside for 20m then another 20m on the top side until the internal temperature hits 75c. It does warn you to watch out for flare ups if your charcoal is too hot and/or the grill is too close to the coals. Mine did flare up and charred the underside a bit so I moved it to indirect. I had the same issue when I flipped it and moved to direct so I think in future I would reverse sear it by cooking it to 65c to 70c internal on indirect heat before cooking it direct breast side down up to 75c. I might even use my grill grates to reduce flare ups and calm it down a bit.
I used Whisky Oak chunks from Smokewood shack to add a bit of smoky goodness to the cook, smelt amazing. Proper chunks from whisky barrels!
The Yorkshires took about 15m, I put oil in the pan then put the pan on direct heat for 5m to heat up. I poured the batter in (which I had took out the fridge earlier and left to get to room temperature) and moved the tray straight to indirect heat. After 15m they looked ace:
When I have cooked Yorkshire puddings in the oven before they have come out quite hollow. These were very dense (in a good way!) which must be down to the batter. I would make these again. I couldn’t really taste the smoky taste to start with but it did come through later on. I just finished off the cold leftovers the next day and they taste really smoky!
All in all a nice meal. Not quite as good as I was hoping but that was down to my errors, I learnt a lot and will improve from this cook which is the main thing!
I am not sure how much the bourbon brine added, the chicken was very moist, juicy and full of flavour but was that down to the chicken or the brine? I have another chicken from that batch so will cook it without the brine to see how it tastes to compare.
- Cook the chicken reverse sear. Move to direct about 65c
- Cook the spuds: direct 5m, indirect 20m, flip and direct 5m then indirect 15m (keep an eye after 5m to 15m)