019/18 – Salt Block Chicken:
I have seen a few recipes using Himalayan Pink Salt Blocks and have been meaning to buy one for a while. Over Christmas, Salthouse and Peppermongers had a discount code available that made their largest block only £20 delivered – Sold! Most of the recipes I had seen were for spatchcock chickens so the choice was easy – Salt Block Chicken!
Why cook with a salt block? There are various claims around health benefits from salt blocks but if we put those to one side and focus on this chicken cook I read that it’s an adapation of a Tuscan recipe called Pollo al mattone or Chicken under Brick! The salt block is heated before it’s placed on top of the chicken which results in the chicken being cooked on both sides but the salt block helps to crisp up the skin. On previous chicken cooks it’s felt like a selection of 2 from: moist breast, cooked legs or crisp skin. The salt block is meant to help you achieve all 3 by weighing the chicken down for uniform cooking whilst the salt removes moisture from the surface helping to crisp the skin.
A couple of months ago I bought some chicken from Gartmorn Farm and it was the best chicken I have eaten in a long time. They rear slow growing birds which have full, 24 hour access to acres of grassland and a pond! The birds are raised to full maturity which along with the slow growth and exercise results in some fantastic tasting meat. Chicken how our grandparents would remember it way before intensive farming delivered an inferior product. This one was £12 for a 2.3kg bird.
I cut the wing tips off the chicken then spatchcocked it, I usually do this with scissors but they seemed to be struggling so I used a big butchers knife to cut either side of the spine easily. I flipped the bird over and nicked the back bone to help open the bird up. I wanted to put a rub on the chicken and had some Hang Fire Yardbird rub left I had made for this cook:
Rub in spice shaker, applied to the bird on all sides. Looks pretty heavy below, I gave the chicken a good shake before it went on the grill. The salt block had been seasoned in the oven previously by slowly heating it up to 300c over the space of 3 hours. For this cook I fired the oven up to 250c and put the block in from the start to warm up slowly again.
I fired up a full chimney of Oxford Charcoal Sweet Chestnut lumpwood and once lit I poured it into the top end of the grill with a charcoal basket holding it in place. This was to let me cook the chicken indirectly as I was nervous about burning the skin. This charcoal looks and smells fantastic! Really easy to light too.
I put the chicken on the grill to cook indirectly with the breasts furthest away from the heat and the skin facing down. Welding gloves were used to carry the salt block out to the hut and place it on top of the chicken. I dropped a chunk of beech in from Smokewood Shack to add a bit of smoke to the cook. I haven’t used beech much but it smelt fantastic!20 minutes in the chicken had darkened a bit but it was hard to see much due to the salt block! I flipped the chicken over.40 minutes in I took the block off and probed the meat with my Thermapen. It was around 60c so I gave it another 5-10 minutes at which point it was 70c so time to take it off! The chicken had a great colour to it and I could feel the skin was crispy.
Time to Eat:
I knew it was moist when it fell apart as I picked it up!
I left it to sit and rest for a while then started carving it. The shot below is just with the skin taken off, the meat looked fantastic and was so moist. The skin was the crispiest I have cooked to date!
I really enjoyed this cook, I think it was the best chicken I have cooked so far! The quality of the meat was top notch, very moist and it had a great taste. The rub worked really well and the salt block really did crisp up the skin and help cook the whole bird evenly.
Highly recommend a salt block, get the biggest one as you can cook the whole chicken with one block rather than splitting it in 2 and use 2 salt blocks.
|Under a Salt Block!
|Oxford Charcoal Sweet Chestnut
|Smokewood Shack Beech Chunk
|1: It cooked quicker than expected, I would take the chicken off at 60c next time.