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I used give those with gas grills a lot of grief.  “Why not just haul your stove out onto the deck to grill,” I often said.  I made no attempts to hide the fact that I was a char­coal purist, but I under­stand that some peo­ple like the ease and con­ve­nience of a gas grill.  So much so that I now have a gas grill on my deck along with two portable gas grills to teach class­es.

Oth­er char­coal purists who can’t see the ben­e­fits of gas grills, char­coal snobs if you will, will say that gas grills just aren’t all that ver­sa­tile.  They are good for steaks, burg­ers, brats, but can’t be used for smok­ing.  They can only do hot and fast not low and slow.

So for you fel­low gas grill own­ers out there, this post is for you.  I will show you how to turn your out­door stove into a smok­er.  That’s right.  Low and slow on a gas grill.…

First off, when­ev­er I grill or smoke chick­en I brine them before hand.  Always.  The results are almost mag­i­cal.  Any­one can make a good chick­en but brin­ing takes it to a whole oth­er lev­el.  What is brin­ing?  It’s drop­ping meat into a salt water solu­tion for a peri­od of time, usu­al­ly 12 hours or so.  More on the solu­tion itself lat­er. The thought of adding salt to meat, oth­er than right before it goes on the grill, always made me think of dry­ing the meat out.  But there is legit sci­ence behind brin­ing.

Brin­ing per­forms three essen­tial func­tions.  First, the salt par­tial­ly dis­solves mus­cle fil­a­ments.  Mus­cle fil­a­ments con­tract when cook­ing and make meat tough.  Why is a well done steak not as ten­der as a medi­um rare steak?  More con­trac­tion of the mus­cle fil­a­ments.  If they are par­tial­ly dis­solved they can­not con­tract as much, thus the salt makes the meat more ten­der.

Sec­ond, the salt has an impact on the pro­teins in the meat.  It allows for the meat to absorb and retain more flu­id.  The meat is going to lose flu­id in the cook­ing process but if you can some­how add more before you cook then you will cut down on the over­all flu­id loss at the end thus the meat will be juicier.

Now you can stop here and just use a salt water solu­tion to brine the meat, but why not go an extra step to the third thing a brine can do which is intro­duce fla­vors into the meat as well.  I just said that the brine allows the meat to absorb and retain more mois­ture.  Now where will meat com­plete­ly sub­merged in liq­uid get that extra mois­ture?  From the water around it.  By adding fla­vor to that water you will add fla­vor to the meat as it draws the mois­ture in.

What do peo­ple always wish for when cook­ing?  Meat that is moist, ten­der and fla­vor­ful.  This gives you a leg up on all three.  Are you sold on brin­ing yet?  If not, just try it once.  I guar­an­tee you will be then.

So how does one cre­ate a brine?  Sim­ple, fill a con­tain­er with water, salt, and fla­voriz­ers.  This is not rock­et sci­ence or chem­istry.  Basi­cal­ly stick to the 1 cup of salt per gal­lon of liq­uid rule and then add what­ev­er you like to add fla­vor.  For me that usu­al­ly involves some sort of fruit, some sug­ars, gar­lic and/or onion and some acidic soda.  For fruit I have used cit­ric fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, but I have also used apples and peach­es.  The riper the bet­ter here.  For sug­ars I have used maple syrup, white sug­ar, brown sug­ar, turbinado sug­ar, and molasses.  For soda I have used white and dark sodas.

One quick note, not all salts are the same.  Table salt  weighs about 10 ounces per cup where­as kosher salt can weigh in any­where between 5–8 ounces.  Some brands are heav­ier, some lighter.  If you go with Kosher salt you want to kick up the amount.  Reg­u­lar table salt go with the 1 cup rule.  Dia­mond Crys­tal Kosher Salt, you want to be closer to two cups and Morton’s Kosher, look to be around 1.5 cups per gal­lon of flu­id.

For this brine I was putting the chick­ens in a cool­er so I need­ed quite a lot of water to sub­merge all three chick­ens.  I esti­mat­ed the water to be about 3 gal­lons.

Brine Ingre­di­ents:

3 gal­lons of water
3 cups table salt
5 peach­es — sliced into bite size chunks
2 cans of cola
1/2 large onion — coarse chopped (you could use more here, it was just what I had left over in the fridge)
18 cloves of gar­lic — coarse chopped
1 cup brown sug­ar
1/2 cup maple syrup

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Com­bine all the ingre­di­ents into a ster­il­ized cool­er and stir quite a bit to get the salt to dis­solve then drop in the chick­ens:

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Nor­mal­ly I can do two chick­ens in a large pot and put it in the fridge overnight but I could not get all three of the chick­ens in my pot.  Hence the cool­er.  Now I need to make sure that the whole con­coc­tion stays cold overnight.  This sev­en pound bag of ice did the trick:

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The next day be sure to rin­se the chick­ens when you remove them from the brine oth­er­wise they can be too salty.

I decid­ed to rotis­ser­ize the­se chick­ens because I was going for low main­te­nance.  If I did them indi­rect I would have the chick­ens on one side and the heat on the oth­er and with three I would like­ly be repo­si­tion­ing mul­ti­ple times as the one clos­est to the fire cooked faster.  This way the rotis­serie keeps the chick­ens mov­ing for me.  You can most def­i­nite­ly do them indi­rect if you do not have a rotis­serie, just expect a lit­tle more main­te­nance.

Cou­ple of tips about rotis­serie grilling chick­ens.  First, use bak­ers twine and tie the legs and wings in tight to the bod­ies or the appendages will cook fast and burn.  Sec­ond, when doing three chick­ens, each one will require a rotis­serie fork to keep it rotat­ing along with the spit.  And third, when doing three chick­ens, put the small­est bird in the mid­dle.  The oth­er two will insu­late the bird and slow down the cook­ing of it to help all three get done at the same time.

The chick­ens below were rinsed, pat­ted dry, put on the spit (with a rotis­serie fork in each) tied off with cook­ing twine (very impor­tant step) and dust­ed with gran­u­lat­ed gar­lic:

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The rea­son it is impor­tant to tie the birds off is to keep the wings and legs close to the bod­ies of the birds so they won’t burn.

This grill has long front, mid­dle and back burn­ers that run the entire width of the grill.  I only turned on the front and the back.  You may need to adjust accord­ing­ly based on your burn­er con­fig­u­ra­tion or if you are going indi­rect.

Also, if you are hav­ing issues with your gas grill, don’t trade it in for a new one as there is no trade in val­ue. Instead, con­tact the fine peo­ple at Grill​PartsSearch​.com and fix the one you have. Most of the time the fix is sim­ple and cheap. Much cheap­er than buy­ing a new one.

Now to mak­ing chick­en smoked on a gas grill.  How do you smoke on a gas grill with­out mak­ing a huge mess?  There are all kinds of after mar­ket wood tins or chip trays that you can buy to hold the wood and keep the ash con­tained but I say skip that and buy your­self some chips, yeah, I said chips, and some tin foil:

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Those apri­cot chips are not soaked.  Just a cou­ple hand­fuls on a sheet of tin foil.  In the pic above I only used one hand­ful.  It only smoked for about 30 min­utes so I upped it to two hand­fuls when I made the oth­er two.  Now wad up the foil into a ball and poke holes into the top of the ball:

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Now off to the grill, I mean smok­er.  Put the ball direct­ly on the flames if you can or in the hottest loca­tion if not.  In this case there was more room between the spit and the front than the spit and the back of the grill.  So I turned the front burn­er to high and the back to medi­um.  I was look­ing to hit 400 for the first 30 min­utes so this works per­fect­ly.  Here is that foil ball on the hot burn­er after a few min­utes.  It takes a few min­utes because the foil insu­lates the chips from the heat:

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Wait anoth­er few min­utes, close the lid and now your gas grill is a smok­er:

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That’s the trick to smok­ing on a gas grill.

I wound up using three foil balls through­out the process.  The first one with only one hand­ful of chips only smoked for about 30 min­utes.  The oth­er two went for at least 45.  When one smoke ball is done remove it and replace with anoth­er one.  Since I was doing chick­en here, I only used one at a time.  Too much smoke can over­pow­er chick­en.  But if you were doing say ribs or a loin on a gas grill by all means use two or even three foil balls at a time to pro­duce extra smoke.

After 30 min­utes the smok­er was not smok­ing any­more. Does that mean it’s not a smok­er any­more? I lift­ed the lid to check my chick­en and replace the smoke ball. The chick­en skin had browned nice­ly and tight­ened up a bit, so I replaced the foil ball with a fresh one and pro­ceed­ed to brush on my gar­lic but­ter sauce, before clos­ing the lid and turn­ing the gas grill into a smok­er again:

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Wait.  Gar­lic but­ter sauce?  Did I for­get to men­tion that?  Oops.  I took about a dozen cloves of gar­lic and plopped them in one of those lit­tle cof­fee grinders.  This one had nev­er been used for cof­fee.  It’s just used to grind up herbs and gar­lic.  I basi­cal­ly pureed the gar­lic and then added the gar­lic to a pot that I had melt­ed four sticks of sweet but­ter in.  Once the skin had browned a bit and tight­ened up I braised the chick­ens with the gar­lic but­ter sauce using a pas­try brush every 30 min­utes or so.

After I closed the lid I dropped the front burn­er down to medi­um to try to get the temp down to 300.

Here we have anoth­er bast­ing ses­sion after about an hour on the grill, you can see that the the smok­er is still smok­ing at this point:

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Anoth­er 45 min­utes lat­er (total time so far about one hour and 45 min­utes) and the­se smoked chick­ens are look­ing ready to come off the grill.

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Some of side dish­es were tak­ing too long so I dropped the temp to just under 200 for anoth­er 30 min­utes or so.  You want to grill the­se till the breast is about 160 degrees.  So stop the rotis­serie and shove a meat ther­mome­ter into the breast.  Pull them from the grill and let them rest for 5–10 min­utes and they should con­tin­ue to cook until they hit the FDA rec­om­mend­ed 165.  If you don’t want to keep pok­ing the bird with a ther­mome­ter (some­thing I do not rec­om­mend as you will lose a lot of juice that way), look for the juices nat­u­ral­ly run­ning out of the birds as they go around.  If the juices are clear all the way around on all three they are done.  Or buy chick­ens with those lit­tle pop­ping ther­mome­ters already insert­ed into the breasts.

Here we have the fin­ished pro­duct:

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Juicy enough for you?  This was the hit of Father’s day.  A must try for any Grillin Fool!!!

If you have any ques­tions about smok­ing on a gas grill please feel free to com­ment below or email me.

Click here for oth­er grilled chick­en recipes done by the Grillin Fools.

Also, you can fol­low the Grillin Fools on Face­book and post your own grilling pic­tures, or keep up with us on Twitter@GrillinFool (no S).

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas, the Orig­i­nal Grillin’ Fool, was sent off to col­lege with a suit­case and a grill where he over­cooked, under­cooked and burned every piece of meat he could find. After thou­sands of fail­ures, and quite a few suc­cess­es, near­ly two decades lat­er he start­ed a web­site to show step by step, pic­ture by pic­ture, fool­proof instruc­tions on how to make great things out of doors so that oth­ers don’t have to repeat the mis­takes he’s made on the grill.
Scott Thomas

@GrillinFool

https://t.co/lVWgniik3V#Grill­Porn abounds here. All meat, all the time!
HOLY SHHHHH.… MOTHER FUUUUU… Real­ly hard hold­ing back the extra spicy superla­tives on this one. That is what d…… https://t.co/rbJEnKoRXD — 18 hours ago
Scott Thomas

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23 comments

Wow. That looks amaz­ing — sim­ply amaz­ing. You’re right about brin­ing, it’s a fair­ly sim­ple thing but it does won­ders for fla­vor and juici­ness and ten­der­ness.

YUM.

Reply

I cooked a chick­en last week­end using this recipe of yours and, dude!, it was out­stand­ing! Can’t wait to make it again soon for my broth­er and his fam­i­ly!

Gage (Min­neso­ta)

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Great arti­cle. Going to put a few birds on a spit this week­end.

Also, be sure to brine your turkeys this Thanks­giv­ing, whether you are smok­ing them on the grill, deep fry­ing or oven roast­ing. You’ll have rave reviews.

Here’s my recipe, but be sure to make your own.

Per gal­lon of water:

1 cup of kosher salt
2/3 cup of sug­ar
1 tbsp. of liq­uid smoke
onions

Sub­merge bird in brine for 24 hours before cook­ing.

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now that’s some seri­ous brine and smoke!! the­se look awe­some!

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This chick­en is gor­geous! I’ve nev­er tried fruit in a brine. Very nice!

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read­ing this makes me want my own out­door grill, the only that’s hold­ing me back is the fact that I live in an apart­ment com­plex! I’ll just admire your deli­cious chick­en!

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Jessie,

Check back with us in a cou­ple of months. We are going to be doing some indoor grilling which may be just what you need. 

The eas­i­est way to fol­low us is to fol­low us on Twit­ter. My Twit­ter han­dle is @grillinfool (no S). I promise nev­er to hit you with mun­dane tweets. Just site relat­ed stuff which 95% of the time will be noti­fi­ca­tions of new con­tent…

.……Scott

Inter­est­ing. Thank you for shar­ing. Cheers !

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Thank you for the fab­u­lous recipe as well as great step by step direc­tions. I made this today for my fam­i­ly and last min­ute couldn’t use the rotis­serie. I end­ed up cook­ing the chick­en on the beer can in the grill instead but fol­lowed every­thing else in the recipe exact­ly. OH MY!!!! Del­ish! The gar­lic but­ter is the kick­er!!! My fam­i­ly of picky eaters thank you!

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MJ,

Sounds like you were able to adapt and over­come a pret­ty sig­nif­i­cant set back pret­ty eas­i­ly. Well done. Half of BBQ is impro­vis­ing…

.……Scott

Hi,
I have a question.…are you sim­ply remark­ing that the chips in the pic­ture aren’t soaked, or do you mean to instruct us that we should NOT soak the chips?

Thanks!

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Judy,

I’m say­ing not to soak the chips. The foil will insu­late them enough to keep them from burn­ing which is what the water does. Soak them and do the foil and it will take forever to get any smoke if you get any at all. If using chips direct­ly on coals, them by all means, soak the chips. But if you are putting them in foil, do not foil…

.……Scott

Hi Scott,

First­ly I thank you for post­ing your recipes on the web­site!!!! I plan to try all of them.…. in time

I live in Aus­tralia and have recent­ly pur­chased a 2 metre long X 1 metre wide and approx 1 metre deep cus­tom made gas rotis­serie or spit. I have a large fam­i­ly with 4 kids and in laws with more kids than me.… any­how we have a lot of fam­i­ly get togeth­ers and they loved my chick­ens (AKA your recipe). My wife’s fam­i­ly are Samoan decent.… they eat big!

I fol­lowed the recipe ingre­di­ents exact­ly how you said, how­ev­er I used 5 chick­en and they came out beau­ti­ful. The sec­ond time I cooked I used 10 chick­ens how­ev­er increased the amount of ingre­di­ents, the only thing that was wrong with this was I used 4 cups of salt and the chick­ens came out too salty. 3rd time I went back to 2 cups of salt and cooked 9 chick­ens, they came out great.

I am hav­ing a par­ty com­ing up (my sons 3rd birth­day). I am hav­ing my mate make me a cus­tom made exten­sion of the Rotis­serie fork to hold pos­si­ble 20/ 30 chick­ens!!… try­ing to save mon­ey buy not pay­ing for a caters! 

If I was to cook this amount can you sug­gest how I can adjust the receipt to suit?

Also I cooked a 30kg pig on the week­end for my next door neigh­bour for his grand daugh­ters 1st b’day and did not see you recipe for the whole pig. I was so dis­ap­point­ed that I had missed that. the pig did turn out being cooked per­fect­ly, it took just on 5 hours, the meat was cooked per­fect­ly and still had that lit­tle juici­ness about it… am plan­ning to cook a pig for my Sons b’day also using you recipe… look­ing for­ward to try­ing it… 

Once again thanks for shar­ing you receipes and your respon­se if pos­si­ble.

thanks,
Jeff

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Jeff,

The biggest thing is try to keep the ratio right. It’s about 1 cup of salt to 1 gal­lon of flu­id. And I gen­er­al­ly don’t brine more than about 12 hours. Also, rin­se the birds and pat them dry when you take them out of the brine. Let me know how it goes. Oh, and I’m so jeal­ous of that grill!!!

.……Scott

Scott,

cheers, I will send through some pic­tures next time. I tried email­ing you how­ev­er it bounced back… not sure why. Thanks talk soon.
Jeff.

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Jeff,

We’re hav­ing some issues with our GrillinFools email since we switched to a new provider. We’re work­ing on it. If you need to send some­thing to me, you can use my alter­nate account which is ScottGTh­omas (at) Gmail (dot) com.…

.……Scott

Hi, Scott

Thks 4 ur recipe. I can’t wait to try.
But my ques­tion is: Why add sug­ar to the meat?

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Oh, and the sug­ar is there to off­set the salt. It’s the bal­ance between the two fla­vor-types that makes the dif­fer­ence. Same rea­son you glaze the skin with hon­ey or brown sug­ar or what­ev­er.

Some­times mod­ern pro­duc­tion “cheats” can work in our favor. If you buy your chick­ens from the local super­mar­ket, odds are that the label will say (since the gov­ern­ment requires them to, oth­er­wise they wouldn’t, of course) that the the chick­en has been “enhanced” with up to 10% of a salt and sug­ar solu­tion. THEY might think they’re get­ting away with some­thing, but the real­i­ty is that what they’re doing is pre-brin­ing the chick­en for you. That’s why cheap super­mar­ket chick­ens always seem to taste bet­ter than fan­cy, free-range, all-nat­u­ral chick­ens that haven’t been “enhanced”.

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I am going to try this with two birds this week­end. I am going to use apples (Red Deli­cious) instead of peach­es. My gas grill has a ded­i­cat­ed “draw­er” for smok­ing wood chips, so would I still fol­low the same time and tem­per­a­ture rec­om­men­da­tions in the­se direc­tions? I am think­ing I still need to get the temp up to 400 to get the wood chips smok­ing and then bring the temp back down to 300.

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Aaron,

Absolute­ly use the built in draw­er and just fol­low the instruc­tions. You might need to play with the temps to get it per­fect where you are get­ting smoke but not too hot to cook the birds too fast. You might have to cook them a lit­tle hot­ter than you like until you get it right. Let me know how they come out!

.……Scott

Scott — Wow! Just rotis­serie smoked two chick­ens fol­low­ing your recipe. Fab­u­lous results. Cou­ple ques­tions.

I had some mas­sive flare-ups with the foil smok­er pack­ets that sent the grills inter­nal temps way up. I was even­tu­al­ly able to get them under con­trol and fin­ish with appro­pri­ate smoke and temps. As you sug­gest­ed, I did not soak but I did use apple chunks. The foil was right next to the flame. Any thoughts? 

Would a sim­i­lar approach work for smok­ing a turkey? Any thoughts on adjust­ments, par­tic­u­lar­ly on cal­cu­lat­ing cook­ing time and appro­pri­ate tem­per­a­tures (400 for first 30 and then drop to 300 for fin­ish?)

Thanks for your great site!

David/

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David,

I won­der if it was because you were using chunks instead of chips. I’m not sure. 

As for a turkey, it should work just the same. I’m not sure I would mess with the temps. Just set it and for­get it.

.……Scott

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