Getting That Bite Through BBQ Chicken Skin
Getting that bite through BBQ chicken skin – it’s the goal (or should be) of every competition cooker. I was talking with some of my BBQ buds the other day about a subject of much frustration in Competition BBQ – the Chicken entry. Whether it be to de-bone, partially de-bone, lollipop, muffin pan, or whatever… the overriding thing these guys say they’re asked about most often is how to get bite through skin on BBQ chicken. [Video Below!]
Bit Through BBQ Chicken Skin – Key Methods
First, there is no hard and fast rule that says bite through BBQ chicken skin is required for competition BBQ chicken entries. It’s more like that’s what has become the unofficial favorite among judges. In truth, few folks I know really enjoy biting into a fat-laden grease pad of skin on chicken, so it’s pretty easy to see where those entries with near-transparent bite-through and tender skin started getting higher scores.
Understanding that BBQ Chicken can be a Competition BBQ Pitmaster’s nightmare… or cause them… (See Confessions of a Chicken-Holic in George Hensler’s Startin’ the Fire for more on this)… finding an edge where you can is important for this category. Bite through BBQ chicken skin has been a key factor in seeing initial scores in this category improve.
Here are some ways to achieve the bite through BBQ chicken skin you desire…
The following is taken from a post on the Pellet Heads Forum and was written by Mr. Gordon Hubbell. You can find that direct link here.
The Classic Method for Bite Through BBQ Chicken Skin [Not the Norm]
Not that long ago, it was common to see what might easily be called “grilled” chicken in KCBS presentation boxes. Most often thighs, the chicken was prepared over relatively high heat and the skin received special attention in the process to make it crisp, resulting in a texture that was both pleasing and easy to bite through. Frequently, cooks used extra care to create attractive grill marks on the skin while at the same time avoiding creating any general charring of the piece. Charred pieces generally do not do well in appearance judging.
This approach has fallen from favor in recent years, and now it is unusual to see chicken with grill marks or even with crisp skin. I think the reason is that it took one more “dedicated” cooker to make it this way (usually a charcoal grill) and managing the temperature and grid placement required a lot of practice (and maybe even some luck) to repeat consistently. Cooks looked for a way to make chicken skin tender on their main cooking apparatus (most often a smoker of some kind, not a grill) and at the temperatures they usually maintained for smoking.
Skin Scrape Method for Bite Through BBQ Chicken Skin
Removing the skin from the chicken pieces (again mostly thighs) and scraping it carefully until it is paper-thin developed as a method that would produce bite-through tenderness. Sometimes, you will see this method carried to such a level that the skin has almost disappeared it is so transparent!
Malcom Reed Shows You How to Scrape Your Chicken (Skin)
This method is labor intensive. The cook must carefully remove the skin in one piece, then “adjust” the sizing of it to any trimming done to the meat and bone structure. Further, getting the skin to adhere to the piece again, once removed, can be a problem. I’ve been told that small dabs of butter or margarine work, along with some re-application of rub, sauce, and even honey.
The cooking of skin-scraped chicken pieces is most often done at smoking temperatures (usually mid 200’s) and there are lots of recipe approaches concerning timing, rubs and saucing. Basically, removing the fat layer under the skin creates only a minimal amount of skin to cook and the result is tenderness by default.
However, as the old saying goes, “fat is flavor” and to both retain some of that desired fat taste and to even further reduce the amount of preparation labor, yet another (and I think the currently most popular method) has evolved . . .
Margarine Method for Bite Through BBQ Chicken Skin
The brands most often used by cooks I’ve talked to are I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and Parkay. I’ve also seen them use Whirl.
The desired product is the “squeeze” semi-liquid variety, not the spray. In this approach, the cook continues to use his or her favorite method of trimming along with their usual rubs and sauces. The major difference is the cook timing and method plus using the margarine to create skin tenderness.
Although I’ve heard of many approaches, I’d say it is most typical that a cook would apply two or three relatively thick and wide “strips” of the squeeze margarine to the pieces (once again, thighs are most common) across the skin side following the application of the rub. The chicken is then cooked “open” (meaning uncovered, but often in an aluminum pan) for about half the total cook time, then covered for the remaining half. This works well with thighs, especially, since they stand up well to extended cook times.
Standard smoking temperatures (mid 200’s) allow the chicken to be cooked right along with the other meats instead of on another device. Another plus is that pieces can and should be trimmed skin-on so re-fitting isn’t necessary. Finishing involves only touching up any spotting with fresh rub, and then saucing is most often done by dipping the pieces in heated sauce or glaze.
Again, you can find the original post here.
Nearly every competition BBQ cook team I know employs either the skin scrape method, the margarine method, or a combination of the two. As a KCBS and FBA judge, I’ve seen very few entries prepared using the classic “semi-grilled” or crispy method Hub describes.
Have any BBQ Chicken Tips You’d Like to Share? Please comment below!
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