Using a smoked chicken brine before cooking your bird will pay big dividends in flavor and texture. The salt enhances the flavor of the chicken, and it enables the meat fibers to hold on to moisture more tightly. The sugar helps in pulling moisture into the chicken, preventing drying as it's cooked in the smoker.
Most brines contain salt and sugar. The salt actually changes the structure of the protein strands, and that's what helps trap moisture. As the chicken brines, some of the sugar is absorbed into the meat. Sugar attracts moisture, which helps even more. Taste from seasonings added to the brine are also absorbed into chicken, translating into more great flavor!
To make brine, salt, sugar and seasonings are added to water. The brine
is better if it's boiled until the sugar and salt are totally dissolved.
When completely dissolved, the salt and sugar will do their thing to
the chicken more effectively. This is the basic chicken brine recipe:
For more flavor, spices and herbs can be added. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage are all great herb choices that compliment the flavor of chicken well. Onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and paprika are some spice options that will add depth and complexity to your smoked chicken.
Bring one-half gallon of the water to a boil. Add the salt and sugar, stirring until dissolved. Remove from the heat, cover, and add the remaining half gallon of water. Allow the brine to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until it reaches 40°F or below. Brine your chicken at that temperature for 2 to 4 hours. Larger, thicker pieces require 4 hours of brining time. Smaller pieces need only a couple of hours. If the chicken portions are skinless, reduce the total brining time slightly.
Add herbs, spices and other flavoring to the brine to give your chicken more flavor. Substitute fruit juice, wine or beer for some of the water. This smoked chicken brine recipe can be modified to flavor chicken just the way you like it.
The brined chicken can be cooked in your meat smoker. Your propane, electric or charcoal grill will also do a fine job when set up using the indirect grill-smoking method, and with the addition of a few wood chips or chunks for flavor.