The smoke curled upwards to the heavens. It was as if the grill wanted to announce that something good was about to go down. And it was.
The two plump, chicken breasts that I held in my hands had a date with a hardwood fire. Poultry on the grill has always been a grand combination, and the circumstances on this fine day would prove no different.
With endless brining possibilities, one no longer has to settle for the old dried out chicken breasts of yesteryear. And today, well, today we shall try an intriguing, albeit simple, bourbon based brine to flavor these fine specimens. The ingredients are indeed simple, and are as follows:
- 1/2 cup quality bourbon (I know, I know, but the chicken will pay you back in flavor later, so use quality bourbon. You know the old adage. If you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it either!)
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- Fresh herbs of your choice. (I used fresh spicy oregano, and a sprig of fresh rosemary)
Get a large Ziplock bag, and mix the ingredients in the bag. Add the chicken, and then also add enough cold water to cover the chicken. Swish it around and mix it well. Squeeze out the air, secure the bag, and then squeeze in the flavor.
Refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably longer, depending on your schedule and grumbling tummy. While your chicken is drinking in the brine, and thanking you for the bourbon, set up your grill for indirect cooking, coals all off to one side.
When you are ready to start grilling, remove the breasts from the brine, and pat dry. Don’t discard this brine solution just yet though. Gather up your favorite spices or poultry rub, and give those breasts a good pat down.
Rub it on, rub it in, rub it all around until no surface has gone untouched. This is where, depending if you dipped into the bourbon yourself, you know, kind of freelancing it, that you “do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around”, because well, “that’s what it’s all about” ;^)
Now, instead of simply dumping that used brine, I decided to use it in my water pan, situated next to the coals, under the cooking grate.
This will help keep the breasts moist, and perhaps infuse a little more essence, at least to the griller if not the grill-ee.
Go ahead and lay the seasoned chicken on the cool side of the grill, above the water pan, and add any wood chips if desired. Hickory wood is a great complement to the flavors used up to this point. Close the grill lid, and let the cooking begin.
The wood and the water pan will now take over the cooking duties, allowing you to get that much-needed sitting down time that one needs every now and again.
After twenty minutes or so, raise the lid and give these breasts a peek. They’ll be getting that beautiful bronze color, signifying that it’s time to flip and rotate them.
Continue the cooking process with the lid closed, checking again in another fifteen or twenty minutes. You’re looking for a reading of 160 degrees internal temperature. Since these were close to the finish temperature, I decided to baste one of the breasts in sauce, and leave the other au natural, so to speak. It’s all about personal preferences at this point.
When the proper internal temperature is reached, remove the chicken from the grill.
Enjoy the aroma and the visual appeal. Anticipate the subtle flavors from the brine, the layers of bourbon, brown sugar along with the fresh herbs. Anticipate the juiciness provided by the brining process.
Because of this anticipation, and the grumbling tummy, this chicken, that was originally smoked for use in a chicken salad, sadly never met the intended use. It was unapologetically consumed, with a solemn promise to repeat this process and use that chicken for the originally intended dish. Nevertheless, whether it’s basic grilled chicken, or hickory smoked chicken salad,
Life Is Better Wood Fired