BBQ Chicken

Chicken's Last Stand

Hey everyone! So if you have been a reader of the blog, you will know chicken is my Achilles Heel. For some reason, anytime I venture into cooking a chicken it just goes wildly wrong. With that, I wasn't exactly thrilled when I almost literally had a chicken appear on my doorstep.

It had been a hell of a couple weeks. On top of the usual life, my household of 5 became the house holding 5 separate cases of strep throat. Now, I love BBQ, but in the middle of this sickness BBQ was the last thing on my mind. I was the first to catch it, which also meant I was the first to feel somewhat normal again. Feeling almost back to myself, my phone rang. It was my mom saying "Hey, I have this chicken defrosted and ready to cook, but I am not able to cook it this weekend. You want it?"

Truthfully, I kinda didn't want it. I mean I suck at chicken and could think of 100 things I would rather BBQ. But, I am cheap and don't want to turn down a good bird. Besides, even if I screwed up the chicken, I still had a chicken carcass to make stock with and the rest of my mending house would like some soup. There, I had talked myself into the bird.

I wish I could tell you some elaborate story of how I mentally prepped for the grill of a lifetime where I finally master the chicken. But the truth is, there wasn't. I simply said, hey I am gonna do my thing. I am going to hold heat, I won't rush it and we shall see what happens...and oh yeah, I am gonna make a side that could double as a meal in case the bird doesn't fly!

That simple thought process is exactly how I cooked. I rubbed the bird with some BBQ Bob's Alpha Rub, got a perfect fire going, added smoke and away we went. Fortunately for me, it was a giant chicken, which meant I had plenty of time to work on my alternative meal of failure...I mean side dish. Again sick house so...I went with a broccoli cheese soup. The soup is pretty amazing, some potatoes, broccoli, and onions cooked in a stock with some blue cheese. Once it is all cooked, you blend it and throw in some cream. Honestly, it is about as good as a vegetarian soup can be.

So I got that cooking, the bird cooking and honestly, it was time to relax a bit. Next thing I knew, the soup was ready to blend and the bird was about at temp. Now I haven't ever done this right. So I didn't really know what to expect. The darkened skin of the chicken really just made me assume I messed up again. Still, I took her temp and it seemed to be exactly where it should be. So I brought it in and let it rest. 

Now while I cannot say what a good BBQ chicken looks like, all of my previous failures have gotten me pretty versed in breaking down a chicken. So I grabbed my knife and went to work. This was the stunning part. First the legs and thighs. After I cut them off, they looked pretty damn good. The wings were next and they too looked amazing. As I started to cut out the breast meat I was sure that I would see a pink center. But I didn't! The meat was all cooked, not overcooked. Not dry, the meat was actually glistening!

So while I will gladly put my broccoli cheese soup up against anything, today the chicken stole the show. I mean seriously, I still don't love chicken. I will choose beef or pork just about any day over chicken. But, this chicken was damn good.

Now on to the final part of this story, because it doesn't end here. Now, I took that smokey carcass, the scraps of skin, and the leftover bones and tossed them in a pot. I added some chopped onions, carrots and garlic. I filled it up with water and just let it simmer for a couple hours. In the end, I strained out everything leaving me with the most amazing chicken stock I have ever tasted. I mean hell, you can actually taste the smoke in the stock. 

So now, I have left over the smoked chicken breast and my chicken stock. Throw in some veggies and noodles and that will be a leftover meal which might actually taste better than the first meal it came from. 

Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!

Great Balls of Fire!

Between building a table for my kettle and testing a quantifiable shit-ton of thermometers it has been a while since I have shared my experience with cooking. Have no fear despite all that activity, the cooks have continued. I continue to wow the family with great BBQ. So today I want to share one of those stories with you.

Now keep in mind, I come to BBQ differently then, at least I think, most do. For most I tend to believe that BBQ is a craft they were raised with, for others, they come to BBQ because they have an undying love with the end result and therefore learn to cook to satisfy this need. But, as I said, I'm a little different. 

My journey with meat as a whole has not been one of obsession or even love. A few years ago, I didn't eat much out of the realm of burgers. Things like steak, pulled pork, or anything considered a roast of any kind were simply not a part of my diet. They were a bit unknown. In this past year, yes there has been a lot of learning the art of BBQ, but for me, I have learned just as much about the actual meat I enjoy.

About half of the cooks I have done have been dishes which not only I have never cooked, but I have never even eaten. My only point in bringing this up is to convey the fact that much of the BBQ world is uncharted territory for me. With that, when I am left to my own devices, I have a pretty small window of cooks to do. 

Such was the case this past week. Yes, Mikey assigned me a cook, but I had not procured the needed cut in time. Still wanting to cook I was all ready to smoke some chicken breasts. Something which would stay in the fridge throughout the week and provide a decent quick meal for the kids after practice and such. Then something happened. No, not something....Then Mikey happened.

He simply asked if I had started my cook yet. Upon discovering I hadn't he simply said: "how about chicken meatballs?"

I spent the next 15 minutes doing two things. On one hand, I was trying to wrap my head around how I would do that. The other thing I was doing was crafting an excuse as to why I was going to just do my chicken breasts as planned. I didn't really feel up to jumping into the unknown territory. But, the more I thought about it, the more it sounded feasible and fun. 

The next thing I knew I was breaking out the meat grinder. With a few short directions from Mikey, soon I was grinding a combination of 4 pounds of chicken breasts and a pound of bacon. As I texted a photo of the grind beginning to Mikey, he responded with one of his own. See this was not just a suggestion, he too was grinding his own chicken meatballs and now the was the Battle of the Balls.

So logistically I quickly learned a couple things in this trial by fire. First when ground, chicken is a hell of a lot different than beef. It doesn't stay together the same, it is just looser. Second, I don't think there is a need for a double grind. That second grind almost felt like I was putting chicken slime into the grinder only to try and restore the shape of the ground meat. 

Next, I had my near-fatal flaw of the cook. At some point, I rapidly searched making chicken meatballs to get a feel for how much bread crumbs to mix in. I found something that was based on a pound of meat and it called for one egg. Well, here I had 5 pounds of meat so I needed more egg. Sounded logical. Besides my son loves cracking eggs so I ended up putting 3 into the grind. After adding the 3 eggs, I dumped in what felt like a good amount of breadcrumbs and finally a healthy amount of Lane's Sweet Heat rub.

Upon mixing it I realized the flaw. The added liquid of the eggs had created a chicken soup. This was not ground meat this was almost straight up liquid. Of course, it did take Mikey to point that out. Desperate I dumped in the remainder of the breadcrumbs I had on hand. It thickened it a bit, but not enough at all. There was no way these could be formed into balls. It looked like Mikey would win this Battle of the Balls.

Then inspiration hit me. As I looked for some bread to break up and toss in a white plastic wrapper caught my eye. It was a sleave of saltines! I quickly broke them up and tossed them in. The result? Well, it was not as thick as I would have liked, but it was workable. 

I realized I couldn't really see the seasoning I put in, so I added another healthy dump of the Sweet Heat. Now came the task of forming meatballs. It was still too soupy to make nice small meatballs, so I went Italian style and was able to make a bunch of big meatballs. They were soft and sticky, but it seemed like they were holding together.

You see I don't like to waste meat. Secondly, I don't like to fail in the competition so the combination of it all meant I was gonna fight like hell to cook something that looked like a meatball. Even if Mikey beat me, I would have something. 

Meanwhile, maybe as a backup plan, I also took a bunch of chicken breasts and seasoned them with Historic BBQ Black rub. If all else failed, I would still have the intended chicken in the fridge at the end. I mean hell, by this point even my typically very supportive wife had lost hope of seeing an edible meatball.

I set up my cooked and gently set the meatballs on the grate. Soon they started looking like real meatballs. By the time they were done, they actually looked fantastic. I get them all off the grill and added some more charcoal and cherry wood to begin the chicken breast cook.

Honestly, I think I was scared to try a meatball. They rested and sat there as I tended to the chicken breasts. Finally, after a long while, I decided to give one a try. Okay, as I stated before I am not a huge fan of chicken. It is a great meal, don't get me wrong, but it is not something I long for by any means. But this meatball, it was absolutely incredible. 

I married into an Italian family. With that, there are certain meals you just don't even try to stand up against as you will always lose. The meatball is one of them. But not only can my meatball hang with my Mother-In-Laws, I think it beats it...and it is made from chicken!

To me, these were simply the best meatballs I have ever had. And here is the fun part. See, I never looked to make a chicken meatball. Even if I were to get creative I wouldn't have ever stopped to say 'Hey I could make a meatball out of chicken, I'll try that out.' See this came from Mikey. And while yes I am fortunate to have my Mikey, we all need a little BBQ friend to give inspiration, ideas, and maybe even a little competition. Every one of you out there has, without a doubt, been cooking something I haven't. Maybe I have even cooked something you haven't. Instead of just doing our own things, I think we can all accomplish some pretty awesome cooks with that shared inspiration and comradery.

Even the MMB Facebook group as an example. It is a great way to share stories, ideas, and cooks. I know you all cook some incredible meals. I do not in anyway want to take anything away from that, but with a little help we can share that, and inspire others with it. Maybe a chicken meatball isn't the cook you would ever dream of. It certainly wasn't for me. But in the end, had I not done it I would be the real loser as this meal was simply awesome!

If you haven't joined in the conversation jump on in and get inspired. Or at the very least inspire your BBQ brothers.

As for the Battle of the Balls, Mikey is an amazing cook. That being said, I kinda feel like I passed him at the finish line on this one...but I'll let you be the judge!


Mikey's Chicken Meatballs


My Chicken Meatballs

Until next post, remember kids.....CHUNKS not chips!