BBQ101 – Perfect, juicy smoked chicken breast filets (with bacon!)

Tastes great with some grilled corn salsa, coleslaw and homemade bourbon-pickled jalapenos!

Tastes great with some grilled corn salsa, coleslaw and homemade bourbon-pickled jalapenos!

The last year I have had a personal focus on eating healthier and working out. Does that have to mean less BBQ? No, of course not. It means more BBQ. And one of the most protein-rich, low-fat foods you can put on your smoker is the chicken breast. However, due to the low fat content and the temperature levels you have to cook them to, they can easily end up being dry and bland. Some months ago I saw a (stupid) comment from someone about how you “had to” employ sous vide techniques to make a good chicken breast. Of course you don’t, as we all know EVERYTHING tastes better smoked or grilled (don’t get me started on the whole sous vide first and then smoke it debacle, it doesn’t even come close to real BBQ, and you know it). So I have experimented for a while, and believe now that I have found a very good (perfect?) way to make chicken breast! We will combine low and slow BBQ with the method known as the reverse sear, and some glazing in the end to achieve perfection while cooking outdoors. Let’s go!

 

What you will need for 6 filets:

  • 6 large chicken breast filets
  • 6 strips of quality dry smoked bacon
  • Some BBQ sauce for glazing (I like to use this one, but you can buy a good one too of course)

Serving suggestions:

  • I like to serve with some good coleslaw, maybe some grilled corn salsa (recipe to come later…) and some good homemade bourbon-pickled jalapenos. Some bratwurst is never a bad idea either!

Preparations (15 min):

  • Set up your grill or smoker for indirect cooking and try to stabilize grate temp at Chicken filets on the Primo Oval XL. Yum!around 100C/212F
  • I like to rinse the filets under cold water and then pat them dry with kitchen towel. You can brine them too if you like that, but I don’t find it necessary using the method we will use
  • Season the filets. I use salt and pepper only for this, but you can use your favorite rub for more spiciness too if you like.
  • Once rinsed and dry, roll/fold the filets lengthwise into a ball that is uniform as possible. This together with low temperature smoking will aid in even cooking throughout, plus it looks cool. Wrap a strip of bacon (or two, cross-wise if you’re feeling like partying) around the filet, and use a small wood skewer to hold it all in place.
  • Chicken is now ready to go!

How to cook it (120-150 min):

  • Place your chicken balls safely on the cold side of your grill smoker. Throw some (cherry/apple) wood chips on if you like, I don’t find it necessary on my lovely Primo Oval XL, I get enough smokiness just from the lump charcoal I use. Either way go easy on the smoke, poultry is easily oversmoked.
  • Stick a thermometer probe in the largest one and keep an eye on the temperature throughout cooking. On around 100C/212F grate temp it usually takes a bout 90 minutes to get to the desires temp, which should be about 65C/149F (not safe for eating, but we are not done yet!)
  • Once the chicken has reached 65C/149F, take them off the grill, and get the temp up a bit. Heat up a grate over the coal side of the grill, because we will do some searing next
  • When the grate is nice and hot, get the chicken balls nicely seared on all sides. ThisChicken safe temp reached and resting commencing should bring them up to around 70C/158F.
  • Once searing is done move them over to the cold side of the grill again, and brush them with the BBQ sauce selected earlier. I normally have a grate temp of around 150C/300F at this point, try and keep it at that or lower, or the sugar in your BBQ sauce will burn and create bad flavors
  • Let the filets glaze for 5-10 minutes. At this point I check each one with my ThermaPen, to see if I have reached the safe temp for chicken (USDA says 165F/74C, and I agree)
  • Winner winner. Chicken dinner.Once they reach the correct temp, take them off the grill and let them rest 5-10 minutes. Serve it up and enjoy the juiciest, most delicious smoky chicken filets you have ever eaten. Perfection!

BBQ Grunnkurs – Perfekte, saftige kyllingfileter med nydelig røyksmak (og bacon!)

Tastes great with some grilled corn salsa, coleslaw and homemade bourbon-pickled jalapenos!

Smaker fortreffelig med grillet maissalsa, coleslaw, hjemmelagde bourbon-pickled jalapenos og en iskald IPA

Det siste året har jeg hatt en personlig fokus på å spise sunnere og trene masse. Betyr det mindre BBQ? Nei, selvsagt ikke, det betyr mer BBQ. En av de mest proteinrike, magre tingene du kan slenge på grillen er kyllingfilet. Men, pga det lave fettinnholdet og den forholdsvis høye kjernetemperaturen vi må tilberede filetene til for å unngå sykdommer, ender kyllingfileter ofte opp som tørre, smakløse greier. For noen måneder siden så jeg en (idiotisk) kommentar om at man “måtte” bruke sous vide teknikker for å få til ett godt kyllingbryst. Det må man selvsagt ikke, og som vi alle vet smaker ALT bedre når det er røykt og grillet (og ikke nevn disse sous vide først og så røyking teknikkene, det er ikke engang i nærheten av ekte BBQ, og det vet dere!). Så, nå har jeg eksperimentert noen måneder og mener å ha funnet en metode for å lage veldig god (kanskje til og med perfekt) kyllingfilet på grillen. I denne oppskriften kombinerer vi “low and slow” BBQ (varmrøyking) med teknikken kjent som “reverse sear” (dvs at vi brunner kjøttet til slutt istedetfor først), før vi avslutter med å glasere filetene.

Hva trenger du for 6 fileter:

  • 6 store kylling brystfileter
  • 6 remser med tynn, røykt kvalitetsbacon
  • BBQ saus for glasering. Jeg liker å lage og bruke denne, men du kan kjøpe en også selvsagt.

Serveringsforslag:

  • Jeg liker å servere disse med litt god coleslaw, litt grillet maissalsa (oppskrift kommer senere), og noen gode hjemmelagde bourbon-pickled jalapenos. Litt bratwurst er aldri en dårlig idé heller!

Forberedelser (15 min):

  • Sett opp grillen eller røykeren din for indirekte grilling og prøv å stabilisere en temperatur (målt på risten) på ca. 100 grader celsius.
  • Jeg liker å skylle filetene i kaldt vann og så tørke dem med kjøkkenpapir. Du kan legge dem i saltlake noen timer også, men jeg synes ikke det er nødvendig med den metoden vi skal bruke for tilberedning her.
  • Krydre filetene. Jeg bruker kun salt og pepper på disse, men du kan bruke din favoritt-rub også for litt mer krydret smak.
  • Når filetene er klare, rull eller brett dem på langs og form dem til en ball som er så uniform/rund som mulig. Dette sammen med den lave temperaturen i røykefasen vil hjelpe oss til å dem jevnest mulig ferdig, og dermed få ett ekstremt saftig sluttresultat. Legg en stripe bacon rundt “kyllingballen” (eller to striper på kryss om du er i festhumør), og bruk en cocktailpinne til å holde alt sammen.
  • Kyllingen er nå klar til å tilberedes, og bør legges i kjølen om ikke alt er klart til røyking enda.

Hvordan du griller dette (120-150 min):

  • Sett kyllingballene pent på en ren rist på den kalde siden av grillen/røykeren din. Hiv inn litt eple- eller kirsebær-flis om du ønsker det, på min nye Primo Oval XL har jeg ikke behov for dette, fordi jeg får nok røyksmak fra selve grillkullet. På en vanlig kulrgrill er litt flis å anbefale. Vær uansett forsiktig med mengden røykflis, det er lett å overrøyke fjærkre, og det smaker ikke noe særlig godt..
  • Putt en termometer-sensor i den største kyllingballen, og hold ett øye med temperaturen mens du røyker filetene. Med en temperatur på 100C på grillristen, pleier det å ta cirka 90 minutter å komme til ønsket temperatur, som er rundt 65C (ikke trygg temperatur for konsumering, men husk, vi er ikke ferdige enda!)
  • Når filetene har nådd 65C, ta dem av grillen, og få temperaturen opp litt i grillkammeret. Varm en rist på kullsiden av grillen, for nå skal vi brune filetene litt.
  • Når risten er passe varm, bruner du kyllingballene pent på alle sider. Dette bringer vanligvis temperaturen i filetene opp til rundt 70C.
  • Chicken safe temp reached and resting commencingNår bruningen er ferdig, flytter du filetene til den kalde siden av grillen igjen, som nå bør holde rundt 150C. Pensle dem med ett strøk BBQ saus eller to. Pass på at du ikke går over 160C her, for da kan du svi sukkeret i BBQ sausen, noe som lager dårlig smak.
  • La filetene glaseres for 5-10 minutter. På dette tidspunktet pleier jeg å sjekke hver av filetene med ett termometer (jeg bruker ThermaPen), for å se om de har nådd sikker temperatur for å spises, som bør være minimum 70 grader. Jeg pleier å gå ett par grader over, for sikkerhets skyld.
  • Winner winner. Chicken dinner.Når filetene har nådd korrekt temperatur, ta dem av grillen og la dem hvile 5-10 minutter. Server og nyt den søte, røykfylte smaken av den saftigste, deiligste kyllingfileten du noengang har spist!

Equipment – First impressions of my new Primo Oval XL

DSC_1642About a week ago, the Norwegian company Gastronaut gave me a good offer on a Primo Oval XL grill (this happened sort of by chance via my BBQviking Instagram account, btw!). I had been researching kamado style grills and other types of smokers for a long time already, thinking about upgrading from my two standard Weber kettles. I long considered Weber’s WSM, some insulated smokers like the Chubby from Backwoods Smoker, and other alternatives.

The more I researched and thought about it, the more a kamado style grill/smoker looked like the best alternative for me. It would allow me to get a better grill for hot and fast type cooking (especially for Norwegian winter conditions) and a smoker at the same time. Best of both worlds. The Oval shape of the Primo appealed to me, and seemed to give me the most cooking space for my buck -. Which is important, because I often cook for 8+

That one time the inside of a kamado was clean and bright. This can't last

That one time the inside of a kamado was clean and bright. This can’t last

people.  I had been eyeing the Big Green Egg too of course, but they seemed way overpriced, especially here in Norway

Last Monday, the magic happened – I could pick up my new Primo Oval XL from the dealer. It barely fit in my boxy, boring people mover, and it was heavy! Had to call a friend to help me come over and put it on a makeshift table/stand I had built for it! I opted for the model with no stand, because I have some plans for a simple outdoor kitchen/bench this spring on my deck anyway. More on that later!

I have had 4 cooks on the thing this week. A couple normal grilling sessions with direct and indirect cooking, and one long, low and slow cook last Saturday, with two big pork butts and some Norwegian beef ribs – aka “bibringe”. Two pork butts and four pieces of Norwegian bibringe on the smoker

So, what are the biggest differences between the Primo and my two Weber Performer grills? Let me give you a list of things I noticed using the Primo this first week:

  • First off – you don’t use a chimney starter on the primo. It only takes lump charcoal, no briquettes, and I have been using alcohol based tablets to fire it up. The old paper towel drenched in vegetable oil trick works well too. Never use starting fluid in a ceramic grill, says all the manufacturers.
  • The charcoal capacity of the thing is huge, and it seems to work best when it’s filled up – even if I’m doing a short cook. Once I’m done I just close the vents, and out the flame goes, leaving a ton of charcoal for next cook. Quite simple really.
  • The Primo Oval XL takes A LOT of charcoal in the fire boxIt was very easy getting used to the vents and managing temperature – but then I have practiced A LOT on the Weber kettles doing this. Having a remote two-probe type thermometer seems almost a necessity on this type of grill. I use the Maverick ET-732.
  • For me so far, it takes a bit longer to get the Primo up to temp then it takes on my standard kettles. This kind of makes sense, due to the sheer mass of the Primo. 90 kg or about 200 pounds of ceramic needs to get heated up. When adding the deflector plates, that adds more weight too. Also I think the different lighting technique makes it take a while longer
  • Once it’s up to temp however, it stays there very nicely. Patience is important, the amount of mass introduces a delay in temperature changes, so oversteering it could become an issue if you’re not patient enough. Monitoring temperature from my easy chair all thanks to the lovely Maverick ET-732
  • Smoke management is also quite different. Especially doing low and slow with the two deflector plates installed, I have no easy way of adding smoke during the cook. This means chunks spread out in the coal pile are a lot better than the chips I’m using on my standard kettles. If you’re grilling without deflector plates, direct/indirect for instance, adding chips is of course very easy
  • With a grill like this that is very airtight, it seems to keep the moisture content in the meat on slow cooks a lot higher. Holding my hand above the chimney (not recommended on hot cooks btw!) I can feel the moisture coming out of the thing. I have never noticed this on my standard kettles.
  • The ceramic makes it a lot less susceptible than the standard kettles to changes in weather. On those things I would notice if the sun came out, or if the wind direction changed, and had to adjust accordingly. Because of the huge mass, the Primo seems unaffected. Can’t wait to try it out in real winter conditions next winter!
  • The low and slow cook I did this weekend was quicker than my experiences with the Weber kettles, even though I had the same grate/dome temperature range as I normally have. I think this could be attributed to several things, but the higher mouisture content inside seems a likely contributor, as well as being able to keep the lid on for a lot longer than I do on the kettles. Running at a range mostly between 130-150 degrees C (265-320F) this weekend, one of the 12 pound pork butts I had was done after only 8 hours.
  • This stuff burns very steady and long in the Primo!

    This stuff burns very steady and long in the Primo!

    Another big thing with Primo – it burns really clean. I filled up the chamber with coal for the above cook, and cooked for about 12 hours total, closed the vents – and more than 1/3 of the charcoal (Wicked Good Weekend Warrior type) I put in was still there the next day. That’s pretty impressive. Scraping the ashes out of it there was not a whole lot of those either.

  • I learned something else too on one of these first cooks. Make sure the two deflector plates make contact in the middle, even a small gap here will burn your food where the gap is!
  • Lastly, the beef ribs I made on the Primo this weekend came out WAY better than my 7-8 previous attempts at those on standard kettles. More testing will be needed but it seems attributable to the grill that I would nail it on the first try when I have had so many tries before. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been good before too, but nothing like what came out of this thing in terms of tenderness+juicyness.

All in all, I am very pleased with my newest grill so far. The only downside I see is that it takes a little while to get it up to temp, but I will be working on testing different methods and ways, some of that could be my lack of experience with kamado style grills too.

Full disclosure: I got a good price on this grill+accessories to have it appear on my blog at times in photos etc (which it would’ve without the discount too, to be honest). But then I figured it would be fun to write some about my experiences with it too as I know a lot of people are looking at kamado style cookers these days.