From the Barbecue Test Kitchen:
(Sept 14) I've been reading and hearing a lot of debate regarding the pro's and con's of cooking chicken "low and slow" versus cooking at "higher" temps, or even starting at low temps and finishing at higher temps to "crisp" the skin.
I plan to highlight all three methods here this week and provide a step-by-step outline of my testing methods, recipes, marinades, cooking temps, finishing temps, rubs, sauces, cookers used, etc.
I am going to be cooking 12 Amish chicken thighs--4 using each method outlined above.
I like "Amish" chicken thighs specifically because in my experience any chicken that has been soaked in a sodium solution during processing turns out too salty after it's been seasoned with a bbq rub. I've good luck with Publix chicken (all-natural), but since we've moved to Michigan I can't find it. Another good brand is Pilgrim's Pride, which is also Sodium free.
The chicken will be rubbed with an equal mixture of garlic granules, onion granules, black pepper, salt, chili powder and a small amount of chipotle powder. I always put the spice rub under the skin and then fold the skin back on top of the rub and spread the skin evenly over the thigh.
I will marinate the chicken thighs in an Italian dressing mixture that includes apple juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, honey, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.
I never have been a big proponent of allowing meat to sit out until it reaches room temperature as some folks do, so I will remove the chicken directly from marinating in the refrigerator and place it directly on the cookers.
(Sept 19) The chicken cooking test turned out a little unexpected.
The chicken cooked at high temps (325 degrees) and low and slow (225 degrees) then finished at high temps (325 degrees) turned out to be a lot dryer than I expected. Also, the skin did not really crisp up very well. It's a very fine line between crisp skin and burnt black skin.
The chicken cooked at 225 degrees (the way we do it in competition with good results) had a much more predictable result--tender, juicy, tastey, but with "chewy" skin.
I guess I've confirmed what a lot of folks have know for years....there are tradeoffs in just about everything you set out to do it life...bbq is no exception.