Weekend Project: Chicken Barbecue in a Loaf Pan
I know what you’re thinking, cooking a chicken in a loaf pan sounds like a half-baked idea, particularly on the grill. How is the bird going to cook thoroughly while scrunched in a pan intended for bread, after all? It may seem counter intuitive, but the walls of the pan actually work as a protective cushion, a moist oasis (think clay pot) that keeps the bird from drying out.
Crazy? Maybe. But this method, courtesy of Alabama barbecue master Chris Lilly, works like a champ. If you know anything about barbecue, you know there’s usually a wet “mop” and a dry rub of seasonings applied to your intended protein. In this case, the “mop” comes first, a sweet-tangy mix of applesauce and Worcestershire sauce, which is lathered all over the bird, inside and out. Then comes a savory melange of spices that permeates the meat during its low, slow stint on the grill. And then here comes the weird part -- place the bird in the loaf pan, breast side up -- and prepare the grill for some barbecue.
For the next 2 ½ hours or so, your main job is to keep the grill company and make sure the temperature under the cover stays constant at 300 degrees. Seriously. There's no other fiddlin' or fussin' to do. How to tell when the bird is done? Says Lilly in his new book, “Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Cook”:
The easiest way to tell if your chicken is perfect is a simple twist test. Twist a chicken leg with your fingers. If it doesn't budge, it isn't done. If it spins like a roulette wheel in Las Vegas, it has cooked too long. Ideally you want to feel slight tension and then a release of the joint.
Just think, you'll have all kinds of time to dream up a side, a salad or reflect on the week gone by. Barbecue has a way of letting us catch up with our lives.
Adapted from “Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Cook” by Chris Lilly
¾ cup applesauce
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 whole chicken, approximately 3 ½ pounds
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons paprika (KOD: I substituted smoked paprika)
1 ½ teaspoons black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons garlic salt
¾ teaspoon celery salt
¾ teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
Equipment: 9x5x3-inch metal or cast-iron loaf pan; instant-read thermometer
Suggested wood: Hickory, apple or apricot
Cooking time: 2 ½ hours, longer for slightly larger bird
Build a fire (wood or a combination or charcoal and wood) for indirect cooking by placing coals on one side of the grill, leaving the other side unheated.
In a small bowl, stir together the applesauce and Worcestershire. Place chicken upright in loaf pan and lather mixture on top, making sure entire bird is coated inside and out. Allow excess to accumulate into the pan.
In another small bowl, combine dry rub ingredients and stir to combine. Apply all over chicken, inside and out. Chicken should be breast side up in the pan.
When grill temperature reaches 300 degrees, place loaf pan (KOD: I wrapped bottom of pan with a layer of aluminum foil) on the side of the grill away from the coals. Cover grill and cook, periodically checking that grill temperature stays consistent (KOD: We keep a thermometer in one of the top dampers. If temperature falls well below 300 and you haven’t opened the grill for 20 minutes or so, you may need to add coals.) Chicken is done when instant read thermometer reads about 165-170 degrees in the thigh.
Remove pan from heat and with tongs, transfer chicken to a cutting board, allowing it to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.
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