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Barbecue recipes for a stewing hen


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One of the bases of barbecue is taking a cheap, tough piece of meat and turning it into something well worth eating.  Think brisket, ribs, etc.  However, all the recipes I've seen for chicken start with a fryer or other fairly young bird.  Growing up, old chickens went into soups, stews, gumbos, and were never roasted.  But they definitely have more flavor than a young bird.

 

I know sous vide could be used here, but 1) I don't have one (yet) and 2) that's not my point here.  It just seems that with the ability of a Kamado to do a long slow cook easily, there should be a way to take advantage of it to make a really tasty chicken.  I'm thinking of this mainly as a base for other chicken dishes (stir fry, sandwiches, salads, tacos, etc), as some of the toughness of the old chicken might remain.  

 

So, has anyone done something like this, and how'd it turn out?  I didn't see anything specific to old chickens searching this site and a couple other bbq sites I've used.  I've tried cooking one before, and a straight hot cook probably won't do a good job of tenderizing the bird.  Went great in a soup, but too tough for some other uses.

 

My thought is to just start a low fire and see how long it takes to probe tender.  Spatchcock, dry brine and a simple chicken rub, for a starter.  Rotisserie is an alternative, but keeping a low, steady.fire seems simpler without that attachment contributing to leakages.  Suggestions for a different approach?

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There's a chicken-farmer in our valley who runs a side-business that Mr. Tyson probably doesn't know about.  He raises various kinds of "non-standard chickens" to adulthood without force-feeding them.  After they have been allowed to become "old," he harvests them and sells them locally to a well-groomed list of customers including me.  You can instantly tell the difference from anything and everything that you can buy in a grocery store, or certainly at Chick Fil'A ... there is simply no comparison.

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This is my  favorite way to roast chicken how ever I am using young birds. I I was to cook a mature chicken, like Julia Child, explained when she used a mature rooster to teach us how to cook Cod Au Vin I would use an aromatic braze.  On the kamado,  I would start it on the grate breast down. Until I marked it good,  at maybe 300 and then lower the heat shooting for something between 250 and 275,  quarter it and let it finish in the pan of veggies and brazing liquid below. Backyard chef's Coc Au Vin. I use a braze liquid of chicken stock, red wine, apple cider, and some sliced orange for brightness. Ps. If I was doing this I use  a bigger pan, probably my 13 " double handled Lodge cast iron  as  brazer. 

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4 hours ago, MikeRobinson said:

There's a chicken-farmer in our valley who runs a side-business that Mr. Tyson probably doesn't know about.  He raises various kinds of "non-standard chickens" to adulthood without force-feeding them.  After they have been allowed to become "old," he harvests them and sells them locally to a well-groomed list of customers including me.  You can instantly tell the difference from anything and everything that you can buy in a grocery store, or certainly at Chick Fil'A ... there is simply no comparison.

@MikeRobinson, that's pretty much what I grew up on - yard birds of various colors, sizes and dispositions.  But typically we would roast or bake (or bbq) most of the roosters of a clutch when they were relatively young.  So yes, they had great flavor from a widely varying diet and plenty of room to roam, but they weren't "old".  Older than the standard bird in the supermarket (weeks old), but typically several months.  Older birds got stewed for a long, long time.  Like @keeperovdeflame's coc au Vin, just in a nice gravy.  Cook times started at about 2 hours for younger birds, went up from there.  

 

Keeper, you (and the great Julia) might be right about needing those veggies, citrus and brazing liquid to keep moisture on and work on tenderizing and developing flavors. I'm hoping there's a simpler approach, but my hunch is that if there were, it would be widely known.  Because cooking tough old hens (or roosters) is not a new challenge, it's been around as long as chickens!

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14 hours ago, Boater said:

  Because cooking tough old hens (or roosters) is not a new challenge, it's been around as long as chickens!

Never lived on a farm myself, but my Dad grew up on a big one in North Dakota from 1909 on.  Two things he said were unbreakable rules, 1. having any thing but razor straight plow runs, especially along the roads the other farmers walked to church on, om  Sundays, and 2 nothing goes to waste. That's why there are dishes like chicken and dumplings, chicken and gravy, chicken soup. gotta do something with those older birds why not turn em into comfort food.

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@keeperovdeflame: That sounds absolutely delicious, but since I do not yet (for some reason unknown to me ... I have so many others ...) own a copy of Julia Child's immortal cookbook, maybe you could now re-post what you did as a recipe for the rest of us to follow?

 

There are many things that can be deliciously cooked "low and slow," and if you do some part of the process on your kitchen stove or in your kitchen oven using (of course ...) a very nice piece of cast-iron cookware, "that's all fair game."  It pays to fall in love with the process of "cooking."

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20 hours ago, MikeRobinson said:

@keeperovdeflame: That sounds absolutely delicious, but since I do not yet (for some reason unknown to me ... I have so many others ...) own a copy of Julia Child's immortal cookbook, maybe you could now re-post what you did as a recipe for the rest of us to follow?

Honestly Mike it is more of the brazing technique than a recipe, at least for what I do. And I don't have a copy of Julia's book either. But my wife and I just watched the first season of Julia which I believe is on Paramount +, it follows the in's and outs of Julia's life and the making of her TV show. One whole episode was dedicated to Coc Au Vin. My wife and I found the show hilarious, very touching. and the cooking scenes are great. Especially the struggle to cook the perfect Baguette in a kitchen oven. 

  

For a chicken cook I just rough cut a yellow onion, 2 -4 carrots, 3 celery stalks,  and as many multicolored fingerling potatoes as my wife and I want to eat. I usually add at least 4 orange wedges. If you want to be a little naughty on the health side you can add some sausage balls as well. The brazing liquid I use is 1/2 cup chicken stock, 1/2 cup red wine (I use what we like to drink), 1/3 cup apple cider,  along with some fresh cut Simon and Garfunkel herbs. You want the liquid to come about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up the side of your chicken pieces. For a brazing pan I use a 13 inch lodge enameled cast iron or the same size uncoated  cast iron pan.  I spatch my chicken and start it indirect on the main grate until it is marked, then I quarter it and add it to the liquid. The longer you want the cook to go the tighter you set you vents. I usually go for between 275 and 300. Just let it cook until the internal temp in the breast pieces is 165. All that's left is to set the table, pour a couple glasses of wine, and enjoy. Hope this helps. 

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Ok folk, first attempt.  While this was intended as an experiment with low expectations, I learned some stuff.  

 

Also used this as a getting-acquainted session with my Father's Day acquisition of an Auber controller, so took advantage of that as I ignored the grill and ran some errands.  Lesson 1: don't do that on an experimental cook.  Controller worked great, but when I returned, the skin was about as tender as eelskin leather.  So something to work on next time.  

 

 

As planned, did spatchcock, salted yesterday, added S&G (Meathead's Simon & Garfunkel) rub.  Taking a pointer from @keeperovdeflame, started off a bit high, 275F grate (295 dome) until meat was 160.  Then cut grate to 225F.  The fan didn't turn on for over an hour while the Kamado coasted down to that temp, but I didn't lose the fire (a.k.a.  got lucky).  At that temp, the chicken stayed pretty much at 180F for the last couple hours or so of the cook.  Spritzed a couple times at the end, in a hopeless attempt to rescue the iron-hard skin.  

 

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Chicken itself came out good.  Definitely more flavor, and less juice, than I'd see in a standard spatchcock young bird.  Not as tender as one either.  But didn't expect it to be - even in a gravy or soup, texture won't be the same as a young one.  But still very edible, not dry, in spite of a long cook with little attention.

 

Summary of the cook

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And the Auber graphic of the first couple hours.

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Realized after unplugging the controller, that I didn't have access to the data or graphics of the cook any more.  So don't have pic of the whole cook.  Lesson 3 (or so):  Screenshot before unplugging.  

 

I didn't expect to come up with a simple, effective barbecue recipe on the first attempt.  But this was actually pretty good. Lunch leftovers will be very good for later dishes, the primary purpose of this cook.  Well, that and to figure out what to adjust for version 2 of this cook.  So, changes for next time:

 

1) Don't leave the cook for so long.  Monitor skin development, begin spritzing as soon as it starts getting crunchy.

 

2) Temperature drops during the cook should be in small steps, to reduce chance of losing the fire.  Also, that's a step that might be dropped, especially if time is not an issue.  I wanted to get the bird to higher temps than I could get with 225F, and it did that.  But I should have remained closer, as I could have lost the fire, and not been able to restart it quickly.

 

3) Download data and capture screenshots before shutting down the cook.  There may be a way to go back and find that info later, but it's certainly easier to do it right before pulling the meat off the grill.

 

 

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