Monday, May 23, 2016

Turbo-Braised Campfire Chicken

Back in November, we noted the serendipitous discovery that the bottom grate of a smokey joe grill fits perfectly in the bottom of our 8-quart cast iron dutch oven.

Grill grate in dutch oven
The stones are a low-thermal-conductivity support to keep the grate off the bottom of the pan and hopefully prevent roasting chickens from burning.  Also, they allow you to call your food products stone soup!

We further speculated that the setup shown above would be ideal for cooking a chicken.  This weekend, we tested that hypothesis, and we're happy to report that our hypothesis was supported.

Frozen chicken in dutch oven
We decided to do more of a braising than a pure roasting, but we started with a frozen-solid chicken, set it on the grate, and added a couple inches of water to the bottom.  Then we seasoned lightly (depending on your definition of 'lightly') with salt, pepper, garlic powder, green onion powder, cayenne pepper, and something called 'pizza seasoning.'

Dutch oven on fire
We used the top grate of the grill on our sap-boiling-configured rocket silo, and set the dutch oven over a relatively high heat.

Cooked chicken in dutch oven
Within a couple hours, the chicken is cooked all the way through, tender, and moist. We were happy to see that the high heat didn't burn the chicken at all.

This is the generally the same technique we use in the crock pot, but there it takes five or six hours to finish cooking.  So, the dutch oven is about about three times faster than the crock pot.  We don't have a comparison for braising a chicken on the stove or in the oven inside, but taking a whole chicken frozen to finished in less than two hours seems like it would be hard to beat.  We suspect that the weight of the lid turns the dutch oven into almost a bit of a pressure cooker, which would definitely speed things up.  The campfire-dutch oven method also gets us outside on a nice day, uses a renewable heat source (wood), and creates a valuable byproduct in the wood ashes (that we can use for baking or soap making).

Chicken broccoli carrot cheese soup in dutch oven
With all the time saved, we might just be motivated to take out the grate and stones (leaving the broth), toss in about three cups milk, four grated carrots, and four chopped broccoli heads and stalks, cook them until tender, pull the chicken meat off the bones while the veggies are cooking and return it to the pot, then thicken the stew with a half cup of flour, remove the pot from the heat, and stir in a pound of grated cheese to make a big pot of broccoli-chicken-carrot-cheese soup!

What's your favorite way to cook a whole chicken outside?

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