Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vern's Special Barbecued Chicken Seasoning Mix

It's hot. It's the middle of Summer. So what better time to take a break from knitting and talk about a fun Summer activity. Barbecue! That's right. In the middle of Summer there is no better way to enjoy a sunny afternoon than a barbecue and there is no better barbecuer than my Dad!

I often talk about barbecues because Southern Californians love to barbecue. It's a fun and relaxing way for friends and family to congregate and enjoy leisure time together whether in a backyard, at a park, or at the beach. When my parents first moved to Santa Barbara, California, back in 1960, they had the good fortune to move next door to the King family who had six children and a large extended family who all loved to laugh and have a good time and there was nothing the King family loved more than getting together for barbecues. It wasn't long before my family was being included in these get togethers and that is how my Dad learned how to barbecue California style.

For those of you who may not know how to go about cooking barbecue, I would like to share with you this truly American classic pastime. And, like most things, it makes a world of difference if you are taught by the very best. Meet my dad, Vern, who is a world class barbecuer and he is going to take you through all of the steps of cooking a barbecue, including sharing his own special seasoning mix for chicken.

*NOTE * If you "click" on any of the following pictures in this post they will enlarge and that will make it easier for you to see the images that are clustered together in the collages.

Advance Preparation ~ Gather necessary Implements

The day ahead of your barbecue is a good time to make sure you have everything you need, i.e. wood, charcoal briquettes, chicken, and seasoning mix.

Pictured above are the things that can, and probably should, be done a day in advance:

A. Mix seasonings and/or prepare a marinade. My Dad makes a special seasoning mix for barbecue chicken (heretofore never shared) that I have included at the end of this post.

B. Chop wood into small chunks. A mixture of oak wood and pieces of oak bark make the best combination. Other hard woods that can be used to barbecue are apple wood and hickory. But, for a distinctive Southern California style barbecue flavor, you need oak wood which is sold in cords or in small quantities from a local woodcutter.

C. Gather the tools you need to grill safely, i.e. long tongs, meat thermometer, and leather gloves. This is also a great time to clean off your grill.

D. Prepare the Chicken. Purchase a small chicken - preferably less than 3 lbs. If you are cooking for a group you can cook as many as 3 or 4 small chickens on the spit at a time. I find that the organic chickens are more flavorful and generally smaller and I highly recommend using them if possible. Cut off all excess fat. Using kitchen twine or strong string tie the wings and legs to the body of the chicken to prevent them dangling loose when it is turning on the spit.

Build the Fire Bed

This method of building a fire bed can be used to barbecue any type of meat and can be used whether cooking meat on a spit or a flat grill. When tri-tip is cooked this way it is referred to as "Santa Maria Style" barbecue.

The pictures above show the various layers used to build the fire bed, which are as follows:

Layer 1: Wads of news paper
Layer 2: Small pieces of wood kindling
Layer 3: Oak bark pieces
Layer 4: Chunks of oak wood
Layer 5: Oak bark pieces

The charcoal briquettes are technically layer 6, but they will not added until the fire has burned down for approximately 20 minutes as explained more fully below.

When building your layers make sure to leave an opening in the center for air to circulate. This is referred to as creating a chimney effect in the middle of the fire.

Getting the Fire Ready for Cooking

It takes about 30 minutes for the fire to burn down to embers and be ready for cooking. Chickens take about 1 hour to cook. Therefore you want to start your fire about 1 hour and 30 minutes before you want to serve your meal.

The pictures above show how to manage the fire from start to finish as follows:

A. My dad does not use any lighter fluid. He simply uses matches to light the news paper which catches the kindling and then the wood on fire. In the upper left picture you can see my dad using a hair dryer to create a back draft. He does this to causes the fire to burn hot and fast.

B. After the fire has burned for about 20 minutes my dad adds the charcoal briquettes which burn down to embers very quickly. Approximately 10 minutes after adding the briquettes the fire will have burned down to embers and be ready for cooking. The middle picture shows my dad adding charcoal briquettes to the fire which, at this stage, should still be burning hotly. The reason my dad adds briquettes is to help the wood embers hold enough heat for the full hour required to cook a whole chicken.

C. When the embers are beginning to show a white ash and the flames have died the fire bed is ready to begin cooking. The lower left picture shows what the embers look like when ready.

From start to finish the the fire preparation time is approximately 30 minutes.

Barbecuing the Chicken

A chicken cooked on a rotating spit takes about 1 hour. This barbecue process combines both smoke and heat to give the meat a wonderful flavor while keeping it moist and juicy.

You can see in the pictures above that my dad closes the barbecue lid to keep the smoke inside. He occasionally checks to make sure the chicken is rotating and the fire is sufficiently smoky. If the fire is not sufficiently smoky he adds a few small pieces of bark around the outer edges of the coals to increase the smoke.

In the upper right corner picture you can see that my dad has fashioned a iron drip pan set below the chicken and above the embers to catch the dripping fat. If you don't have something to keep the fat from dripping onto the embers the fat will cause the embers to flame and can cause the chicken to catch on fire. If the chicken should catch on fire keep a can of beer handy to pour on the chicken to put the flames out.

Waiting is the Hardest Part

All that's left is the waiting. Which for a little dog like Mr Puffy is the hardest part.

Vern's Special Barbecued Chicken Seasoning Mix

1/2 cup (heaping) ordinary iodized salt
1 tablespoon (heaping) black pepper
1 tablespoon (level) "all purpose seasoning salt" (made by Lawry's or McCormick preferably)
1 tablespoon (level) garlic salt
1 tablespoon (level) onion powder
1 teaspoon (level) paprika
1 teaspoon (level) monosodium glutamate

Combine all seasonings. This formula makes a large quantity of seasoning mix. You will only use a fairly small quantity each time to season a chicken (around a teaspoon per chicken) so this mix will keep for years. Toss some of the seasoning into the bird cavity and sprinkle a small quantity evenly over a slightly damp chicken just before cooking. The quantity of seasoning is to be varied to suit one's taste.

I hope this doesn't sound too complicated. It really is fun and even if it it isn't exactly perfect the first time you will laugh and have a good time regardless. I guarantee it!

Stay cool and, until next time, be well, love well, and happy barbecuing.


Sherry said...

This is a great post. Your Dad is quite the sport. I bet he loves being the focus of your blog. The picture of Mr. Puffy waiting is priceless. That chicken looks yummy!

Willow said...

I am drooling all over the keyboard, Mr. Puffy! I'm having a hard time thinking about waiting for my next barbeque! Mmmmmmm!

Thanks, Vern and Mr. Puffy!

t does wool said...

Your Dad is a wonderful and masterful BBQ man...and thank you for sharing the secret recipe...love the photos...and Mr Puffy-so patient!!

Rainey Day Knitter said...

This is just priceless and a wonderful tribute to your. dad.

subliminalrabbit said...

i'm a vegetarian but somehow found this post fascinating. we just use our good ole propane grill - which suffices for veggie burgers or veggie brats or tofu and veggies - but this sounds far more interesting!

Sue said...

Southern Californians sound very much like aussies barbequing. Your dads bbq chicken looks so tasty it makes my mouth water. One thing I love to cook on the bbq is corn on the cob, add butter and garlic, then wrap in foil and cook until done. Very very tasty.

dogwithbooks said...

I'm a veg but my pups - much like Puffy -would be hard-pressed to wait. (They've been known to barb-nap what's cooking!) My dad does barbecue vegetables and potatoes for me though - and even veggie burgers when the mood strikes him. Dad's are the best! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! :)

Monika said...

Those chicken pieces ready to eat look so very mouth watering! Can I dedect a grin on Mr. Puffy's face, in anticipation of freshly cooked BBQ chicken? :o) I'd like to have someone who does that great a job of BBQing in my family. Right now we don't even have a BBQ!!!

SissySees said...

Outstanding post, and while I will print the recipe for the Knight, I'm sure you're not surprised to hear that Mr. Puffy was the star of the post for me.

betty said...

Wow! That was quite the production number! I'm afraid some of us lazy folk in Nor-Cal just use these gas grills! When we do use charcoal grilling, we start the fire with one of those chimney thingies.

Anonymous said...

What a terrific post, Claudia: Dads, barbecue and Mr. Puffy! And I loved the tidbit about the King family. Coincidentally, last night I got a call from an old grade school classmate. We mainly talked about how it had been a school full of large families - 8 kids and up were common. And they were just like the Kings. Full of fun, laughter and generosity. Thanks for the recipe, the photos and the post! Ursula

Anita said...

The chicken looks yummy! Thanks for sharing the "secret" recipe. :)
I love a good BBQ.

knittingdragonflies said...

Thanks for the info, It looks delicious. What is it with men and barbeque? They think they are doing brain surgery. My husband took a great interest in your post. You will be glad to know he approves of your Dads methods.

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

Hi Ursula! Thank you for your nice comment. You said it well - the Kings had a generosity of spirit - I miss them as neighbors and those days of old.

The Wooly Wumpus said...

I'm coming over for some of that chicken!

Doesn't everything taste better on the BBQ? At the cottage we fire it up for breakfast (bacon, sausage, even the toast), keep it going for lunch (typically burgers or bratwurst) and wheel out the classics for dinner (steak, chicken, ribs). Thank your darling dad for the great seasoning recipe - I'll be sure to try it.

Denise said...

I hate to say it but I've already had enough of summer :-( It's been too hot here in TX, I'm ready for Fall, and I wanna bake a Christmas cake again ;-)

Ella said...

Rock! This post is AWESOME! Your dad is adorable - and I love bbq. We bbq our turkey every Thanksgiving. Family tradition.

And... did someone say happy birthday? :D

Windyridge said...

Looks scrumptious!

Anonymous said...

OOOhhhh, I'm glad I read your post before the weekend...must....modify...grocery list......

The chicken sound delicious and I think I'm actually salivating! I'll have to get the family together this weekend for a cook out.

Marie said...

It looks delicious! I will just have to live vicariously through Mr. Puffy. I'm lucky if I can get Dan to donate 1 hour to the grill.

Anonymous said...

This looks delicious. Thanks so much for the detailed instructions, I'm going to print them off for my husband!

Tracy said...

Now THAT IS A REAL BBQ!! Super post, Claudia... Such fun to meet your dad, the BBQ King! He & Mr. Puffy sure do work a mean BBQ grill! ;o) I'm a vegetarian too (although I slip occasionally at restaurants and eat fish sometimes) and I just loved this..and learned a lot! This was such a sweet tribute to your dad... And Happy Birthday--belated! Hope you had the loveliest day! What day was it? Gosh, I'm late getting here... Wishing you all a great weekend ((HUGS))

Renee said...

Oh my gosh, I'm drooling. Your dad is a bbq master. I'll definitely try the rub asap ~ thank you to your dad for sharing.
I'm with Mr Puffy... waiting is the hardest part.
We bbq often, but summer is definitely the most pleasant. :)
I'd love hear hear what any of your favourite sides are to that scrumptious chicken.

Hilary said...

One day...one day I will have a real yard and be able to barbecue! Neill and I have talked about trying to barbecue or grill on our roof deck but, well, we don't want to burn down the building. :) Thanks so much for the tips, and thanks to your dad for the recipe! My tummy grumbled loudly seeing the pictures of that yummy chicken!!

raining sheep said...

Mmmmm. sounds so good. Calgarians love to barbecue as well (probably because our weather is so inclement and we seem to love doing everything that is difficult to do in our climate; i.e. golf, gardening, running, barbecuing). The rub sounds awesome. The Babe and I are off to a barbecue tonight as a matter of fact, so your post really puts me in the mood.

At Home Mommy Knits said...

YUMMMMMM!! We might have to try your recipe because it looks so good!

Ally Jay said...

Sounds like your dad really rocks at the BBQ stuff. Roll on Summer please, although I did get to sit in a neighbours hammock for a couple of hours today. Heavenly

tiennie said...

That looks so yummy! Thanks for the recipe! We love to BBQ here too - gotta enjoy the sunny weather when we get it!

Lisa said...

Were there words in this blog? Because all I saw was a drool-worthy chicken and Vern walking me through just how to get it that way.

Mr. Puffy, you are a true gentleman, waiting in the wings for your share.

You know, KFC is crap on a good day; this chicken officially made it so.