Friday, July 8, 2016

Big Bob Gibson's Loaf Pan Chicken

Anthony Bourdain once said, "Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it is a start."  For my latest barbecue project, the road begins in Decatur, Alabama.  The city of Decatur boasts of itself as "a Charming City on a Grand Scale."  This Charming City is the home of Big Bob Gibson's Barbecue, which is a fixture of Alabama barbecue.

Big Bob Gibson started serving barbecue from his home in 1925.  It was a new adventure for Gibson, who previously worked on the railway.  He established his restaurant in Decatur and, over time, his children and grandchilden have continued the tradition.  For more than ninety years, Big Bob Gibson became especially known for its smoked chicken, which are served in a tangy, white barbecue sauce.  This sauce is made from mayonnaise, vinegar and horseradish. This recipe is on my bucket list of barbecue projects.  However, for my first barbecue chicken project (yes, to date, I have never smoked chicken, I focused on pork, beef and turkey), I decided to try Big Bob Gibson's Loaf Pan Chicken.

Chris Lilly, the pitmaster at Big Bob Gibson's describes this Loaf Pan Chicken as a "dummy proof alternative" to beer-can chicken.  "Dummy proof" seems like a good starting point for my first effort at smoking chicken.  The use of the loaf pan is ingenuous, as it captures all of the chicken's juices, along with the marinade to help keep the chicken as moist and flavorful as possible.   Best of all, this recipe is very easy to do.  Once you get the heat in the smoker going, you just place the chicken in the loaf pan on the grill grates.  After a couple of hours, it is done and ready to be served.  

In the end, I can attest to pitmaster Lilly's characterization of the recipe as dummy proof.  The reason is that a novice such as myself was able to produce a very moist and tasty chicken.    The skin on the breast and the legs was just crispy enough (although some of the skin on the sides and back did not crisp due to the liquid in the pan).  The meat was flavorful, with a combination of flavors from the smoke and both rubs. 

Now, I need to turn my attention to that white barbecue sauce.  That will be for another time and another blog post. 

Recipe from Big Bob Gibson's BBQ Book, pg. 123
Serves 4

Ingredients (for the chicken):
3/4 cup apple sauce
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 whole chicken, 3 1/2 pounds

Ingredients (for the dry rub):
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
3/4 teaspoons celery salt
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1.  Prepare the smoker.  Build a fire (wood or a combination of charcoal and wood) for an indirect cooking by situating the coals on only one side of the cooker, leaving the other side void.  

2.  Prepare the chicken.  In a small bowl, stir together the applesauce and Worcestershire.  Holding the chicken over a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loan fan, pour the mixture over the chicken, making sure the chicken is thoroughly coated both inside and out.  Let the excess liquid drip into the loaf pan.  In another small bowl, combine the dry rub ingredients and mix well.  Coat the entire chicken, both inside and out with the dry rub.  Place the chicken into the loaf pan, breast side up. 

3. Smoke the chicken.  When the grill temperature reaches approximately 300 degrees Fahrenheit, place the loaf pan on the grill grate away from the coals, close the cover and cook for 2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the chicken thigh reaches 175 degrees Fahrenheit.  Let the chicken cool a bit in the pan before cutting into serving pieces. 


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