Smoked Chicken Lollipops
This recipe for smoked chicken lollipops requires the use of a smoker, but is otherwise simple to assemble. The lollipops should marinate for at least an hour, but are best if refrigerated overnight, so plan ahead.
When making smoked chicken lollipops, take the time to lollipop the drumsticks carefully and safely. Use a sharp knife and, starting just above the knuckle of each drumstick, cut through the skin only, making a clean cut around the bone but not marking or cutting into it. Pull the skin up until it resembles a lollipop. Apply the rub, cover, and let the lollipops marinate in the refrigerator for at least hour or, preferably, overnight.
Before cooking the lollipops, you’ll want to get your smoker to a good temperature, probably about 121°C (250° F). For fuel, I use a 50/25/25 mix of hickory, applewood, and charcoal pellets.
Whenever I do a spicy dish or anything with a kick, I like to accompany it with a cooling yogurt sauce, like cilantro-lime raita. It’s so easy – combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well, and put into the fridge. Serve the smoked chicken lollipops with the sauce on the side.
For marinating the chicken:
- 12 to 14 chicken drumsticks
- 15-30 ml (1-2 tablespoons) mustard, mayonnaise, or oil
- 118 ml (1/2 cup) dry honey-flavored barbecue rub
For the cilantro-lime raita :
- 355 ml (1 1/2 cups) plain yogurt
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) fresh lime juice
- 1.3 ml (1/4 teaspoon) ground cumin
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 59 ml (1/4 cup) minced onion
- 237 ml (1 cup) fresh chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) chopped fresh mint leaves
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the glaze:
- 118-177 ml (½ cup-3/4 cup) honey barbecue sauce
- 59 ml (1/4 cup) melted butter
Marinate the chicken
- First, lollipop the drumsticks. Make sure you do two essential things here: use a sharp knife and take your time with this process. Starting just above the knuckle of each drumstick, cut through the skin only, making a clean cut around the bone but not marking or cutting into it. After making the cut, pull the skin away from the knuckle and push up till it resembles a lollipop. You want to use the knife to clean off the bone of anything remaining (meat or fat) and also cut any tendons that may still be sticking out.
2. When it comes to making a rub for smoking, it’s important to combine seasoning with a binder. I use mustard but you can use whatever you like: mustard, mayonnaise, or oil. You will need just enough to make the rub sticky. Paint the binder onto the meat then adhere the rub. I put the rub into a bowl and take the chicken by the knuckle and use a spoon to get it onto the meat. Let it marinate for a minimum of an hour and for best results leave in the fridge overnight.
Prepare the smoker
3. Bring your smoker to a good temperature, about 250 F. I used a 50/25/25 mix of hickory and applewood and charcoal pellets but use whatever works for you.
Foil on the bone
4. You have spent all this time and effort to do the previous steps and it would be a shame to see it go to waste, so now is the perfect time to wrap some foil to protect the bone from getting burnt and turning all dark. Use a small piece of foil, about 5 cm (2 inches) square that is just big enough to be wrapped around both the bone and knuckle.
5. To make the raita (yogurt sauce), combine all the ingredients and mix well. Cover and refirgerate until serving.
Smoking and glazing the chicken
6. Put the chicken into the smoker directly onto the grill and, as we say, ‘let it eat smoke’ for a minimum of 1 ½ hours at that temperature. The full cook should take you around 2 to 2 ½ hours and the target chicken temp of 80°C (175°F) is achieved.
7. Start to glaze the chicken about 30 to 45 mins before your chicken hits its cooked temperature; when it reaches 71-74°C (160-165°F). To make the glaze, whisk the melted butter and barbecue sauce together into a bowl or small pot so you can dip each piece of chicken and make sure you get it on all of the meat. Once coated, it goes back into the smoker. Keep glazing periodically until the chicken hits the magic temperature of 80°C (175°F). Serve with lime-cilantro raita.