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Smoky Split Chicken with “Automatic Brine” Recipe

About the Recipe:
The aroma of a chicken cooking outdoors is a captivating scent that reminds us of summer barbecues and fun gatherings. In this recipe, we use the term “automatic brine” to indicate a marinade that doesn’t require waiting. Just apply the brine, and you’re good to go!

4 servings


  • 3 cups apple or cherry wood chips
  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken halves (1 1/2-pound each)

Automatic Brine:

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

To Finish:

  • 1 tbsp neutral oil (e.g., avocado or canola)
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups apple juice
  • 4 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
  • Pantry Barbecue Sauce (for serving)


  1. Prep Work: Soak wood chips in cold water for 1-2 hours. Bring chicken to room temperature 30 mins before grilling.
  2. Brine Preparation: Mix vinegar, honey, celery seeds, cayenne, paprika, salt, and pepper in a bowl to create the automatic brine.
  3. Chicken Preparation: Poke the chicken using a sharp knife. Coat with neutral oil and season with salt and pepper. In a disposable pan, mix 1 cup of water, apple juice, and garlic.
  4. Grill Setup: Set up a kettle grill for indirect grilling. Place soaked wood chips over the coals. Place the pan with the steaming liquid opposite the coals. Grill the chicken halves skin side down over the coals until golden brown and crispy, around 8-12 minutes. Flip and brown the other side for 4-6 minutes.
  5. Grilling: Shift the chicken to the cooler side of the grill, over the liquid pan. Brush with the brine and cover the grill. Maintain an internal temperature of 160°F for the chicken and grill temperature between 225°F-250°F. Turn and brush chicken with brine every 15 minutes. Add briquettes and water as needed.
  6. Final Touch: Once cooked, brush chicken with brine. Flip and place directly over coals until the skin chars in spots (~5 mins).
  7. Serving: Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes. Serve with barbecue sauce.

For Gas Grills:
Place soaked wood chips in a smoke box or sealed foil with vents. Position the packet directly on the grill’s heat source. Follow the mentioned steps, adjusting heat to maintain the desired internal grill temperature.

Final Thought:
This Smoky Split Chicken with “Automatic Brine” is perfect for a quick yet flavorful cookout. The automatic brine ensures the chicken is juicy and flavorful without the wait. Enjoy the smoky aroma and delicious taste!

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