I really am not a fan of charcoal for the sole reason that gas is just an easier way to go. The idea that I’d have to deal with starting up the charcoal and then cleaning up the ash after is just exhausting even to think about. But I have to say that using the Napoleon Apollo AS300K for the first time (and a few times after that – sorry this post came late) has really opened up my mind about the authenticity of flavour that comes with smoking with charcoal and woodchips/chunks/logs.
My first attempt of smoking up a Hickory Chicken went a little something like this:
I started the charcoal up using a charcoal starter, some old newspaper and some fire starters you can pick up from the super market. Just fill up the charcoal starter with a mix of fire starters and charcoal (I use coconut charcoal as the flavour is a bit more neutral, and they are natural and long-lasting – you can get this from Cold Storage). Crush up some old newspaper and stuff them at the bottom of the charcoal starter. Using a kitchen lighter, set the newspaper on fire and place either on the grill of the Apollo (or if you have a gas BBQ, you can use this to light up the charcoal too!) and put the lid over it as you wait. This should take about 20-25 minutes.
Once this is done, you can pour the charcoal into the charcoal basket, and add your woodchips/chunks/logs. I use a mix of Hickory woodchips and chunks which I had soaked in water an hour prior to adding them to the fire.
I had already marinated the a whole chicken in barbecue sauce and salt. I didn’t do anything to the chicken other than clean it out, but on my second attempt, I butterflied the chicken and it cooked a lot better all through the chicken.
Before closing the hood, I attached the Napoleon Accu-Probe Bluetooth Thermometer probes to the chicken. I LOVE this device, which will be available in Singapore around August 2018, because it has up to 4 probes (though the set only comes with 2 probes, and you’ll have to get the others separately) which means you can check the temperatures of 4 different items in the smoker.
The Accu-probe thermometer links up with this Napoleon app which you can download for free, and the app has settings that will tell you when your chicken (or whatever meat you wish to select) is at the ideal-readiness temperature. It also tells you what temperature each probe is at, and there is also a few timers you can set the app to.
I was able to go back inside the house and avoid the heat and smoke in the garden because of the Accu-Probe thermometer, and it let me know when the chicken had reach the ideal temperature for doneness. Really convenient!
The hickory chicken was incredibly smokey, so juicy and tender! The flavour is very much more intense than using a grilling plank or a smoker box in a gas BBQ, so the effort I put in in starting the charcoal was very worthwhile. Once you get over the charcoal lighting part, it really is quite easy to use because you don’t have to stand around all day (but basting it once in a while doesn’t hurt).
There’s a lot more to explore with the Napoleon AS300K because it actually has 2 chambers, hanging hooks, and a water basin, which means you can do anything from pekking duck, wet smoking, dry smoking, hot and cold smoking, and even just regular grilling if you want!