Smoked chicken on the BBQ with curried stuffing



One of the hottest food debates in the media in recent weeks has centred on the provenance of everybody’s favourite white meat – chicken.  In a nutshell, it boils down to the interests of Big Business (i.e. making lots of money fast) versus the interests of the chickens (i.e. having a safe and healthy life).  On the side of the chickens we had Hugh and Jamie and surprisingly weighing in against free-range chickens was Delia Smith.  Hugh even turned shareholder activist this year and tried to persuade Tesco shareholders to vote on forcing the supermarket to enforce RSPCA standards for all chickens it sells at the company’s AGM.


One of the hottest food debates in Chez CookSister in recent weeks has been whether the weather will ever be warm enough again for us to want to braai this “summer”.  And it appears that we may have a small window of opportunity sometime in September.


I weep.


But when that window of good weather does come, I’d hate any of my faithful readers to be stuck for recipes as to what to cook on the BBQ!  So here’s the recipe for a smoked chicken we made back in the late Spring, before the drizzly summer had set in.  The reason why it was the perfect post for this event is because the chicken generated a lot of discussion amongst our guests at the time.  “Oooh, it’s so big, look at how yellow it is, good grief there’s a lot of flesh on that!” etc etc.  The reason was that I’d bought the Rolls Royce of supermarket chickens – a free-range, corn-fed bird.  Compared to its battery-farmed neighbours, it was a HUGE beast and the corn feeding does indeed make chickens appear yellow.  Our guests were actually bemoaning the fact that they just don’t see these in their local Tesco (and I must admit, they aren’t always available at ours, so I buy them when I see them).


I won’t lie to you – it was substantially more expensive that the battery-farmed birds, and therein lies the rub.  People like Delia Smith and others have come out in support of cheap, battery farmed chickens because they form a vital and affordable source of protein for those whose incomes don’t give them the luxury of an ethical choice.  And you have to admit that they have a point – it’s fine and well to browbeat everyone into buying more expensive ethically-raised meat, but the fact is that if you are on a limited budget and your x Pounds has to buy x number of meals, you are not going to head straight for the premium-priced organic free-range aisle.  Apart from telling people that their buying habits are bad, you also need to show them that there are ways of keeping costs steady while changing your shopping habits.  For example, if I had bought a standard-sized battery chicken, it would have fed four comfortably but probably not have yielded many leftovers.  However, this Godzilla chicken fed the four of us amply; then with the addition of a creamy sauce the leftover meat was made into a smoky version of chicken a la king; and then the carcass and its last scraps of meat were boiled up to make a delicious chicken noodle soup.  So although the chicken seemed expensive, it yielded at least 6 delicious adult meals.  Show me the battery bird that can do that.


And how did it taste?  Fantastic.  The stuffing is very lightly curried and the apple juice lends a hint of sweetness.  The woodchips do a fantastic job of imparting a seriously smoky flavour to the flesh, and basting together with long, slow cooking means that the skin acquires a sticky-sweet crispy deliciousness.  The free-range bird also had (gasp!) a taste – somehow more flavourful and defintitely of a better texture than the cheaper birds.  Our guests agreed that it was definitley worth spending the extra money, even if you were only looking at taste and not ethics.  My only word of warning would be to make sure you have lots of coals to hand – maybe even make some more coals in a separate kettle BBQ halfway through the cooking time, just to add to the chicken’s kettle.  And although the recipe (from the ever-reliable South African Kettle Braai Cookbook) says to baste frequently, remember that every time you lift the lid you lose heat and smoke flavour, so try to baste only once or twice, and be prepared to add extra coals.


Kate of A Merrier World recently asked me to submit a recipe for her Let Them Eat Chicken event, which aims to raise awareness of ghastly broiler rearing systems – there is a lot of excellent info on Kate’s site here and here.  Thought-provoking and often downright scary.  I do believe my entry might be pushing it to the limit as regards her deadline of 18 July, but I’m hoping I can still squeak into the roundup!








1 large free-range chicken
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large stick celery, finely chopped
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
ground black pepper
40g butter, melted
100g stale bread cubes
90ml apple juice


150g smooth apricot jam
2 Tbsp apple juice
1.5 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp finely chopped onion


2 cups wood smoke chips
apple juice
vegetable oil




Wash the chicken inside & out and pat dry.  In a large bowl, combine the onion, celery, curry powder, salt, pepper, butter and bread cubes.  Add the apple juice to make a rough paste and use this to stuff the chicken.  Tie the chicken legs togerher securely and fold the neck skin under to keep the stuffing in the cavity.


Make the sauce by mixing all the ingredients together in a small saucepan and heating gently until the sugar has fully dissolved.


Soak the smoke juice in water mixed with a little apple juice for about 30 minutes.


Prepare a large indirect fire in your Weber or other kettle BBQ.  When it is ready, add 500ml water and 250ml apple juice to the drip pan between the coals. Sprinkle half the soaked smoke chips over the coals and place the chicken on the oiled grid over the drip pan.  Brush the chicken with a little of the oil.


Cover the BBQ kettle and cook for about 2 hours, brushing the chickens with sauce a couple of times and topping up the liquid in the drip pan if dry.  Insert a skewer into the fleshy part of the chicken leg to check if it is cooked – the juices should run clear.


We served our with the glorious and a proper South African potato bake (recipe to follow soon!)

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  1. says

    I could not agree with you more. I consider it a huge blessing that we HAVE A CHOICE as to what birds we eat. The bigger part of our population don’t, either because they just can’t afford it or they have to buy from informal street markets. I often have this debate with people that buy take away fish for lunch, which now in SA cost about R22.50 for 1 serving. If you buy a tin of pilchards for about R8.00 you can feed a family if you add a couple of slices of bread and make fish cakes for instance. It is however not easy to educate because the fish and chips take away might be their only little luxury.
    As for you chicken, it sure is a Godzilla, but sliced up. it looks delicious!!!!!

  2. says

    So sorry to hear that you aren’t having a summer, Jeanne. If only I knew how, I’d gladly send you some of the unnecessary extra degrees in temperature we are experiencing. (As one of my friends who lives in Georgia says, it’s a bit like living in an wet sweaty gym sock.)
    Your argument for buying the larger organic chicken rather than the smaller battery chicken is good. I wish that were the case here; organic chickens are smaller and MUCH more expensive than “inorganic” chickens (that we also use to make stock).
    But you’re right that the flavour is superior. The same goes for organic eggs. But the price!!
    And what about the drastic difference in vegetable prices? How on earth can all of us change our ways to support and buy local organic produce when it is easily twice the price of foreign “inorganic” produce?
    This topic of organic vs inorganic is a standard one at our table these days. And I constantly wonder what percentage of the high price is due to actual costs and what is due to pricing with the idea of “what the market will bear”. I do hope that it isn’t the latter. It’s essential for our beleaguered earth that everyone – not just the wealthy – embrace and support the organic producers.
    (I can’t say that I’ve noticed that organic vegetables taste all that much different from “inorganic” vegetables. And I so want them to!)

  3. Diane says

    I agree that this would be delicious, based on our slightly different take! We have been grilling/barbecuing our Thanksgiving turkey for the last 10 years (bloody chilly when topping up the coals!!) and we have never looked back. It is so much more flavorful than roasted, even though Mom’s roasted bird was always delicious. I make a stuffing of curried sausage, pistachios, and sultanas (golden raisins) which is yummy!
    Great combo! Hope you get to try it again before next summer!

  4. says

    Oh, my! This chicken looks really delicious. I just had surgery but when I’m feeling better, I’d love to try it. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I hope you’re able to do the 10 photos meme.

  5. says

    Jeanne that chicken looks like the best chicken I have ever seen anywhere! Would that be a Woolies organic? I know it tasted good, like everything else on this blog.
    Nina, I agree totally on the pilchards debate. One can make really good fishcakes from the pilchards – as well quite a few other things – and the nutritional value is excellent.

  6. Emil says

    It looks absolutely fabulous! Where possible we also opt for the organic and free-range choices. But that is indeed much more expansive over a prolonged period of time. Nonetheless, I am utterly convinced that free-range to taste better – none of the fishy taste associated with the battery-fed poultry! We will definately Weber this recipe the very first chance we get!
    Thanks for visiting my site!

  7. says

    That’s a fab idea: combing currying with smoking.
    I think I was made aware of the issues surrounding broiler chickens relatively late- maybe two years ago. Since then I have not even thought about buying non free range chicken from the supermarket, mainly because I’ve TASTED free range chicken and discovered it has a flavour! The corn fed yellow ones taste best to me, so as soon as I’ve moved back West, I’ll be visiting Whole Foods who sell lovely ones.
    Even through I’ve had a tighter budget this year than ever before, I’d much rather have a few vegetarian and offal based meals each week than go back to cheap chicken and pork.

  8. Ash says

    You can’t do that! Putting a picture like that and then following it with a line like ‘We served our with the glorious and a proper South African potato bake.’ is just unnecessary taunting and teasing. You will be reckoned with :)
    Seriously, it looks absolutely awesome! Will have to give it a try.

  9. says

    Hi Jeanne, Yep, couldn’t agree more on the chicken debate, I always squeeze as many meals as possible out of mine too. I am pleased to see that we have the same BBQ! and this means I am likely to get the same results with this chicken – which makes me very happy. I love the sound of that lightly curried stuffing.

  10. says

    When I was living in London on a budget a few years ago, I went for the cheap stuff. Now that I have a husband who makes a reasonable living, we buy the free range chickens. Go figure, Delia’s ethics are as bad as her cooking! I LOVE smoked chicken. Out of 2 chickens we usually get about 7 meals for the 2 of us.

  11. says

    Although 2/3 of our household is vegetarian, we do buy a certain amount of chicken. There’s a really good faux chicken product out there, called Veat. So, if I make something for Matt, Alex & I can have the same thing, sort of.
    I absolutely don’t push my values on anyone (ok, my kid, but hey, he started out veg in the womb…no point in changing up his diet afterwards); I don’t eat meat for my own reasons. I don’t begrudge anyone else eating it…hey, it tastes good!
    But yeah…in a perfect world, all meats and seafoods would come to the table from animal-friendly environments: room to move about, good diet, ‘happier’ conditions.
    But as you pointed out. while the free-range stuff can be available, albeit intermittently, it is hella expensive.
    I would much rather give Matt (and guests) the gorgeous, fat, corn-fed stuff, but we’re not in that financial bracket.
    It would be nice if ethics and real-life budget could find common ground!

  12. says

    Nina – so true. We forget how privileged we are to have a choice when buying meat. The sad thing is that when I go home to SA many of my affluent friends simply don’t have free/range/organic/whatever on the radar!! If they buy free-range it’s because that’s what Woollies happened to have on the shelves… As for the pichards, I rememebr my mom making pilchard fishcakes years ago – and I remember how my brother hated them, LOL!
    Anne – I can vouch for the fact that it was indeed!
    Diane – it’s amazing how much flavour a Weber can impart compared to an oven! And wow, your stuffing soudns fantastic :)
    Elizabeth – oh, sending over some summer weather would be hugely appreciated! Not so sure abotu living in a sweaty gym sock though. Not that we dont’ already have that – the minute you step onto the Tube in summer! Strange that your orgnanic chickens are actualyl smaller than the battery-farmed ones. And yes – how on earth do they justify the insane prices they charge, seeing as they should in theory use LESS stuff producing it – less chemicals, less petsicides etc etc.
    Jude – thanks! It’s a great combo.
    Paz – I hope you’re feeling much better – and yes, I still have the 1- photos meme in my drafts folder. Some day soon…
    Justfoodnow – no, sadly since I’m in London it was a Tesco Finest corn-fed, free-range organic bird. A monster!
    Dragon – you are so right – chicken and pork is where I can taste the biggest difference.
    Emil – it’s crazy how much more expensive buying free range & organic is, and it certainly does motivate you to try and get a many meals as possible out of one chicken. Hope you get round to trying this recipe soon as I know you’ll love it :)
    Ros – I agree 100%, even if you disregard all other considerations the taste of the corn-fed chickens alone would persuade me.
    Ash – potato bake posted – so am I forgiven now? 😉
    Helen – aren’t Webers the best? I wish you luck in recreating this tasty dish (if the weather ever improves!!)
    Michelle – 7 meals out of 2 chickens is not bad! But I guess this only holds true if they are big chinky specimens like this one… And LOL about your Delia comment.
    Kevin – thanks!!
    Elizabeth – how true. It’s very depressing that instead of being everyone’s basic right, ethically raised food without pesticides and other nasties is a premium priced commodity available only to the wealthy. It’s just wrong wrong wrong.
    Susan – give this dish a go. You will love it, I promise!