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Tea Smoked Chicken

Tea Smoked Chicken

Tea Smoked Chicken

I believe my husband's step son Adam called this "Magic Chicken" the first time I made it. I discovered my first recipe for tea smoked chicken on Food & Wine a few years ago and it never fails to produce beautiful juicy delicately complex flavored chickens. Nothing like American smoked chicken but still something wonderful!

The recipe may look intimidating but it's actually quite simple and as long as foil is your friend, the clean-up is a breeze. I have made a few adjustments to that first recipe that work for me but the brine I have kept the same. It's probably the most important part in making this chicken "Magical".

Basically there are three steps to this chicken.

1. Brine the chicken and let it hang out in the refrigerator overnight.

2. Smoke the chicken. ( actual smoking time about 10 minutes )

3. Roast the chicken. ( actual roasting time, 1 hour)

Making the brine is very quick. It simmers about 10 minutes and then I let it cool until I'm ready to add it to the chickens that I've rinsed and placed into 1 quart plastic freezer bags. I place the chicken in the bags and fill them with the cooled brine and let them marinate for 24 hours, turning them over once or twice.

There is also this magical Ginger Scallion Sauce that I serve with it. I've added a touch of dark soy to my recipe to give it more smoky depth of flavor and richer color.

Ginger Scallion Sauce

I love to make Tea Smoked Chicken in the winter because you can do it inside! The foil seals in all the smoke until it settles onto the chicken. See my tip below on how to get a fool proof seal if you need to use more than one piece of foil to cover a large roaster.

I put together a mixture of rice, dried black tea, sugar, dried chilies and sweet spices that I will burn inside the foil lined roaster pan to "smoke" the chicken.

Tea Smoking Mixture

I scatter this on the bottom of a foil lined roasting pan and then add a rack to hold the chickens.

Brined Chickens Ready for Tea Smoking

After removing the chicken from their overnight brine and patting them dry, I add them to the roaster and cover them tightly with foil to prepare them for smoking.

Tip: Lay 2 pieces of foil back to back and tightly fold one side up about an inch then tightly fold up once more another inch. When you open the foil you will have a well sealed seam and a very large piece of foil that will completely cover a large roaster.

Folding foil to seal the chickens in the roaster.

Tightly crimp the foil around the sides of the roaster sealing in the smoking spices and the chickens.

Foil Sealed Roaster

Now I place the lid on the roaster. I don't really think it's necessary but I do press it down to help seal around the top edge of the roaster.

Tea Smoking the Chickens

I place the roaster over two burners and a bridge element on my glass top stove, turn the elements on high for 2 minutes then reduce the heat to medium low. I remove the roaster from the heat after 5 minutes and let it rest for 3 minutes before removing the lid and foil to expose the chickens. Then I let the chicken rest 10 minutes more with the lid off.

When the temperature of the burners are on high, I do hear the spices ignite and begin to burn in the bottom of the pan. I will say, it's a little odd.

After the chickens have been smoked, I place them on a sheet pan, rub them with a bit of oil, season them with some salt and Szechuan pepper and roast them in the oven. I preheat the oven to 375 degrees and roast the chickens uncovered for 30 minutes.

Tea Smoked Chicken ready to roast

I turn the pan around and turn up the heat to 425 degrees at that point and then roast for another 30 minutes.

Tea smoked Chickens after roasting

Aren't they pretty! I let them rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.

While the chickens are roasting I put together the simple ginger scallion sauce.

The chicken is glorious without this ginger scallion sauce and, in fact, I think Adam thought it was truly "Magic" chicken without the sauce but this sauce is so good! You should really try it.

Juicy Roast Tea Smoked Chicken

If you like to smoke foods like we do and find it hard to do in the winter, I highly recommend trying this dish. It's very tasty and makes an impressive holiday meal!




Tea Smoked Chicken


Brine for chickens

2 quarts water

6 garlic cloves, smashed

5 dried red chiles

4 star anise pods

3 tablespoons honey

One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

Zest of 1 small orange or tangerine, removed in strips with a vegetable peeler

One 1-inch piece of cinnamon stick

1 cup soy sauce

1 small yellow onion, quartered

1 tablespoon sugar

Two 3 1/2-pound chickens, wing tips removed

Tea Smoking mixture

1/2 cup jasmine rice

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons loose black tea

6 star anise pods, broken into pieces

4 dried red chiles, broken into pieces

Vegetable oil, for rubbing

1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, crushed


Ginger Scallion Sauce

6 scallions, white and pale green parts only, minced

3 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

Salt to taste


Brine the chicken 1 day ahead:

Combine the water, garlic, chiles, star anise, honey, ginger, orange zest, cinnamon, soy sauce, onion and sugar in a large pot or sauce pan and bring the brine to a simmer over moderate heat for 10 minutes then let it cool completely.

Place two 1 quart zip lock freezer bags in a roasting pan just large enough to hold the chickens. Place the chickens in the bags and pour in the cooled brine. Try to evenly divide the vegetables and aromatics between the two bags. Close the bags and place the whole pan into a refrigerator. Turn the chickens once or twice while marinating in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

When you are ready to bake:

Preheat an oven to 375°.

In a bowl, combine the rice, sugar, tea, star anise and chiles. Remove the chickens from the roasting pan. Line the pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Scatter the tea mixture on the foil and set a rack in the pan. Remove the chickens from the brine and pat dry. Transfer the chickens to the rack, breast side up. Cover and seal the top of the roaster pan with foil. See the tip for sealing well above.

Smoke the chickens:

Place the roasting pan over high heat and cook for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderately low and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 3 minutes, then uncover the chickens and let them rest for 10 minutes.

Roast the chickens:

Transfer the chickens to a rimmed baking sheet, breast side up. Rub the chickens with vegetable oil, sprinkle with the crushed Szechuan

peppercorns and season lightly with salt. Roast the chickens for 30 minutes at 375 degrees then increase the oven temperature to 425° and continue to roast for about 30 minutes longer, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the inner thighs registers 165°. Let the chickens rest for at least 10 minutes.

While the chickens are roasting:

Combine the scallions, ginger, oil and Chinese black soy sauce then season to taste with salt or more dark soy sauce.

Carve the chickens and serve with the sauce.

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