Pairing your favorite part of the chicken with your favored smoker is wildly fulfilling. Cooking your leg quarters in an electric smoker can produce mouthwatering results. While there is a greater degree of control attached to this method. It is just as easy to get things wrong.
There are not a lot of things that can be as frustrating as overcooking or drying up your chicken because you have kept it in there for too long.
At a temperature of 285°F, you can cook the perfect smoked chicken in just under an hour. Raising the temperature could significantly lower the time. However, this comes with some trade-offs. We will explore these later in this article.
This article will look at how long you should cook leg quarters in your electric smoker. It will also cover some interesting tips to help you to get the best possible results.
Table of Contents
- 1 Desired Results
- 2 The Temperature
- 3 Covered or Direct Heat
- 4 How to time it
- 5 How to check if it is ready
- 6 What to do is the chicken appears undercooked
- 7 How to avoid overcooking or drying it out
- 8 Leg Quarter smoking tips
- 9 Cooking time
- 10 Final thoughts
How do you like your chicken? Unless you can answer this question, the rest of the information that we provide would be pointless. Are looking to get your chicken:
- Cooked (on the bone).
- Cooked (off the bone).
- A bit pink on the inside.
- White on the inside.
Chicken does not offer the same sort of leeway that you would get with red meat. When it is not done well, it is unsafe. What you are looking for is chicken that is cooked enough. If you want your chicken to fall off the bone easily, you must cook it for a longer period.
For chicken that is done but still on the bone, you want to cook it while monitoring the internal temperature.
There are two temperatures that you need to be mindful of when cooking your leg quarters in an electric smoker. The first one is the temperature of the smoker. This will determine the duration that you can cook the quarters to get them just right. A higher temperature will usually mean a shorter cooking time.
On the other hand, the higher the temperature, the higher the risk of drying the chicken out. It may also end up being burned on the exterior before it cooks on the inside. The ideal cooking temperature is one that would cook without being too harsh on the skin.
270-285°F is an ideal temperature for smoking your chicken. It achieves a tenderly cooked chicken that is neither overcooked nor dry.
The second temperature to be mindful of is the internal temperature of the leg quarters. This is considered to be the required safe temperature for poultry. The check this you will need to make you of a probe thermometer. You simply inserting into your leg quarters while they cook. Your goal is to achieve an internal temperature of 165°F.
Measuring the temperature should not be an instant thing. You want to be over 165°F for at least 30 seconds to confirm the reading. The temperature probing should be done on the thickest part of the chicken.
Covered or Direct Heat
The medium through which heat is delivered to your chicken is one thing. What often goes unconsidered is how this heat affects the chicken. This is an important factor when considering how long you should cook something in your smoker.
Chicken is either place in a smoker without any covering or with some protection from kitchen foil. The foil acts as a medium to control how the heat interacts with the smoking chicken. The foil will preserve the heat and also reduce the chances of burning. It creates a controlled environment that often delivers good results.
While this may affect the duration of smoking, it also impacts the flavoring. Wrapping the chicken in foil will reduce the amount of smoke that reaches it. The goal should be to find the right balance between heat and flavor.
Assuming that the temperature of your electric smoker is not changed. I would advise you to reduce slightly increase the smoking time when using foil.
The last thing to consider here is whether you want your chicken skin to be crispy or not. If you want a crispier finish, you would want to crank up the heat towards the end. This can be done once you are sure that your chicken is almost ready.
How to time it
Duration should be measured from the moment that the leg quarters enter the pre-heated smoker. New electric smokers will come with an inbuilt clock. You can use it to keep track of time. In some instances, you would even be able to set an alarm to remind you when the time has elapsed.
The only other advice that I would give in this instance is to not become too attached to the time. Measuring the internal temperature is just as important. If the temperature isn’t where you want it to be after the set time, allow some additional time.
How to check if it is ready
Unlike red meat where there is some allowance for going rare, medium, or done. Poultry does not offer this luxury. Your chicken is either done or not done. As previously mentioned, the one that isn’t done poses some risks. So, how can you tell if the chicken is ready?
We have already covered the internal temperature. Making sure that the chicken is at least 165°F internally will give you some assurance. A non-techy approach would be to slice through the chicken and inspect it. There should be no signs of blood. The presence of blood is a clear indication that it is not yet ready.
For chicken that is on the bone, you are looking to achieve a color that is between pink and white. If you want it to come off the bone, you want a color that is between white and cream.
What to do is the chicken appears undercooked
You may occasionally discover that the chicken is undercooked after you have taken it out of the smoker. It happens to the best of us. To avoid this scenario being a pain, you want to ensure that your smoker is kept running while you check the chicken.
Once you are satisfied, you can switch it off. Switching it off before you have checked this may land you in a position in which the smoker’s temperature deteriorates. Maintaining the level of heat will save you time.
If your chicken is undercooked, simply place it back in the smoker and allow it to cook for a little bit longer.
How to avoid overcooking or drying it out
While undercooking poses health risks, overcooking your chicken may dry it out. No one likes dry chicken. How can we avoid this scenario? Let us consider some methods to ensure that your chicken remains moist on the inside.
Use a low, consistent temperature throughout. Going with high heat will lead to the skin of your leg quarters beginning to burn before the inside is properly cooked. A lower temperature approach progressively cooks the insides without the risk of burning it.
While high heat is supposed to cook quicker, it often leads to chicken being undercooked. How is that possible? Well, the signs of a burning skin will usually give you a false positive of thinking the rest of the chicken is ready when it really isn’t.
Leg Quarter smoking tips
There are various approaches that you can take to cook your leg quarters in an electric smoker. I will share some of my favorite tips with you.
One of the limitations that come with smoking your chicken is the muscle’s resistance to moisture. This means that the water from the smoker does not get as much penetration as you would like. Fortunately, brining it is an easy solution.
Soaking your chicken in salted water prior to smoking it breaks down the chicken’s muscle fibers. This prepares it for moisture absorption. You can use this as a way of ensuring that your chicken does not become dry, together with the other tips above.
There is no substitute for good seasoning. In fact, there is no way around it. If your chicken is not well-seasoned the taste will give a clear indication of this. My favorite way to season or marinate my chicken is to get it into a plastic bag. This is where are will add my marinate and give it a good shake.
Take some time to massage the seasoning into the chicken. Where possible allow some time for the seasoning to really make its way into the chicken. This can be done by placing it in the refrigerator overnight.
Maintain The Temperature
This is an easy thing to do on an electric smoker. You will be able to set the temperature that you want it to achieve. While it is bound to fluctuate. It will always return to the set temperature.
What this does for you is give you an evenly cooked leg quarter.
Lightly Smoke It
The outside of the chicken as well as the rest of its meat is delicate. It is important that you smoke it lightly throughout the cooking. This allows the skin to not take on harsh heat which will often lead to early signs of burning.
Flip it, but not too often
I prefer starting with the meat side taking the brunt of the heat. There is no science or beneficial reason for this. It just seems to allow it to lay flat on the surface, which I like. Another reason for this is because the skin of the chicken burns easily. The meat side is more heat resistant. Flipping the chicken to frequently will mean opening the smoker as well.
This will lead to heat loss as well as temperature fluctuation. You want to allow the chicken to smoke for between half an hour to an hour before flipping it over. It is usually close to being fully cooked at this point.
I recommend allowing no more than half an hour for the other side to cook. Have your thermometer on hand to check the internal temperature. You can check it as soon as you flip the chicken, then a second time before you remove it from the smoker.
Use that right wood
This is not just a matter of the flavor. It also plays a role in the intensity of the smoke on the chicken skin. Choosing the wood depends on the meat you are cooking. A great choice for chicken may not be as good if you smoke a brisket or a salmon. Here are some of our favorite types of wood from smoking leg quarters:
While applewood is certainly one of my favorites, it usually requires additional time to make its way into the meat. The flavor is subtle and fruity. It is not overbearing.
Peach is another one that is sweet. It is almost as subtle as the applewood. For the best result, you want your peachwood to be freshly cut. The flavor from the wood begins to diminish as soon as it is cut from the tree.
Maple is a slower burning wood. It is quite subtle. This allows your chicken’s marinate to retain center stage. It gives you a sweet taste and flavor.
Cherry is often used together with hickory. It is a mild wood that burns for a long time.
I have often found hickory to be too intense for chicken. Pecan makes an ideal replacement. It has a nutty flavor to it. You can use it together with wood from one of the fruit trees.
Don’t be stingy with the water
The smoker’s water tank plays a massive role in making sure that everything is cooked. Having a lot of water in the tanks means the electric smoker can fire on all cylinders.
Don’t Soak it
There was a time when soaking your wood before using it in the smoker was all the rage. The reason for this seemed logical at the time. Wet wood produces more smoke, which should mean that there is more flavor, right? No, that would be wrong.
Over the years it has been proven that when the wood is wet, while it produces more smoke, it does not exude the same level of flavor that comes from dry wood. Soaking is a no!
At the temperature that I recommended, the smoking will take just under two hours to be ready. The final product are leg quarters that have a crispy brown colored finish.
At the risk of overloading you with information, we will reiterate the key theme of the article so you can remember it. You can cook leg quarters in an electric smoker in just shy of 2 hours. In this time you would be required to flip them over for even cooking and a crispy finish.
The result will be a brown, well-cooked leg quarter packed with flavor.