Friday, June 26, 2009

"Dirty Pit" Chicken

Greetings to one and all. It is good to connect with you all once again. I was pretty excited to post this recipe for this month's challenge because the theme is awesome and I happened to come across a copycat recipe that is just like "Port-O-Pit" chicken. Then, I found out by talking to Stubs on the telephone, that he's never even heard of "Port-O-Pit" chicken before. So, that's when it dawned on me that this awesome dish is probably a Northern Indiana phenomenon and probably can't be appreciated for the awesomeness that it truly is because many (or all) of you will not have been able to sample just how close in taste and texture this dish is to the real deal. "Port-O-Pit" chicken (sometimes called "Nelson's Golden Glow" chicken) is literally sold to patrons on the road side up here in St. Joseph county. It is basically a portable smoking pit that is run by a catering company which is then hired by special interest groups to cook chicken for them. So, it is fund raising gimmick. However, there is no gimmick in the way that this chicken smells and tastes.

The aroma of this savory smoked dish is usually the first sign of spring of here and really is the primary marketing tool. The smell alone makes you want to stop driving, pull over to the Port-O-Pit stand, and fork over the $6 for a half chicken.
I can talk to you about how great this dish until the cows back from pasture but it isn't going to do me any good to do so unless you've had it before. So, I am going to get a little creative here by telling you the story of how to make this classic dish - Quentin Tarantino style; in reverse chronological order, that is.


My disclaimer is that cooking and eating this dish can produce some serious side effects. I am, therefore, obligated to list as many of them here as possible with visual aids so that you will know and understand the potential dangers involved with cooking and eating this fine dish.

This dish will make you want to drink copious amounts of alcoholic beverages and wield dangerous objects in every single photograph:

It will make you wish that you were a ninja:

It will make you rip your favorite Tony Hawk knock off shirt:

And it will give you superhuman abilities to catch a thrown beer in a single bound:

If you can accept that these side effects might become a part of your experience when making this dish, then feel free to read further.

True Port-O-Pit chicken is traditionally made from split breasts. That's usually $1.49/lb. for grocery store fare. We opted to use leg quarters instead and bought it from a local butcher shop for $.89/lb. All said and done, we bought 20 leg quarters for about ten bucks. You will also need to own or borrow a smoker as well. We used a simple charcoal heated smoker that your can see in the foreground of the very first picture. Those are cheap. Meijer had that exact style on sale for $35 last weekend so it's definitely worth the trouble of getting one so you get this chicken smoked up with some good flavor.

The end result of all that smoky goodness is seen here to the left. Use the charcoal to get your heat up and use water soaked wood chips to get your smoke. The wood we used for this recipe was plain old hickory but I am sure that mesquite would taste awesome as well. The cooking time needed to get your chicken to look like it does in this photo is around 1 hr. and 20 min. at a heat of 220 degrees. I know that does not sound like we cooked it long enough and that the chicken should be raw but it truly is not. The reason is that the chicken is partially poached the day before you actually put it in the smoker. Therefore, smoking it only finishes the chicken's cooking cycle. We recommend that you baste the chicken at least 3 or 4 times during the smoking process using the marinade that the chicken was poached in during the preparation step the day before. Here are some photos of the chicken on the smoker before it reaches its full flavor.

Here are some video reviews of how our dish turned out:

I know that you are now fully convinced that this is going to be a great dish for you to cook so I will now proceed with listing the secret ingredients to the marinade:

But seriously:

Really seems too simple when all is said and done. The marinade for our 20 leg quarters was:

1 quart of vinegar
1 quart of water
1 cup of kosher salt
2 Tablespoons of ground black pepper
2 pounds of butter
2 tablespoons of MSG or (Accent)
2 tablespoons of Worchester Sauce -- Lee and Perrins --- all else is crap.

Don't be an MSG hater. That stuff you hear about causing migrane headaches and the such is all myth. Pour it into your marinade. You won't be sorry. Incorporate these ingredients into a stock pot on your stove and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature to medium heat, add your raw chicken quarters, and cover. Poach the chicken in the marinade for about 10-20 minutes to allow the chicken to partially cook and incorporate all of the ingredients. We poached our quarters for about 10 minutes so we could smoke it longer if we needed to do so.

Remove from heat allow to come to room temperature and then put the whole stock pot in the refrigerator (covered) to marinade over night. Be sure to reserve some of the marinade separately so you can baste the chicken on the smoker the following day. Enjoy!

P.S. Special thanks to Chef Brian Haas for allowing me to use his recipe here and for hosting our party. Additionally, I'd like to thank Melvin Bush, Sean Heckaman, and Aaron (psycho killer) Redman for attending the event and sampling the cuisine.


  1. I'm freaking speechless! I think I may borrow a line from A Christmas story "It's indescribably beautiful!"

  2. It does look quite amazing... and I, too, wish to wield dangerous weapons and yearn to be a ninja... well done, sir.

  3. Nice! This looks delicious. I'm making my copycat contribution--called "El Diablo"--tomorrow at a cookout and will post pictures soon after. It would be a perfect accompaniment to your chicken.

  4. This does sound good...and dangerous. I was wondering if you had ever tried marinating overnight and then poach, and then marinate again? Just a thought. I wonder if the alcohol you drink makes a difference...

  5. ...add 2 Tbls. sugar. This will help with browning.

  6. It Terrific just follow the recipe!!!!!