Food on Fire

Charcoal Chicken: Why quit smoking in the winter?

Alabama white sauce makes this an unusual, and tasty, recipe for chicken

A fully smoked chicken thigh.
A fully smoked chicken thigh. — Photo courtesy Timothy Fowler

It is a point of family pride: we barbecue year-round. We use the smoker 12 months a year too. As long as you can light a fire with wood, gas or charcoal, you can barbecue and smoke.

Lighting my old-school charcoal smoker takes some work. To ensure a good return on my efforts, I smoke a full load of chicken wings, thighs and legs for this recipe. (Or whatever else is smoking.) When smoking is complete, vacuum pack and freeze what’s left. You will have an assortment of meals that will last past Christmas.

This recipe involves simple 50/50 coarse salt and coarse pepper seasoning on the chicken. The unique barbecue sauce—Alabama white sauce—is a mayonnaise-based sauce that looks a lot different from regular tomato-based barbecue sauces and is startlingly yummy. The sauce is added half-way through smoking. It is worth a try.

Alabama white sauce will cook to golden.
Alabama white sauce will cook to golden. — Photo courtesy Timothy Fowler


  • 10 lbs (4.5 kg) chicken pieces (I purchased roughly a third each of chicken legs, thighs and wings—all skin-on. If the wings are not separated into single bone pieces, do that and retain the wing tips for soup if you like.)
  • ¼ cup (50 ml) coarse (Kosher) salt
  • ¼ cup (50 ml) coarse black pepper


  • Mix the Alabama white sauce and refrigerate. (See the recipe below.)
  • Mix the salt and pepper well.
  • Lay chicken pieces on silicon paper on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the salt and pepper mix to what looks about right for your family. Arrange the pieces so they don’t touch.
  • Turn the chicken pieces and season the other side.
  • Let them rest at room temperature about 30 minutes while you light the smoker.
  • Set the smoker to 225 F (107 C). (if you have no smoker, light your barbecue, make a foil packet of aluminum foil and add cherry wood chips to it, poke a few holes in the closed foil packet and set them on the barbecue burner. Shut off half of the barbecue flame and heat to 225 F.)
  • Once the smoker or barbecue is at 225 F add the chicken, arranging pieces so they don’t touch. (If you are using a barbecue place the chicken on the side of the barbecue where the burner is shut off.)
  • Turn the pieces after 40 minutes.
  • When the chicken reaches 140 F (60 C), brush with the Alabama white sauce.
  • Turn the chicken and brush sauce on the other side.
  • Cook the chicken to 170 F (77 C).

Remove, serve, and whatever is left cool, package and freeze. (My strong preference is vacuum packed storage for the freezer.)

A smoker load of chicken.
A smoker load of chicken. — Photo courtesy Timothy Fowler

Recipe for Alabama White Sauce, created and made famous by Bob Gibson in Decatur, Alabama (


  • ¾ cup (175 ml) mayonnaise
  • ⅓ cup (80 ml) apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup (50 ml) lemon juice
  • ¼ cup (50 ml) apple juice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dry mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) salt
  • ½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) finely ground cayenne pepper


Add the ingredients into a stainless bowl in the order they appear and whisk to a uniform consistency.

You’ll see—this chicken is delicious. I serve it with sticky rice, placing thawed smoked portions right on the sticky rice once it is bubbling away. The smoked flavour of the chicken ends up seasoning the rice. The chicken is delicious, and one more way to get a good return on your smoker while prepping meals many days in advance.

Related Articles

Meat skewers on grill.
Food On Fire

Secret to granny’s burgers and meatballs revealed

Once you know the secret, making perfect meatballs, skewers or burgers for the campfire is perfectly simple.

A fully smoked chicken thigh.
Food On Fire

Charcoal Chicken: Why quit smoking in the winter?

The art of BBQing and smoking - it's not just for the summer months.