Everyone loves a good rotisserie chicken. From the juicy legs to the crispy skin, nothing can beat the flavor of this classic dish. But, what if you cooked it over open fire? You would have a hanging chicken.
Now you are playing with a whole new realm of elements. This chicken will take on the flavor of the wood, the fragrance of the smoke and the spice of the seasoning.
It is an experience you cannot replicate anywhere else. That is why hanging chicken over open fire is one of my favorite meals to cook.
Not only is it easy, but it also has more flavor than I could ever describe. When you take a bite into a perfectly cooked hanging chicken, then you will understand!
Below you will find my how-to on cooking this delicious dish. I will walk you through the prep, fire and cooking of the chicken so that you can look like a backyard gaucho the next time you invite friends over for dinner.
The Prep Work
Time to truss the chicken.
There are 3 major things to do when prepping a hanging chicken: trussing, seasoning and fire.
My favorite kinds of seasoning for hanging chicken tend to be very simple. I like to use olive oil, salt, pepper and paprika. You are welcome to try creative styles like cajun, ethnic or spicy seasonings but I like to use the ones I stated above.
Make sure to rub the chicken down with olive oil thoroughly. This will give it a nice crispy texture and help the other spices soak into the meat.
Then, rub down the chicken with your desired seasonings. Make sure to add some into the chicken cavity!
Once the chicken is ready, then it is time to truss it!
Trussing is the action of wrapping the chicken in string so that it hangs properly over the fire. This is truly an art form, but it easy to learn.
There are multiple methods for trussing a chicken, but the main method I like to use is one that I created.
First, you will need trussing string. You can find this at most grocery stores or cooking stores. I prefer string because I think it does not distort the flavor of the chicken. Some like to use wire, but I feel that that would harm the skin and alter the natural flavor.
Cut the trussing string into a 5 foot segment. Make sure to soak it in water for a second so that it is moist and will not burn when cooking. With the chicken laying on its back, place the string underneath it so that it is on the mid back of the chicken. Make sure the chicken is in the middle of the string.
Then cross the string across the middle of the chicken (around middle of the legs) and pull hard so that the legs are pushed up slightly. Wrap the string once around the bottom of the legs starting from the outside then going around towards the inside. Then, while keeping pressure so the string does not loosen, bring both ends of the string over the neck and around the tail until you are at the cross point where you started. Make sure the string is very tight on the chicken and tie it off at the middle strings.
This trussing technique is very useful as it gives the chicken the ability to be hung from multiple positions! For a great video on how to do something similar to my technique, then check out here.
Taking Care of the Fire
The fire burning underneath!
The key to having a good fire is all about consistency! I highly recommend having at least half a rick of wood ready to be burned.
The type of wood is very essential for cooking over open fire. Good wood to use are oak, cherry, apple, hickory and mesquite. I like to use oak and hickory when hanging chicken as it gives a nice smokey flavor to the meat.
For an even temperature, try to get the fire around 400F. This means that when you place your hand safely 4 inches from the flames then you can keep it there for 3-4 seconds.
Keep adding logs until the fire is extremely hot! The fire is slow to build but quick to burn so it is better to start hot and then cool down.
Lastly, make sure to surround the chicken with fire. Make a circle or square of fire around the meat so that it cooks from multiple angles!
Once you have your fire ready, then it is time to cook!
Time to Cook
Lets let it hang.
Once the fire is nice and hot, then it is time to hang the chicken!
Hang the chicken using string & an S-hook about 3-4 feet from the fire. You can us a tripod, stick or a custom rig, just make sure that it will support the chicken for multiple hours.
Hanging chicken takes about 4-5 hours to cook, so this is where you might want a cooler of beer ready.
For the first hour, hang the chicken with the breast closest to the fire. The meat on the top will take the longest to cook, therefore it should be the first thing to get cooking. On the second hour, hang the chicken from the back. This will help the breast continue to cook evenly and thoroughly.
For the third hour, hang the chicken from the neck so that the legs and wings get roasted. Once you hit the fourth hour, hang the chicken from the breast so that the back of the meat gets some love. Finally, for the last 30min to an hour, hang the chicken from the back to warm up the whole bird.
The internal temperature of the chicken should be around 165F when ready to eat. This will let you know if the chicken should cook longer over the fire. When the chicken is done, pull it off and eat immediately.
I highly recommend keeping a close eye on the chicken while its cooking. Make sure to keep the trussing moist so that it does not break! Do not feel like you have failed if the chicken falls. Just make sure to re-truss it and place it back over the fire.
Becoming a Backyard Gaucho!
Hanging a chicken over fire is definitely a favorite of mine. I hope you enjoyed this How-To on becoming a Backyard Gaucho. Do you want to see me do more How-To articles like this? Send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your recommendations for my next article.
Stay tuned as I share my adventures while cooking over open fire! Like hanging chicken, everything is easy, delicious and fun.
- 1 whole chicken
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh Ground Pepper
- Olive Oil
- Butcher Twine
- Season chicken with all ingredients above. Truss chicken using string. Hang over fire for 4-6 hours or until internal temperature reaches 165F.