Smoking is a simple way to transform any cut of meat, and smoking with tea adds an extra special twist that gives poultry a distinctive Asian flavor. Although smoking with tea is traditionally used for cooking a whole duck, it works equally well with duck breasts, chicken pieces, or, for a family supper or dinner party, a whole chicken.
Tea smoked roast chicken is essentially a chicken seasoned with toasted spices then marinated in traditional Asian flavors of soy, sesame, fresh ginger, and garlic before being smoked in a fragrant haze of tea, brown sugar, and rice, then slow roasted until the meat is juicy and tender.
Making a delicious tea smoked roast chicken begins with a good seasoning rub. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add peppercorns, preferably Szechuan peppercorns, and rock salt and toast well, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until fragrant and browned. Set the spices aside to cool, then place in spice grinder and pulse until very fine. Using your hands, spread the mixture evenly over the entire chicken as well as inside the cavity, rubbing in well so the spices stick to the skin. Set chicken aside while you prepare the next step.
Now is time for a rich and savory marinade to infuse the chicken with heaps of flavor and make it smell amazing while roasting in the oven. Whisk together soy sauce, toasted sesame seed oil, freshly grated ginger, and minced garlic into a smooth sauce. Place the chicken into a large sealable plastic bag, then add the marinade, squeeze out all the air, and seal. Thoroughly massage the marinade over the entire chicken, and inside the cavity, then place in fridge for at least two hours to let the flavors infuse the skin and meat.
When you’re ready to start cooking, line your wok with aluminum foil and set aside. With a second piece of foil, create a packet and fill with a handful of rice, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and a handful of whole tea leaves. Don’t use cut tea leaves as they burn too easily; the Plum Deluxe Pick Me Up Oolong, Royale Purple, and Oregon Breakfast teas would all work well for this recipe. Regarding the rice, if you don’t have any on hand, other grains will work equally well. Try spelt grains or buckwheat.
Once the ingredients are in the packet, flatten and seal it and place it in the bottom of the wok. Set a baking rack above the packet, place wok lid on tightly, and heat wok on high until packet begins to smoke. Once it’s smoking well, remove chicken from marinade and pat dry. Set on rack and cover tightly with lid. Smoke for 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, set out a roasting pan and preheat oven to 375 F. When chicken is finished smoking, carefully transfer it to the roasting pan and place in the oven. Roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until chicken is cooked through and tender.
When ready, remove tea smoked chicken from oven and let rest until ready to serve. It’s also delicious served cold.
Tea Smoked Roasted Chicken
- 2 Tbsp peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp salt
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
- 1/2 cup whole tea leaves
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup rice or buckwheat kernels
Place saucepan over medium heat and toast peppercorns and salt about five minutes until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from heat and let cool about five minutes then grind in spice grinder until fine. Rub mixture over entire chicken and inside cavity. Set aside.
In small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic until emulsified.
Place chicken into sealable plastic bag. Add wet mixture, squeeze out all air, seal, and massage well until chicken is covered. Place in fridge and let marinate at least two hours.
Line wok with aluminum foil and turn on high heat. With second sheet of foil, create a packet and fill with tea leaves, brown sugar, and rice. Seal and place in bottom of pan. Set roasting rack above packet and cover with lid.
When spice packet begins to smoke, place chicken on rack, and cover tightly with lid. Let smoke for 20 minutes.
While it’s smoking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. When chicken is finished smoking, transfer to roasting pan and roast another hour, or longer, until chicken is cooked through and tender.
Serve hot or cold.