Chinese Smoked Chicken is tender, delicious and fragrant. One of my Dad’s specialities used to be his smoked chicken. He grew up in Beijing and recently, I learned that smoked meats were quite popular in that region when he was growing up. I found a recipe for Chinese smoked chicken in my late aunt’s Florence Lin’s Chinese Regional Cookbook. I’ve adapted my aunt’s recipe so it can be pressure steamed in an Instant Pot to save on time.
Chinese cooking uses a variety of cooking techniques to achieve the optimal textural result. Steaming is one cooking method that is used to retain moisture in chicken prior to finishing it, whether it’s deep fried or smoked, as in this recipe. Although steaming adds an extra step, the end product is juicy and tender, not dry at all, so the extra effort is well worth it.
First, the whole chicken is marinated overnight (or up to 2 days) with a dry rub of toasted salt and Szechuan peppercorns.
Then, the chicken is pressure steamed for 25 minutes in an Instant Pot. You can also steam this on the stove top but it will take at least 45 minutes.
After steaming the whole chicken, let it cool. At this point, you can refrigerate the chicken until you’re ready to smoke it, or you can go straight ahead and smoke it.
Stove-top smoking is easy to do. The bottom of a wok and the wok cover are lined with foil. A mixture of hickory chips and oolong tea are the smoking agents.
An oiled rack is placed in the wok, and the chicken is placed on top. Smoking the chicken takes just 15 minutes. The result will be this beautiful amber-colored Chinese smoked chicken.
Chinese Smoked Chicken can be served warm or cold. I’m still working on my chicken chopping skills, but you get the idea.
Chinese Smoked Chicken (Instant Pot)
Marinade the chicken overnight or up to 2 days. Pressure steaming the chicken prior to smoking ensures tender meat.
- 4 pound whole chicken
- 4 tablespoons coarse salt
- 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
- 1/4 cup hickory chips
- 2 tablespoons black tea leaves I used oolong
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
Brown salt and peppercorns in a dry skillet until peppercorns are fragrant; cool.
Rub salt peppercorn mixture all over chicken, outside and inside.
Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days.
Steaming Chicken (Instant Pot Method)
Pour 1 cup water in bottom of Instant Pot. Place steam rack in pot and put chicken on top.
Steam on high pressure for 25 minutes. Let pressure naturally release for 15 minutes; release remaining pressure. Remove chicken and let cool. You can proceed with smoking the chicken at this point or refrigerate and smoke later.
Line inside of wok and wok cover with foil. Place hickory chips and tea leaves in bottom of foil-lined wok.
Place oiled rack in wok; place steamed chicken on top of rack. Cover wok with foil-lined wok cover, and smoke over medium heat for 15 minutes.
Turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes to allow smoke to dissipate.
Remove chicken and brush with sesame oil.
Cut chicken into small pieces and serve.
Adapted from Florence Lin's Chinese Regional Cookbook