This is a really easy way to use the whole chicken. We start by buying organic, free range chickens. These are a little more expensive (around $5-8 a piece), but it is totally worth knowing where your meat came from and that it was raised the way it should have been. They also cook faster because they are naturally smaller.
The night before you are going to smoke your chickens remove them from their packaging and pat them dry. Place them in large stock pots, or a bucket if you have a kitchen (food grade) specific one you use. Make a standard brine. I do this with water, kosher salt, unrefined cane sugar, bay leaves, black pepper corns, and dried chile de Arbol. I use two stock pots because they will fit in the refrigerator, which is much easier than finding space for my turkey to brine for Thanksgiving!! Anyhow, refrigerate over night. I like to brine poultry because it adds to the tenderness of the final product. It is also a good way to ensure that the white meat stays as moist as the dark.
In the morning, remove the chickens from the brine and pat dry. Rub the birds in a mix of the following (for two birds, I would say you should go with 1-2 teaspoons of each, using more of the spices you like best):
paprika (no need to use smoked since you are smoking the meat)
red chili powder
ancho chili powder
2 T brown sugar (light or dark)
4 T kosher salt
a dash celery salt
Let the chickens sit at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes while the smoker heats up. Add the chickens to the smoker for 4-5 hours, or until they are to temp (165 degrees) using a simple kitchen meat thermometer. I alway smoke my chickens breast side down. Now this is a debated topic, but I think that it makes the breast more juicy and tender.
Remember to add wood to the smoker throughout the cooking process, but note that this is the only time you should open the smoker (we add wood about every hour with the electric smoker that we have, using chips, this will vary based on your smoker and the type of wood you use).
When you remove the chickens from the smoker you should let them sit under foil for about 20-30 minutes. I have done a lot of different things with the chicken. I have made tamales, chicken and dumplings, chicken tortilla soup, tacos, or you can eat it just as smoked chicken. Anyway you do it, it is sure to be good!
After you have taken all of the meat off the bones, put all of the discarded bones, skin, and other inedible pieces into metal strainer in an 8-10 quart stock pot, larger if you have it. Rough chop onions, celery, carrots (you don’t have to skin any of this!), add 6-10 sprigs of thyme and a bunch of black pepper corns. You can also save your compost waste (ends and peels of carrots, onions, celery, garlic, mushrooms) and add it instead of using whole veg that would otherwise put in another dish. Fill the pot with water to cover. You may need to skim fat, but I have never had to while cooking. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover….and simmer….and simmer….and simmer. You want to see just the smallest bubbles coming up, just the most minor movement of the liquid. Do not violently boil. Do this for as long as you can, 4-6 hours. Continue to add water as the broth boils down and concentrates, if needed.
When you are done simmering, cool the mixture for an hour. Then remove the strainer and press the liquid from it and back into the stock. If you need to strain the mixture further put it through cheese cloth. When you are finished straining and the stock is the clarity level you are looking for divide it into containers and freeze until needed, or can using a pressure canner (I have not done this but resources like Well Preserved have–I will update you when I get there). The last time I made this I put the broth in plastic freezer bags and froze it on a cookie sheet. This led to a much more compact storage method and it did not use up all of my jars!