Smoked Chicken


Preparation info

    Appears in

    Mrs. Chiang’s Szechwan Cookbook

    By Ellen Schrecker

    Published 1976

    • About

    Flavor: UniqueMeal: Easy, Cold

    Szechwan is famous for its camphor-smoked ducks. Most Szechwanese dishes are too highly spiced for formal occasions, but camphor-smoked ducks — whose flesh is dark red and tastes like ham — have become part of the national haute cuisine. Like most banquet dishes, they are not made at home; camphor chips aren’t available in America anyhow. Mrs. Chiang’s mother smoked duck and chicken in other ways; her favorite recipe uses an aromatic mixture of Szechwan peppercorns, tea leaves, cinnamon, and other spices. The result doesn’t taste like ham, but it has such a rich, smoky flavor that it is hard to believe it is only chicken or duck.

    Both chicken and duck can be smoked the same way. It is a major production because it takes a lot of time and some ingenuity, but it doesn’t require any special equipment, and the result is worth every minute. The bird is first marinated for 3 days, then steamed, dried, and finally smoked. Ducks are harder to deal with because they are fatter. They also have to be steamed longer, about 1-½ hours as opposed to 1 hour.

    A smoked chicken is a useful thing to build a banquet around, since it can be prepared and stored in the refrigerator for several days. This is hazardous, for few mortals can resist smoked chicken, and you risk finding your majestic bird reduced to a few bones and shreds of skin. The vandals will have made a mistake; magnificent as a cold smoked chicken is, it is even better when eaten at room temperature.



    1 whole chicken (3-½to4 pounds) Clean the chicken thoroughly inside and out. Remove the fat sacs near the tail and the tail as well. Cut off the wings. Put the chicken in a large shallow bowl.
    2-inch piece fresh ginger Don’t peel the ginger, but cut it into tiny slivers about 2 inches long and ⅛ inch wide, the size and shape of a wooden matchstick.
    5 scallions Clean the scallions; give each one a few whacks with the side of your cleaver, then cut into 2-inch lengths.


    ½ cup salt

    2 tablespoons Szechwan peppercorns

    1 tablespoon granulated sugar

    1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or cooking sherry

    Put the scallions in a bowl, along with the ginger, salt, Szechwan peppercorns, sugar, and wine. Stir to combine, then rub the mixture thoroughly into the chicken, inside the cavity as well as all over the skin.

    Put the marinade-covered chicken in a bowl, cover, and let sit for 3 days at room temperature. Turn the chicken over at least once a day.


    After the marinating period is up, the chicken is ready to be steamed.

    If you don’t own a special Chinese steamer, you can make one using either a wok or a large pot with a rack and cover.


    cup Chinese rice wine or sherry

    Fill the bottom of the steamer with water, then place the bowl containing the chicken and its marinade on a rack over the water. Pour the additional wine over the chicken, then bring the water to a boil over a high flame. Cover the steamer and let the chicken steam for 30 minutes.

    After that time, check to make sure there is enough water in the bottom of the steamer. Add more, if necessary, then lower the heat and steam the chicken for an additional 30 minutes.

    Remove the chicken from the steamer, let it cool off slightly, then hang it up to dry. (Yes, hang it up to dry I Since this is not a very commonly employed cooking technique, I know of no special equipment designed for hanging chicken. You will have to exercise your ingenuity on the problem. Mrs. Chiang ties the chicken’s legs together with some string, which she then hangs from a conveniently placed hook over the kitchen sink. Any device will do that suspends the chicken in such a way that it is exposed to the air on all sides. If you don’t hang it over the sink, be sure to put something under it to catch the liquid that drips out of it.)

    The longer the chicken hangs, the better.

    At least 2-½ or 3 hours is required; you could hang it overnight.

    After the chicken has hung sufficiently, it is ready for smoking. For this you will need a large pot with a cover and an open rack inside it on which to place the chicken. (Mrs. Chiang uses a regular wok and its top, and makes a serviceable rack by placing about ten chopsticks crisscross in the middle of the wok.)

    4 sticks cinnamon

    ½ cup Szechwan peppercorns

    cup raw rice

    ½ cup dried tea leaves

    5 whole star anise or the equivalent in pieces

    ½ cup granulated sugar

    1 tablespoon salt

    Break the cinnamon sticks into several pieces and put them in the bottom of the pot, along with the Szechwan peppercorns, raw rice, tea leaves, star anise, sugar, and salt. Mix these ingredients thoroughly, then place the chicken directly on the open rack over them.

    Put the pot over a medium flame, then, when the ingredients in the bottom really begin to smoke, cover the pot and smoke the chicken for 10 minutes. (Don’t worry about smoking up your kitchen; the spices give this smoke an incredible fragrance.)

    2 tablespoons sesame oil, approximately

    After 10 minutes, the smoke should have turned the chicken a lovely light golden color. Remove it from the rack and brush the sesame oil all over it.

    Remove the chicken meat from the bones and cut into small strips. Arrange the strips decoratively on a flat plate and serve.