Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

The Coldest Place On Earth: Grilled Chicken Thighs

If you are from the northern tier states, and you have lately and by chance poked your nose unassumingly outward of warm environs, well it20130210_145444_edit0 is no secret that it is butt-cold out there. In your face, nothing-you-can-do-about-it, butt-cold. The kind of cold that which penetrates the crust of a person’s finest attitude, slaps them strong across face, and can have them cowering on the ground in matter of sheer minutes. The fellow on the morning news said a given face, pretty or not, had in his estimation, about five minutes out there, before frost bite would latch on to your epidermis and ruin your day. Upon waking this morning, it was 21 below in Minneapolis. Schools statewide were canceled, the educational system’s white flag tossed onto the ring of battle, where upon it promptly froze to the ground. And the common sense sort of people in town stayed home if they could, curled up under old grandma quilts, nursing hot teas, and mused headlong about the weather out there. Others of us tho,  carried on as normal, went to work, and when duties were done, came home and promptly lit the BBQ as if it were the middle of July. Yeah, it’s just what we do!


On the grill tonight, a simplistic respite from the complexities of the smokey arts, whilst also a gentle parlay towards classical american succulence – the chicken thigh. Thighs are one of our most favorite parts of the chicken to grill. High fat content keeps this dark meat moist and juicy, and if married with the right rubs or seasonings, it is a real treat. Our rub of tonight was Famous Dave’s Rib Rub. It says on the bottle to use it on every thing, not just ribs. So we did. It provides an easy but not over-powering heat, and some other spices too that just seem to work on a variety of meats. Old Dave is famous for a reason I guess. Anyways, we dusted the thighs over pretty good whilst the coals matured out on the pit. Then doffed the old woolen smoking jacket and made haste out into the deep, penetrating cold.

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Banking the hot coals to the back of the pit for in-direct cooking, we placed the seasoned thighs over the cooler regions of the grill, which is real easy to do, don’t you know, when the mercury scraps the minus 20 mark. Mercy. The heat from the coals bellowed up out of the pit in stark contrast to the frozen world beyond. I tossed on a couple of chunks of apple wood, watched them quickly catch blaze as I tucked my hands into my pockets. I gazed at the fire for a moment, and enjoyed how the light felt against my face. What a pleasure it is, tho quaint in size, to be in the good company of fire and flame on a night such as this. A night where all the world bends on knee to the authority of a merciless cold. Where would we be if it were not but for the spoils of fire. Of  glorious and unabridged heat. The energy that which drive our days, and caters to our nights. It would be mighty cold chicken thighs tonight indeed, with out this, a simple fire.

I put the black enameled lid atop the old kettle grill, and the draft caught soon enough, and ushered out a lovely wood smoke through the top vent. We were up and cooking, and there was contentment in the pit. I might have dallied some there, dreaming of summer BBQ’s past, of cool, green grasses and song birds serenading from atop wavering willows,  but the peculiar feeling of my left eye lid fusing shut sort of snapped me back to reality. What ever! I sidled inside, unashamed, and drew a hot beverage there. I got to watching the evening news, which I seldom do, with a hot brew cradled in my hands. The weatherman said that today was a special day here in Minnesota. He said that at one point during the day, for a moment anyways, that Minnesota was colder than even the north pole. In point of fact, he added, Minnesota was colder than anywhere. He said, sort of proudly, that this was the coldest place on earth, today. And I believed him.

I smiled sharply as I gazed out at my faithful pit, puffing stoically away on the patio. It’s a good pit. A faithful stead. And it knows not the inclement of weather, nor some days do I think it even cares. Who says you have to hang up your BBQ tongs when the mercury plummets! Indeed, with but a degree of mild lunacy, the grilling season may be extended the calendar long. And rewardingly so. And if you’re really lucky, you can even claim to have grilled your chicken thighs in the coldest place on earth.

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Succulent, moist, apple-smoked chicken thighs hot off the pit. Buddy! So next time you southern folks run clear of your grills because its 50 degrees there, you have our pity!

29 responses

  1. AgileWriter

    Heaven on earth…..Mouthwatering!!!

    January 6, 2014 at 10:41 pm

  2. Thank you for your tales of heroism, truly remarkable. I think you may have some bragging rights for some time to come. The chicken looks beautiful.
    Many thanks for your post.
    Ron, Australia, 120′ and still BBQing

    January 6, 2014 at 11:11 pm

    • Ah thanks, Ron in Australia! Oh I’m sure some other place is the coldest place on earth today. We had our moment in the sun, even tho we could feel no heat from it. 120 you say! Man, your flipping your meat at the other end of the thermal spectrum! We live on the edge, Ron Duke.

      January 7, 2014 at 10:21 am

  3. In Seattle we grill or bbq sometimes through the pouring rain. Totally worth it.

    Good stuff.

    January 7, 2014 at 12:04 am

    • Outstanding! Yes grilling in the rain is even more pleasant, I’d wager than in the freezer. There is joy in hearing the rain drops patter and sizzle over a hot pit. And the smells and aromas of the craft never seem more keen, than when the barometer drops and the rains come gently down.

      Grill on Jesse! Thanks for chiming in.

      January 7, 2014 at 10:13 am

  4. I love the way you talk about grilling. I too love grilled meats and I have often grilled during winter… all year long actually. giggles…whatever… like you said…weather doesn’t have to stop us. 🙂 That looks like some awesome chicken.

    January 7, 2014 at 1:26 am

    • Ah, very cool! It ceases to amaze me the people that we discover who are passionate about their grill craft. For years, we assumed we were the only ones daft enough to engage in winter grilling, but turns out the world has a few more stalwarts in the fold. Carry on good and faithful pit keeper! Good job indeed.

      January 7, 2014 at 10:11 am

  5. Debbie Spivey

    Looks yummy! Stay warm up there!! Not much better here in the mid-Atlantic: 0 this morning with a -20 windchill.

    January 7, 2014 at 6:23 am

    • Oh were plenty warm. Lots of fireplace time, and hot homemade soup. In point of fact, my lovely bride took her portion of these smoked chicken thighs and turned it into a wonderful soup. Just the ticket when mired in the deep freeze like this.

      January 7, 2014 at 10:08 am

      • Debbie Spivey

        Sounds wonderful! We’ve got our fireplace going too. Nice to be barefooted with a t-shirt on this time of year. Spoils us!

        January 7, 2014 at 10:11 am

      • Amen!

        January 7, 2014 at 10:14 am

  6. Looks delicious, stay warm, 21 below is the actual temp, what is it with wind chill? Here in NYC 4 degrees in Central Park and -14 with wind chill. Brrrrrr…..

    January 7, 2014 at 7:36 am

    • Susanne, I think the wind chill was easily in the negative 50 degree area. And even colder in the northern parts of the state. Its heck on open skin, but a bunch of fiery coals banked up in a bbq pit don’t seem to mind none.

      Take care and stay unfrozen!

      January 7, 2014 at 10:06 am

  7. wonderful ! I have plans of getting out and grilling here today also… only a -12 here but the baby back ribs have been calling me and I see no reason not to enjoy them. So as the sun shines brightly on my back porch I am heading out to get everything ready for grill time and get the rub ready … thinking of you and your wonderful chicken today.

    January 7, 2014 at 9:06 am

    • Outstanding! A tip of the hat to you, Jolynnpowers, braving the elements of such for the succulence of baby back ribs. Very cool! And a testimony that neither a good pit, nor it’s keeper, is ever down.

      Carry on and be well!

      January 7, 2014 at 10:03 am

  8. I know they have the highest fat level in a bird, but that’s why I love BBQ them. They don’t dry out on the grill near as easily as other poultry cuts.

    January 7, 2014 at 11:33 am

    • Pretty much. And let’s face it, fat is good! Thanks Richard!

      January 7, 2014 at 11:48 am

  9. Liz

    wow–it’s that cold here? I’ve been in a bit of a daze–everything seems surreal (like the kids home for a second day now), but I didn’t now it was the coldest place on Earth. Doesn’t surprise me–this is an obscene kind of cold, which you described spot-on. And you grilled–that is amazing and wonderful. Thanks for doing that 🙂 Enjoyed your phrase about throwing the white flag and having it promptly freeze–great image.

    Stay warm, PotP. It’s 6F where I am right now (took a quick biz trip to Mankato, so you could say I went south) and that’s 300% warmer than it was yesterday. Funny (in a pathetic way) how 6F seems warm. Minnesotans get bragging rights for sure.

    January 7, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    • Well that’s what I heard the weatherman say, that for a moment anyways, we were the coldest place there was. Its warmed up a bit now, and seems balmy compared to yesterday. Crazy what we get used to. Your trip down to Mankato proved that!

      Thanks Liz!

      January 7, 2014 at 6:06 pm

  10. laurie27wsmith

    I think perhaps that the delicious barbequed chicken thighs were the only warm thighs for miles around. 🙂

    January 7, 2014 at 5:42 pm

  11. yuuummm! made teriyaki grilled chicken thighs tonight, here in the middle of the desert, where it’s a balmy 73 degrees… 😮

    January 7, 2014 at 8:22 pm

  12. Pingback: New Barbecue-Smoker (Parrilla-Ahumado) | Living It Up in Ecuador

  13. Reblogged this on xhconcepts.

    January 22, 2014 at 5:55 am

  14. I’m confused… how do you keep the Smokey Mountain up to temperature… I have tried in the winter and failed miserably… Last time I tried I couldn’t get it to 200… was a bit windy also… suggestions?

    February 11, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    • Well this particular cook was done on the weber kettle grill, and that has no problem what so ever holding a hot temp, even on the coldest day. But to answer your question on the WSM, of which we use the same 22.5 incher as you do, there are two things you can do it seems, to help it run well in the cold. Least wise it’s what I do. One is to build a bigger fire than you normally do in the summer. Really stoke it hot and big in the fire bowl. Two chimneys if necessary. And the other thing I’ve found effective is to reduce the water in the water pan. In point of fact, my last smoke it was around zero degrees out, and I didn’t use any water at all. And it worked great. Running about 275. So it can be done.

      Anyways, experiment with one or both of those two tactics, and that ought to solve your problem for the WSM in winter. I haven’t noticed much drop in temp from a windy day, but I suppose it’s possible. I’ve also heard of some who insulate the cooker with a blanket or a water heater blanket. So there is another option, for what it’s worth.

      Hope that helped some. Rest assured they work in the cold tho. Done it many times.

      Take care


      February 11, 2014 at 10:25 pm

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