SERVES 4 TO 6
Smaller birds are easier to manage on the grill in terms of ensuring doneness, plus I like serving a half bird to each guest. The brine is an important component of this recipe and replaces the need to season the birds before cooking. Drizzling the chickens with lemon-infused oil for the last few minutes of cooking adds an incredible scent that really enlivens the meat.
The choice of wood for this is key, as too strong a flavor will mask the delicate nature of a pasture-raised bird. Will it taste good if heavily smoked with mesquite or hickory? Sure it will. But it won’t taste much like chicken. I have recently come to really appreciate the smoky flavor citrus wood generates. Another delicious option is to make a wood fire of oak or maple, in which the wood is providing more heat than aromatic smoke, then add dried fennel stalks above the grate so that they smolder alongside the chicken. Or add the dried stalks of end-of-the-season basil plants.
Two 2-pound young chickens, or one 31/2- to 4-pound bird
2 recipes Poultry Brine
3 tablespoons brightly flavoured olive oil
 Place the chickens in a large bowl or pot and pour in the brine. Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
 Drain the brine. Place the chickens on a baking sheet and dry them with a desk fan for an hour to form a tacky layer on the skin surface; this is called a pellicle, and it’s what the smoke flavour will stick to. You can also dry them overnight, uncovered, in the refrigerator.
 Build a large fire in the grill. When it has died down to embers, add the flavouring wood chips or stalks. Place the chickens on the grill away from the coals, with the legs closer to the fire. Cover the grill and choke the airflow to a sliver. Cook for 30 minutes, adding more wood chips if necessary to keep a billowing smoke going.
 Check the birds with an instant-read thermometer inserted into the leg against the bone. It should register between 135 and 140 degrees F. Rotate the birds so that the breasts are closest to the fire. Cover the grill and cook for another 10 minutes. Uncover the grill and drizzle the birds with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, then cover and cook until the thermometer registers 160 degrees F, about another 5 minutes.
 Remove the birds from the grill and let them rest for 15 minutes. Section the birds into legs and breasts and drizzle them with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Serve immediately.