Smoking chicken livers is a little tricky because they are so lean and you run the risk of having them dry out. This is especially true when smoking over charcoal. There are ways to get this right. Let’s explore some steps to take for smoking chicken livers that are moist and delicious.
Clean and Brine the Livers
When you get the livers home, place them in a colander and rinse under cold water. Pat the livers dry with paper towels.
Take a bowl that is large enough to hold all the livers and place this near your cutting board. Using a sharp paring knife, slice the livers in half between the 2 lobes, if not already sliced. Trim off any white sinew or fat and any dark blood spots.
Place the liver pieces in the bowl and cover them with buttermilk. The buttermilk acts as a brine and aids in pulling out any toxins that the livers may have filtered. I highly recommend sourcing organic or free range chicken livers, if possible, to ensure they are free of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for approximately 2 hours.
Set Up Your Smoker
I like cooking livers in a Masterbuilt Electric Smoker. You can adapt the recipe to suit your smoker. Fill the water bowl with a liquid of your choice. A mixture of water and apple cider or white wine is nice for this recipe. Fill the tray with some mildly aromatic wood chips, such as apple wood or pecan.
Remove a rack from the smoker. If the grates on the rack are too far apart to allow the livers to sit firmly, us a wire mesh cooling rack or sheet pan insert to place your livers on before adding them to the smoker rack.
Place a foil sheet pan on the rack below the one that the livers will sit on to catch any drippings from the bacon we will be using. Preheat the smoker to 250°F with the top vent open.
Prepare the Livers for the Smoker
While the smoker is heating up, rinse the buttermilk off the chicken livers in cold water. Pat them dry with paper towels.
Bacon is going to add much needed moisture to the livers while they cook. Cut bacon slices into pieces that are large enough to wrap around each liver half, approximately 3 inches. Wrap each liver in the bacon and place them, seam side down, on either the smoker rack or on a wire cooling rack that is placed on the smoker rack.
If the bacon is not adhering well to the livers, you can run a toothpick through each one to hold the bacon in place. Alternatively, you can skewer the wrapped chicken livers to hold everything in place.
Smoke the Livers
As soon as the livers are ready and the smoker has come to temperature, slide the rack with the livers into the smoker and close the door. Smoke for between 2 to 2.5 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F when checked with a digital meat thermometer. The bacon should be browned and cooked through.
Be mindful of the smoke and the liquid levels. You will likely have to replenish the wood chips and water bowl every 45 to 60 minutes, depending on your particular smoker.
Serve and Enjoy
Bacon wrapped chicken livers are a great party food. You can eat them with your hands and a napkin. They are best while still warm, just out of the smoker. You can also serve them tapas style with other small plate foods, such as smoked jalapeno poppers and stuffed mushrooms. Smoke these on the racks above the livers to avoid any cross-contamination.
If you have some leftover chicken livers you can transform them into pate. Just sweat some chopped onions with a little thyme, salt, and pepper in a good amount of butter until soft. Add the livers with the bacon to the hot skillet and deglaze with a shot or so of cognac or Madeira wine. Allow the spirits to burn off. Puree the livers and onions in a food processor until smooth. Place the mixture in individual serving ramekins and refrigerate so that the pate sets up. If you are feeling ambitious, you can pour a thin layer of melted ghee or clarified butter on top of the pate to add some nice flavor and creaminess before refrigerating. Serve the pate with toasted baguette slices and cornichon pickles.
Smoked Bacon Wrapped Chicken Livers
- Two 16 ounce containers of fresh chicken livers
- 3 cups buttermilk
- 1 packet of sliced bacon (more if needed)
- Water and apple cider or white wine
- Apple or pecan wood chips
Total time:5 hour – Prep time:2 hour 30 min – Smoke time:2 hour 30 min – Serves:8 people
1. Place the chicken livers in a colander and rinse under cold water. Pat the livers dry with paper towels.
2. Slice the livers between the lobes for pieces that are mostly the same size. Trim off any white sinew or fat and any dark blood spots. Place the liver pieces in a large bowl and cover them with buttermilk. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator for approximately 2 hours.
3. Prepare the smoker: Partially fill the water bowl with half water and half apple cider or white wine. Fill the tray with wood chips. Remove a rack from the smoker. Place a foil sheet pan on the rack below the one that the livers will sit on to catch any drippings from the bacon. Preheat the smoker to 250°F with the top vent open.
4. While the smoker is heating up, rinse the buttermilk off the chicken livers in cold water. Pat them dry with paper towels. Cut the bacon slices into pieces that are large enough to wrap completely around each liver piece, approximately 3 inches. Place the wrapped livers, seam side down, on either the smoker rack or on a wire mesh cooling rack that is placed on top of the smoker rack. You can also place them on toothpicks or skewers to hold the bacon securely in place.
5. Slide the rack into the smoker and close the door. Smoke for between 2 to 2.5 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F when checked with a digital meat thermometer. The bacon should be browned and cooked through. Check the liquid and wood chips every 45 minutes and replenish as necessary.
6. Serve while still warm with your other favorite smoked appetizers and some napkins.