Make the brine: Bring 2 cups water, 3/4 cup salt and the peppercorns to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the salt. Let cool, then stir in the apple and lemon juices.
Cut the backbone out of each chicken using kitchen shears; discard. Trim off any remaining ribs. Place the chickens breast-side up, then firmly press down with your hands to flatten. Trim off any excess skin. Transfer the chickens to a large pot, laying them flat (or use a two-gallon resealable plastic bag). Add the brine, thyme, garlic and 2 cups cold water. (If the chickens are not covered, add 1 to 2 more cups water.) Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Place a drip pan under the grill grates. Preheat the grill to medium and prepare for indirect cooking: On a gas grill, turn off half the burners; on a charcoal grill, bank the coals to one side. Meanwhile, soak the applewood chips in water, 30 minutes; drain. Remove the chickens from the brine and pat dry. Season on both sides with the paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
When the grill registers 375 degrees F, add the wood chips: On a gas grill, fill a smoke box with half the chips and use according to the manufacturers' instructions; on a charcoal grill, sprinkle half the chips over the coals. Place the chickens breast-side up on the cooler side of the grill, making sure they lie flat. Cover the grill and cook 1 hour, then add the remaining wood chips (if using charcoal, add more coals at this point or as needed so the temperature stays between 325 degrees F and 375 degrees F). Continue grilling until a thermometer inserted into the thighs and breasts registers 165 degrees F and the skin is browned and crisp, 1 to 1 1/2 more hours. Transfer the chickens to a cutting board and let rest at least 15 minutes before carving.
Tools You May Need
Photograph by Ralph Smith
Tools You May Need
Price and stock may change after publish date, and we may make money off