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Beer Can Chicken on a Weber Smoker

I've made Beer Can Chicken before on a standard Weber grill, but I now have a Weber smoker, so I'm going to try it out!

You may or may not have heard of Beer Can Chicken.  It's a method of cooking a whole chicken popularized by Steven Raichlen.  Basically, you take a 3 to 4 lb. chicken, sit it on a can, and cook it vertically on a charcoal grill with the lid closed.  The result is a whole chicken that is moist and tender on the inside with a crispy skin.  Since the chicken cooks vertically, the fat drips off, and the result is a delicious succulent bird.

That's the short version, but I hope to outline more as we go along.  This will be a longish post - I have 19 (!) pixtures!

I'm going to make 2 chickens, since I now find myself with a lot of space on the grill, and because I want to wind up with extra to use in some other dishes.

First we rinse the chicken in cold water as usual.  Then, we apply spice of our choice.  In this case, I'm following the 'cajun' chicken recipe from Steven Raichlen's Beer Can Chicken book, but I suggest you experiment with what you like.

You make a cajun seasoning mix and then take 1.5 tablespoons of that mix and combine it with the same amount of Old Bay seasoning.  In the picture, the larger batch of cajun mix is on the right, and the bowl on the left has the half-and-half mixture.

Before I season the birds, I start some coals in the chimney.  I have about 70-80 coals in the bottom of the smoker, and I just need about 20 or so hot ones to put on top.  I'm using the "Minion Method" for coals in the smoker.  Works great, and you don't have to worry about adding coals unless you cook something for more than 7 or 8 hours.

Next, we get the beer cans ready.  Pour out about 2/3 of the can - you only need to have about 1/3 of a can of beer for the chicken.  Drink the rest or use it in another recipe.

If you search the interwebs, you'll read a lot of discussion about the type of beer to use for the chicken.  I'm using Heineken here, but any beer will suffice - just use what you like.  I personally don't think the quality of the beer matters that much in the final flavor of the chicken.  The main purpose of the beer is to keep the inside of the chicken moist.

Add a shot of Liquid Smoke and a pinch of the seasoning mix to the beer.

You also need to make some extra holes in the top of the can - I do 2 with a can opener.  You can see one of them to the left of the hole from removing the tab.

Next, season the shikken!  (I say 'shikken' as a tribute to the late, great Justin Wilson).

Sprinkle some seasoning inside the bird, and on the outside.  Use your own judgement as to how much.  This is cooking, not brain science!

One thing I like to do is lift up the skin on the breast and put some seasoning there.

Okay, chickens, come out with your hands up!

Funny picture, huh?  You just sit/put/stuff the business end of the shikkens onto the beer cans.  The can works as one leg of a 'tripod' with the legs forming the other two legs. 

Also, at this time, brush or pour vegetable oil over the outside of the birds.

The birds will stay in this position if you're careful and lucky.  If they tip, don't panic, just sit 'em back up.
Now that's a fire!  The coals are close to being ready.  I let them flame down a bit before I put them on the smoker.

Here's the bottom of the smoker.  There are probably 75 or so coals in there. 

The most important thing about a smoker is - the wood!  You can see the two hunks I put in - this is apple.  Most any hardwood will work well - hickory, oak, mesquite, are all popular. 

You don't need to soak the wood before you use it.  I put it near the top, since it will start smoking right away, as the meat absorbs the smoke the most while it's still raw.

The amount of wood is a learning experience - I started with 6 hunks and it was too much.  Now I'm using just 2 or 3 and that seems to be just right.

Put the hot coals on top of the cold ones, then put the middle cylinder of the cooker on.  You can also see the water bowl - I have it about a third full of water.  The water helps keep the heat moist, and helps regulate the temperature.  Lots of discussion about using water out there too - but I use it.

Now put the chickens on the top grill.

From this angle you can see why this is sometimes called Chicken on a Throne...ahem.

You can see the smoke already starting up.  It's really pungent, so you need to get the meat on quickly and put the lid on, otherwise it's too smoky.

Put the lid on, and have all the vents open.  When the temperature reaches 200 degrees F, close the three bottom vents most of the way.  Leave the top vent open through the whole cooking time.

One of the bottom vents - open about 25 percent.  This is what regulates the temperature. 

I kept the temperature about 240 degrees F.  I find I have to check the temperature every 15 minute or so.

This is only the third time I've used the smoker, so I'm still getting a feel for it, but overall it's very easy to use.

Cooking away. 

All three sections - the bottom, the center (with the door) and the top all come apart. 

I try not to remove the lid unless it's necessary (say to check doneness or baste the meat).

A little over 2 hours later, we have dancing shikkens!

The meat was at the right temperature (180 F thigh, and 160 F breast), so I pronounced them done.

They were cooked fine, but I really want them to be falling off the bone, which they were not.  Next time I'll cook em for 3 hours I think.

Carefully!  Take the chicken off the grill.  I use heavy oven mitts on both hands, and move the chicken holding the can with one hand and one hand on the back of the chicken.

Let them sit upright on the can in a dish or on a plate for 5 minutes to cool down. 

Then carefully remove the can from the chicken.  I use tongs to hold the can, and pull the chicken and can apart.

It probably goes without saying, but don't drink the beer from the cans.

Carve the chickens into halves, quarters, and eat!


Post a Comment 2 comments:

  • September 4, 2011 at 5:03 PM
    love your post. I'm doing the exact same thing today on my Smokey Mountain Cooker.
  • Yr Fthfl Blggr said...
    September 7, 2011 at 9:59 AM
    How did it turn out?

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