Sunday, August 11, 2013

Beer Can Chicken on the Smoker

This was my second attempt at using a smoker (specifically an 18.5” Weber Smokey Mountain), and it was a really simple cook. All you have to do is leave the water pan dry (line with foil for easy cleanup) to allow for more heat (a full water pan will act as a heat sink) and leave the vents wide open for the duration. Cooking a chicken on the smoker gives some great flavor to the meat, however the skin doesn’t get that great crispiness you would get by, say, roasting the bird in the oven at higher temperatures.

15 ounces water
4 tablespoons table salt
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon oregano
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 small onion, sliced
1 lemon, halved
2 bay leaves
15 ounces ice

Add some vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat and toss in the onion and garlic, sautee for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the water, salt, the herbs, and the bay leaves. Squeeze the lemon halves in, and toss the lemons into the brine. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Add in the ice. Make sure the brine isn’t too hot, and transfer to a large bag. Add the chicken and place in a large bowl. Refrigerate overnight, and give it a turn or two to periodically to make sure the brine comes in contact with all sides of the chicken.

1.5 tablespoons paprika
¾ tablespoon salt
1.5 teaspoons celery salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1.5 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder

Remove chicken from brine right before you start the smoker, and pat dry. Brush on a little olive oil and toss on the rub, patting onto all the outer surfaces.

Prep the smoker:
I filled the charcoal chamber of an 18.5” weber smokey mountain halfway with brickets, 1 hunk of hickory, and 2 hunks of cherry. I used the minion method, which is as follows:

Fill the chamber halfway up with charcoal. Take all the charcoal out of the middle, and add it to a chimney starter (should be around ½ the height of the starter. Place 1 hunk of wood in the empty space in the middle of the charcoal chamber, and the other pieces on top of the ring of remaining charcoal. Using a lighter, or the side burner of a propane grill, light the charcoal in the chimney starter, until it starts to turn white, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour the burning charcoal into the middle of the charcoal. The heat will slowly spread to the outer ring.

You’ll want to start the smoker about an hour before you plan to put the heat on. We’re shooting for a temperature of 325 to 350°F on the smoker. If you can get it higher, more power to you.

Cook the chicken:

When you’re ready to put the bird on, open up a can of cheap domestic beer, drink about half of it, and poke two holes into the top of the can (in addition to the mouth hole). Place the can in the cavity of the chicken.

Place the chicken upright on the grill, using it’s legs to stabilize it. Tuck the wings behind the back, to prevent from overcooking (see picture). I also cut off the top of the onion, and placed it in the neck hole to prevent steam from the beer from just shooting out.

With my vents fully open my smoker hovered around 345°F for the first hour or so, then dropped to around 340°F for the second hour. It took exactly two hours to cook a 6 lb. chicken at this temp. I brushed on some bbq sauce (Sweet Baby Ray’s) with about half an hour left of cooking time. 

Pull the chicken off the smoker when the thigh registers 165°F, and let rest for ten minutes before carving. I had a hell of a time trying to get the cooked bird off of the beer can, so I ended up carving it upright.


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