Last year, we caught an episode of Grill It! With Bobby Flay, where his guest, Robin Koury, did a beer can chicken on the grill. The rub she used on her chicken looked great, and I had enjoyed beer can chicken in the past, so I hopped online and found her recipe at FoodNetwork.com.
While her rub looked as good as a recipe as it did on television, she was doing her bird mostly directly on the grill, and I was looking for more of a smoked chicken recipe. So I combined her rub with some basic smoked chicken recipes I found elsewhere, including my go-to guide “Cook-n Cajun Water Smoker Cookbook.”
The first couple of times I did it, I did it beer can-style, where you prop up the chicken on a pan, upright sitting on a beer (or soda) can, which is supposed to help keep the chicken moist. It creates a great visual, but after comparing the chicken on a beer can and off a beer can side by side, I really don’t think it makes any difference in a smoker. Perhaps on a straight grill/bbq it dries out faster and needs the extra moisture from the can and pan, but in a smoker, if you’re using a water pan over (or adjacent to) the coals, the humid smoke seems to keep the meat perfectly moist without the can in the cavity.
The smoked chicken turns out great. The rub has a really nice kick that goes well with the smoke, but isn’t too spicy (even for my very spice intolerant daughter). We generally do two chickens at a time on the smoker (really the same amount of work as one), and we eat one immediately with dinner and cut up the leftovers and the second chicken for chicken quesadillas, chicken nachos, bbq chicken pizza, chicken sandwiches and/or chicken salad, all of which benefit from the smoky goodness of this chicken recipe. The carcass also makes an excellent base for soup stock!
- 1 4 to 5 pound whole chicken
- ¼ yellow onion
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- Wood chunks (hickory, pecan, or apple are my favorites–mesquite is too strong for a slow smoke on chicken)
- Spice rub (see below)
- ¼ cup paprika
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 heaping teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- Begin fire for smoker.
- Remove giblets from chicken, dry skin.
- Gently separate skin from breasts.
- Rub chicken inside and out with spice rub, including under skin.
- Put onion, rosemary, thyme, and garlic inside chicken cavity.
- Put foil on wing tips to prevent burning or drying out.
- Place chicken on smoker grid
- Add wood chunks to fire box. Re-add every 45 minutes to an hour.
- Try to keep smoke chamber at about 225 degrees.
- If you keep the chamber at about 225 degrees, it should take about 30 minutes per pound, but it will be done when your meat thermometer shows about 165 degrees in the deepest part of the breast (near where it connects to the thigh).
- Take chicken off grill, tent in aluminum foil for about 10 minutes.
- Carve and eat!
If you haven’t done a lot of smoked meats, or don’t have a smoker yet, check out my primer on smoking meats here.
*Spice Rub Source: Robin Koury’s Spice of Life Beer Can Chicken
*Spice Rub Yield: Enough for 3 chickens
*Spice Rub Weight Watchers Info: 0 PointsPlus per serving.