Any Can Chicken

The weather was good this past weekend, and I had a little (very little) time, so I figured it was time to actually put some food on the smoker for a change!

For those of you that have never used a smoker, it’s one of those things that can be almost therapeutic. When I first think about it, I almost don’t want to get started, but, once I do, I’m glad I’m in the process. Depending on what I’m cooking, it can take a couple of hours up to 15 or more hours to finish something on a smoker. The hard part, as with many things, is just getting started.

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I only had a few hours, but I needed to cook something I could take for a dinner on Friday night. While I was doing that, I figured I might as well also cook a couple of beer can chickens. I call them “any can chickens” because I don’t use beer cans. This is for two reasons:

  1. I have found that not much flavor is really imparted by the liquid; it’s about moisture, not flavor. I can add flavor by seasoning the inside of the chicken much better than putting it in the liquid in the can.
  2. I don’t drink much beer that’s in a can.

With that said, here’s the concept of beer can chicken…

A chicken is placed upright on a can filled about halfway with liquid. Even if you’re using beer, you get to drink half of it. The upright position, coupled with the liquid being steamed into the cavity of the bird, allows for a lot more moisture to be retained in the chicken. I’ve yet to have a BCC (beer can chicken) that isn’t really moist. That’s really all there is to it. The bird can be seasoned however desired. This is my preferred way to cook whole chickens.

I’ve done BCC’s on here before, but I decided to do them again because a) I was cooking them and b) I’m always being asked about them.

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I got chickens at Whole Foods instead of a regular grocery because I knew I could get all natural birds there. With all the stuff in the news about recalls and problems with commercial meat, I’m really getting leery of mass produced meats. I got 2 Bell and Evans chickens to cook. They were a bit more expensive, yes, but I have a better idea what my wife and I are eating.

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The one thing I’ve learned in chicken seasoning is to not by shy about getting under the skin. I like to season under the skin so that the meat has flavor, not just the skin. Sometimes when chicken is smoked, the skin is rubbery, so it’s tossed. If only the skin was seasoned, all the flavor goes right with it. So I dig under the skin, starting at the cavity, so I can get seasoning along the breast and thigh meat at least. Then I work the seasoning around to spread it out. I also season the skin, but I know I’m covered if the skin isn’t crispy at all.

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The cans are prepped by simply opening up the top of them. I always heat the liquid (water) that I put in the cans. The reason for this is so that it’s up to temp quickly, and the inside of the bird is cooking as quickly as possible. If I don’t heat the liquid, the liquid has to get up to temperature, then finally start steaming the inside of the bird. This can result in a chicken that appears to be cooked but is only cooked on the outside.

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The birds are put on the cans cavity/leg side down. I use a couple cheap stands to make it a bit easier, but it’s really not a big deal to just use a can and use the legs to make a tripod. The birds go into a 300 degree F smoker for about 2 hours. I say ‘about’ because I never smoke anything based on time; I cook the chickens until the thigh reads 165-170 degrees F.

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Some people don’t like to do whole chickens because they can be intimidated by the carving process. It’s easy, though… Simply pull back the leg/thigh quarters and separate them at the thigh joint from the chicken.

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Then find the keep bone at the middle of the carcass, and work a knife along one side of it, sliding above the ribs, to cut off a boneless breast. Do the same to the other side. The wings are then easy to find and can be removed at the joint without any problem. That’s all there is to it!

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The reason I like to do these on the smoker instead of the grill is that I have more control of the heat, and it’s easier to ensure the heat isn’t directly on the birds.

For those of you wanting more barbecue, I’ll be doing a mess of stuff this coming weekend…

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About Curt

I guess I'm a bit of a foodie, learning to cook from my mom, then getting obsessed with outdoor cooking, competition barbecue, bread baking and just about all things food. Lately, I've been trying to upgrade my photography skills a bit, though I still have a long way to go.

14 comments

  1. Those look fabulous! We’ve got a smoker, but it’s currently buried under about a foot of snow. sigh. When we can dig it out, I’m going to have my husband try this (he’s the grill guy in the family). Oh, and I completely agree–you have to season under the skin!

  2. Elle, thanks… When you get the smoker out, let me know how the birds turn out. One thing I try to do is get the temp up enough (300 degrees or so) to get the skin crispy, so season the skin, too.

    And the carcass makes fantastic stock, with a slightly smoky flavor.

  3. I have never cooked chicken that way and it looks delicious! Will have to give it a try, because it looks very tasty.

  4. Nice and moist looking yardbirds!!! Love your photographs!

  5. Chuck, chicks done this way are really moist… Let me know how it goes.

    Noskos, thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the compliment. I need to get over your way, but I can’t read enough of your site. :)

  6. Great looking pics Curt!

    I love Any Can Chicken (I too do not notice any imparted flavor, but do notice moistness)

    I got a double seater, and always do 2 birds at once.

    I pull the second and cryovac in smaller amounts to add to rice dishes, soups, etc in the weeks after smoking.

    Keep up the great work!!

  7. Hey Willkat! Thanks for stopping by. I usually do the cryovac thing, too, but my wife made something with the 2nd chicken right away. I love the smoky flavor in other dishes.

  8. Love the pics and the birds look delicious! We don’t have a smoker but will definitely give it a try on the grill. I have a Dixie Chicken cooker for the oven and it does a decent job during the winter months, but now I really want a smoker!

  9. Christine, there are some easy to use, inexpensive smokers out there that are gas or electric and make it easy to try smoking. It’s nice to have the option.

    On the grill, just cook indirectly; if you have coals, move them to both sides, and put the birds in between. If it’s gas, turn the burners on the sides on, and leave the middle off, putting the bird over the middle, or, if you just have two burners, turn one on, put the bird over the other, and turn it around half way through cooking. If you make a pouch out of foil, with holes in the top and soaked wood chips inside, you can add some smoke flavor on the grill, too; just put the pouch right on the fire.

  10. Great job on showing how to carve up the bird – and great looking photos to boot…keep up the fantastic work!

  11. Divaliscious, thanks! I should have taken more shots, but the basics are there… and, like a lot in the kitchen, it’s easier tan people think. Even if it’s botched, it’s just chicken. :)

  12. I do use the beer when I do my chickens this way, but I also add liquid smoke to the beer, find it gives it a great smokey flavor.

  13. I’m not sure how I let this go without responding, fishunfool… Sorry about that.

    I never add liquid smoke; I just use the real thing! It’s not that I’m against liquid smoke, but cooking with real wood adds a better smoke flavor to me.

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