Given the inadvertent direction of the Blog this week has been to talk about the History, Methods and Techniques of BBQ and how they apply to our situation here at GreatQ4U!, I’ve chosen to talk about how we do whole chickens on the smoke. Lest I lend myself to someone thinking of the age old adage; ‘Those who can DO…those who can’t TEACH!’ – All due respect to teachers and instructors everywhere…I have taught thousands of folks LOTS of stuff over the years and I’ve always believed strongly that being able to DO what you teach is the ONLY way to be credible. I learned that from many more mentors who thought and did the same…but enough about philosophy and onto the Chicken!
We have, since our beginnings, had what we call ‘Beer Can Style’ Chicken on our menus and it’s a very popular selection. In fact…it was the ONLY way that we did Chicken until I got my first SMACKDOWN in Competition by stubbornly preparing it, breaking it down and nicely presenting it in our turn in box just after Thighs became ‘all the rage’…LAST place! (For a while, we proudly referred to it as ‘Jim’s Last Place Chicken’) We don’t actually use Beer, or Beer Cans for that matter and that’s a preference…you can if you like, this is just the way that we do it!
First off, we start with a fairly good sized ‘Roaster’…typically around 5lbs. It’s a bigger bird than most and we find that they hold up well to the ‘Low & Slow’ technique, which we also slightly modify for poultry and I’ll get to that in a bit. We prep the chicken by working our gloved fingers under all of the skin and gently separating it from the meat. We do this top and bottom and on the Legs, Thighs and Wings to the extent that we can. Once this is done, we mix some of our Poultry Rub (a bit more subtle than our pork rub) with Herbes de Provence (you can buy them already mixed or make your own, depending on your tastes) and some Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Some folks use butter and that works well too. Once we have this slurry mixed up, we take the time necessary to work it under all of the skin throughout the bird and then afterwards, we give the outside of the skin a good rub down to evenly distribute the spices and oil. By adding the oil, we help distribute the spices, retain moisture in the meat and crisp up the skin. To further assist in crispy skin, we also give it a good external rub of oil and drizzle with kosher salt.
Now the ‘Beer Can’ or in our case, the lack thereof. We actually use soup cans which tend to be a bit more robust and hold up better during the long journey on the heat. Make sure that whatever can you use, it’s well cleaned before you place the bird onto it. While we don’t truss the birds, we do fold the wingtips under so that they don’t burn. The cans are filled just over half way with hand made Chicken Stock, salt, pepper and fresh herbs from our garden (when we have them) or market. We typically use Rosemary, Thyme and Sage and will occasionally add different herbs depending on the mood. On of the most common ‘variants’ for us is a Lemon or Thai Basil which adds nicely to the end product.
Place the chicken firmly onto the can and off to the smoker for its cook. We typically use Hickory and Maple for flavor and color. This is where we depart from our usual (classified) cooking temps! We actually do cook the chickens right around 225ºF until they are just about done…which to me is when the internal temp of the meat near the thigh hits around 150ºF. Then we crank up to a higher heat…somewhere over 350ºF to crisp up the skin, finish off the cooking process and infuse even more of the herbs from the stock throughout the chicken. When the internal temp of the Chicken hits around 170ºF at the deepest spots in 2 places…it comes off the heat, still on the can and gets a foil wrap all around. We let them rest for 10-15 minutes and then serve.
On our menus as with many other BBQ folks, we offer ‘Pulled Chicken’ and that is primarily as a time saver. I don’t personally prefer to pull it after putting all this work into it because that tends to dry it out pretty quickly. I think that the best way to serve it is to get it off the can and carve it as you would any other bird, leaving the Wings and Legs for those who love them. As with all recipes…it takes practice and can be modified to include any ingredients that you prefer instead of ours! Also, if you are so inclined, you can use a brine for about 24 hours. We don’t because the heavier roasters tend to hold up well to the smoke and the moisture from the Chicken Stock keeps them nice and juicy!
SO…there you go, some GreatQ4U! Beer Can ‘Style’ Chicken! Enjoy!