How to cook Smoked Beer Can Chicken in a Tennessee Smoker
hi everybody, come on in, welcome to my kitchen. Grab yourself a beer and join in the fun.
It has to be said that one thing my friend Fabio has learnt since his move from Tuscany to Yorkshire is how to be, what we call ‘canny wi ‘is brass’ or very careful with his money.
I convinced him we needed a smoker and so the hunt began to find one perfect for our needs. We thought it might be nice to have one we could also use as a barbe’ too. We wanted a charcoal rather than a gas one, I think gas takes all the fun out of outdoor cooking, it’s a bit like paddling with your wellington boots on.
After hours trawling the internet we finally decided on which we wanted, and then we had to sort out where we were going to get it from, because it was on offer in about ten UK sites.
The smoker duly arrived flat packed as usual, and without instructions as usual. It went together quite easily once we'd counted how many bolts and how many holes.
Smoking certain foods just gives that little bit extra flavour kick. Some foods can be cold smoked; foods such as cheese, garlics, fish. This process does not cook the food but just adds that lovely smoky taste to them.
So first of all to experiment we used a piece of Cheddar cheese and a piece of pork line. The taste was remarkable, I've had smoke produce from the shops, but it tasted nothing like this.
How to set your Charcoal Burner
Charcoal and wood
As you can see there are two chambers to this smoker, small one is way light your fire, add your wood for the smoke, and a larger chamber to cook in.
The whole thing is made from some quite lightweight sheet steel, and so in the firebox I've put a layer of clay balls the kind you use in a plant pot to hold the water. These will prevent the hot coals over time burning through the metal. Because ceramics can withstand very high temperatures the clay balls should last quite a while before they need to be changed or replaced.
Also in that chamber, there is a wire hearth to support the charcoal. This will allow air to be drawn in and help the charcoal burn.
The larger cooking area I have lined with aluminium foil this is serving two purposes; firstly it will catch any juices that miss the drip trays, and secondly it will help keep the heat in the box.
The gadget in the bottom picture is my gas gun, a great tool which eliminates the need for firelighters.
I liked the design idea of this smoker because the food is not sat on top of the heat, usually when cooking chicken and some other meats, you end up with burnt on the outside and raw in the middle food. This smoker has a separate smoke box which also provides the heat for the cooking. The heat is drawn from the small box through the large cooking box, and out through the chimney on the end. I'd seen other similar designs where the chimney was on the top, but on youtube there are a number of guys making alterations to their smoker/barbecues because with the chimney on top the heat is drawn straight out and does not circulate the food properly.
- one 3-4 pound chicken
- small potatoes, enough for your guests
- pickled beetroot
- olive oil
- I like to prepare a chicken the day before, because I like to soak it overnight in a pan of slightly salted water. The chicken absorbs a little of the water and the salt begins the seasoning process, be careful not to add too much salt or it will pull the moisture out of the chicken meat.
- Rub the chicken all over with olive oil.
Beer Can Holder
Beer can Holder
This is a gadget I bought online just for this dish as you can see I've put it in the drip tray. I think beer cans must be pretty much a standard size in diameter, because my cans of John Smith's beer fit perfectly. Fortunately, you don't need all the beer in the can, only about a quarter or half a can is needed.
Great Fun with Chicken
Now place your chicken onto the frame.
Fabio was in hysterics at this point and we both laughed as the chicken's wing looks to be waving at us. He managed to splutter that he thought it looked to be dancing.
Perhaps it is doing the chicken dance.
How to prepare the potatoes.
How to prepare your Canary Island potatoes.
I don't know what these potatoes are really called, but we call this style of potato after some we had on holiday in Tenerife. We had been to see the famous Dragon tree, and called in at a small bar nearby for lunch. We were served a huge pan of these potatoes with three dips, one a hot chilli, the second was a garlic mayo, and the third is spicy vinaigrette.
As we are cooking the potatoes in their skins give them a good wash before you start. Rub the potatoes in salt, and paprika. You can use other flavourings, in the past I've used curry powder, or Italian seasoning mixture of herbs.
In a dish pore two or three tablespoons of olive oil. Add the potatoes and make sure they are covered with the oil, you can also add a drop of sesame oil.
Prepared Pork Loin
Wood Chips for the smoker
We also cooked a piece of pork loin to be eaten cold through the week.
The pork needs to be soaked overnight in a mix of 3 tablespoons of salt and the same of brown sugar. Dry it, and then place it in a tray ready to be smoked and cooked.
Wood chips for smoking
I think it's probably a good idea to get your charcoal burning before you prepare the food. You don't want to cook in the smoke from the charcoal, only the smoke you add by placing the woodchips in the burner.
You can soak the woodchips if you like this will make them burn slower and release the smoke much slower. To give extra flavour the woodchips can be soaked in alcohol, brandy whiskey, or whatever your favourite tipple happens to be.
I've have one of those fancy Wi-Fi thermometer probes which are really useful when cooking any larger pieces of meat. Certain areas of the chicken can be tricky to cook properly and it is very easy to find still bloodied areas on the thigh bone or in its pelvis.
This probe is very convenient as you can take it away from the cooking area and still be able to check the internal temperature of your meat. I use it in my conventional oven too, in particularly when I am cooking beef and want it to be rare or medium rare.
Enjoy your food and outdoor life
I've got a beer, Fabio has a beer, the chicken has its beer too, so let's make a start.
The probe is inserted into the chicken through the breast and into the top of its thigh, which is usually the most difficult part to be cooked.
The heat from the charcoal is already pulling into the cooking chamber, but it is not too hot to work. Put the chicken with its drip tray into the cooking chamber, on grills place the potatoes in their tray and the pork loin. Now close the lid for the cooking chamber. Open both the chimney damper under fire damper so that maximum air is drawn.
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I think you'll agree that the chicken and other food looks very tempting in the photograph above. We thought the chicken had enjoyed the experience, if you look carefully in the picture you will see that the chicken is giving the wing equivalent of a hi-five.
This made a wonderfully rustic and simple meal. We plated the chicken and potatoes, and then added a few baby beetroots and of course some wonderful homemade bread.
I have to say that this was the most tender and juicy chicken I have ever eaten. We used what beer was left in the can, and the cooking juices from the tray to make a fantastic gravy.
We drank John Smith's bitter, a good old Yorkshire beer, but we also had a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc handy, which adds a nice herbal taste and refreshes the pallet.
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