Apple-Hickory Smoked Chicken

Two fat birds ready to be smoked!

This morning I woke up from a nightmare. I was the cooking wench for the House of Stark in their ancestral castle of Winterfell, located in Westeros, the northernmost province of the Seven Kingdoms.

I had just pulled these birds from the pit as winter fell, promising to linger for many, many years.

Yes, indeed. The weather is a persistent theme in THE GAME OF THRONES, as it’s been the refrain in Michigan. This year, us

Marinate the chickens.

Woverines stayed bundled up well into Spring and then torrential rains hit our state, flooding shorelines and damaging crops: “Great Lakes water levels at precipice of a disaster,” says The Weather Channel.

But that was yesterday. Hopefully, a bad dream. Today, the weather is dry, the sun is shining and I await my family, excited to spend a few days with my brood. Right now I’m sitting beside my long time pal and confidant, the BIG GREEN EGG, who is looking forward to lots of action this summer.

I’d rather be looking at you (-:

This is a recipe (aka: Beer Can Chicken or Drunken Chicken) I’ve made dozens of times. It’s perfect for feeding ten or so folks (depending on the size of your birds) and leftovers make incredible chicken sandwiches. However, because of the special equipment needed (Beer Can apparatus and Smoker) I’ve never blogged about it.

Any old can filled with water works fine!

Through the years, I’ve taught, dozens–maybe even hundreds–of cooking classes to audiences. I loved it! It was great seeing the groups reaction to my methods while answering questions and then passing out samples of food.

But this time I’ll be talking to my iPhone. How lonely it will be not to see your faces.  Soon enough, I’ll have to adapt to the latest technology that will enable all of your faces to be on my screen.

Apple and hickory chips for chicken.

I’m wondering if technology will ever advance to the place where I can hack off a piece of chicken and present it to you via my hard drive? I wouldn’t be surprised.

But in the meantime, I’d love to extend an invitation to you to join the Blue Sky Book Chat.

By the way, I’ve found it a waste to squander perfectly good cans of beer when smoking these birds. I’ve tried it, and to my palate, it really didn’t enhance their flavor. Between the marinade, rub and smoke there’s enough going on.

The Cheat.

However, I love the technique of smoking the birds upright having the interior steamed by hot water in any old can. It seems to keep the birds moist. If you’d like to smoke chickens using this technique, this apparatus appears to be a good one. (The one I use is obsolete.)

Time saving trick: When hurried, I marinate birds in a bottled dressing and use a pre-made rub. Not as wonderful as homemade, but pretty dang good. That said, a rub is a wonderful vehicle for using up less-than-fresh spices!

Recipe: Hickory-Apple Smoked Chicken


  • 2 cups marinade/vinaigrette (bottled dressing fine)
  • 2 Freezer Gallon-Sized Ziplock bags or large container
  • 2 (5-6 pound) chickens, giblets removed and saved for another use. Rinse birds. (OK if birds are larger; just adjust ingredients and smoke longer)
  • 1/4 cup, or more as needed, of rub (see below notes to make your own; commercial rubs fine)
  • Hardwood charcoal, as needed
  • 3-4 cups wood chips (I used a combo of apple and hickory)
  • 2, 12 ounce, cans of beer; half the liquid poured out and used to soak chips (See my notes above. These days I just use water.)
  • Beer Can Chicken Holder (see above link to purchase and below notes to do without.)
  • Smoker (I use a Big Green Egg)


  1. Pour one cup each of marinade into two freezer gallon-sized Ziplock bags. (You may also marinate in a container large enough to accommodate the chickens.)
  2. Marinate, refrigerated, 24-48 hours, turning birds every 12 hours.
  3. Remove from marinade, pat birds dry, and sprinkle rub all over each bird with seasoning mixture, and then gently rub it in with your fingertips. Don’t forget to rub under the skin. Refrigerate an additional 3-6 hours.
  4. Soak two cups of wood chips in water for an hour. Remove birds from fridge and let sit at room temperature 30 minutes or so. Prepare charcoal grill/smoker to a low, slow, even heat: 225-250 degrees. (Coals will be thickly ashed over. You should be able to hold the palm of your hand over them for a solid 12 seconds.)
  5. Fill 2 empty (12 ounce) cans 3/4 way full of water. (Season the water with additional rub, if desired.) Place cans in “beer can apparatus” (see above notes and pics.) Place the cavity of bird over beer can and tuck wing tips into the chickens back in the crease of the thigh.
  6. Place beer can apparatus on the center of prepared grill/smoker. Toss wood chips in between the grill grates, shaking off as much water as possible before tossing. Cover grill.
  7. Monitor grill temp to insure it maintains a steady, 225-250 temperature. Adjust air flow accordingly. After one hour, you may need to add additional coals. Using my Egg filled half-way with coals, I’ve never had to add more. However, my chickens seem to temp to the desired 175 degrees in 80 minutes, more or less. (The best way to gauge readiness is by using an instant-read thermometer. Insert it into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone. Thigh meat should be enjoyed at 180 degrees, but it continues to cook an extra 5 degrees when removed from the grill. Don’t have a thermometer? If the drumstick wiggles easily at the joint, it’s likely ready. Take care not to overcook the chicken.)
  8. For a splashy presentation, you can serve to your guests atop the beer cans. but I refrain. I worry a can might topple, spilling the hot water. After five minutes at room temperature, using tongs, I carefully remove cans from birds. (Note that the water inside the cans is very hot and could scorch you.) I allow the chicken rest at room temperature an additional 10 minutes before carving or quartering to serve.

*It’s not essential to have an apparatus to hold the beer can in place but it makes the birds far more stable. To do without, hold the chicken with the opening of the body cavity at the bottom. Lower it onto the beer can so the can fits into the cavity. Adjust the legs so the bird balances on the grill when smoking. *Make your own rub by combining 4 tablespoons each of brown sugar, sweet paprika, black pepper and Kosher salt. Then, stir in a tablespoon or garlic or onion powder. After that, I take a look at my spice rack and see if there are misc. herbs (Italian or Southwest family) to use up. I add a couple of teaspoons of those to the mix.

Marinate time: 24-48 hours

Rub sit time: 4-6 hours

Smoke time: Apx. 80 minutes, depending on the size of your chickens and interior smoke temperature. Monitor carefully.

Number of servings (yield): 8-12 SERVINGS, depending on appetites and the size of the birds.

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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