WSM Double Beer Can Brined Chicken Smoked with Hickory

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Epic Pitmaster
Original poster
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Sep 7, 2013
Roseville, CA, a suburb of Sacramento
My family gave me a double beer can chicken holder this past Christmas.  I think brining and beer canning a chicken or turkey guarantees moistest breast meat you'll ever eat.  I've used the holder a couple of times since Christmas but I didn't brine the chickens, and the results were moist and fine but the flavor was nothing that knocked my socks off.  Well, that changed today when I tried a few new things.  I'm still trying to find my socks.

BTW, the recipe below is for smoking it on a WSM.  I'm sure you can adapt it to your smoker.

I shigged Alton Brown's Orange Juice brine recipe off another website online, then changed it to what I wanted to try.

Smoked Double Beer Can Brined Chicken

The brine I used for the recipe was also injected into the breast meat prior to brining.  The brining recipe below makes enough for two large 6 lb chickens. The meat was moist, delicious, and oh so flavorful.  The pink salt gave the meat just a very slight hint of ham flavor that complemented the brine and hickory smoke nicely.

1/2 tsp Prague #1 Pink Salt
1/2 cup kosher salt
1 Tbs onion powder
1 Tbs garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 quart orange juice

1 quart water
1 quart ice 
1 quart cold water

Chicken Ingredients
2 6 lb whole chickens
2 cans ginger ale (or beer or any soda except diet.  If you have empty cans cheap white wine works too)
McCormick's Sweet and Smoky Rub or any rub of choice.  Keep it simple and keep it light.


1. Use a large pot or Dutch oven to mix all the brine ingredients except the ice and the last quart of water.  Stir over low heat to mix and dissolve the ingredients while stirring.  Turn off heat as soon as all the ingredients are mixed.  Add the ice.  The brine should be cold before adding and injecting the chicken.

2. Rinse the fresh chicken under cold water then place in the cold brine in the dutch oven.  Inject the breast meat about every one inch while it is sitting in the brine then move the chicken to your brining bag.   Repeat for the second chicken.  Pour the remaining brine and last quart of cold water over the chickens, seal the brining bag, then brine for 12 to 24 hours in the refrigerator or a cooler packed with ice jugs.  The brining process changes the protein structure of the meat and allows for higher internal temps that still give a moist final product.

3. Just before you are ready to remove the chickens from the brine fire up the smoker loaded with your choice of charcoal and three fist sized pieces of hickory wood.  THIS IS A DRY SMOKE so do not use water in the water pan. Put a drip pan on the lower grate.  Bottom vents are about 1/4 open, top vent about 1/3 open.

4. After brining, drain the brining bag and discard the brine and the brining bag. Rinse the chickens again and dry them with a paper towel.

5. Take two cans of ginger ale and pour half of each can in a glass.  Drink it.  Put the half full cans in the beer can chicken holder.

6. Sprinkle the chickens lightly with the Sweet and Smoky rub or your rub of choice.  The brining adds enough flavor that you just want to lightly flavor the skin.

7. Using both hands stretch the breast cavity open and put both chickens on the can loaded stand, breasts facing outwards.

8. I let the majority of the white smoke burn off but I actually load the chickens in the smoker just before the smoke turns light blue.  The beer can loaded chicken rack needs to be placed on the grate directly over the drip pan.  The temperature when I load the chicken is usually about 275°F in the smoker.  Insert the food probe vertically down into the breast meat.

9. The chamber temp will drop to about 225°F to 235°F after loading the cold chickens.  Let the smoker run up to settle around 260-275°F on the Maverick 732 chamber probe.  The lid temp was reading 250F.  Don't worry about the climbing temp.  It all works fine and makes for a crispy skin.

10. Pull the chicken off the smoker when the IT of the breast meat is 172-175°F.  Trust me, even though most say to pull chicken breasts off at 165F, it won't be dry.  The brining and loaded cans allow for a higher temp in the breast meat.

11. Let the chickens rest about 30 minutes then serve.

We've been picking meat off one of the chickens every time we walk into the kitchen.  My wife just left on an errand and her mouth was full of chicken as she kissed me goodbye.  That my friends, is the perfect compliment.
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Nice looking birds man 
I was trying to figure out how to let folks know how juicy the breast meat is in this chicken.  Took some pics last night as we picked one side of the breast apart BEFORE dinner.  Cropped it down this morning and you can easily see the moisture in the meat.  Now just need to find a way to post Flavor-pics.

The twins look awesome ! :drool The close up that showed how moist it is, makin me hungry !! Very nice smoke for sure....

Thanks all!  Just a tad under three hours from meat load to target temp.  Had plenty of heat left in the smoker so threw on a couple of SPOG pork tenderloins but the chicken was the star of the evening. 
Those chickens look amazing! My husband and I got out of the habit of eating chicken skin just cuz, but I'm going to try out your recipe and eat skin again. I really like how smoked poultry tastes and how tender it is. Such a nice change from fried chicken. Funny thing is one of my favorite chicken parts are the wings, but they get too tough when in the smoker. Any suggestions?
Those chickens look amazing! My husband and I got out of the habit of eating chicken skin just cuz, but I'm going to try out your recipe and eat skin again. I really like how smoked poultry tastes and how tender it is. Such a nice change from fried chicken. Funny thing is one of my favorite chicken parts are the wings, but they get too tough when in the smoker. Any suggestions?
The wings on a whole chicken are the first thing that disappear in our house!  My wife doesn't care for them but I do.  I never do just wings alone for that reason. The ones above on the whole chicken are not tough at all. 

Usually when I smoke or BBQ chicken the BBQ sauce comes out, especially with the leftovers.  Not with this recipe.  Neither my wife nor I grabbed the sauce a single time they were so flavorful and that was a first for me, ever. 

Also, I've always been the carcass cleaner, picking the last meat off the back and getting the little pieces in the nooks and crannies.  Learned that from my mom.  I was looking forward to doing it with these babies too.  For the first time in my 34 year marriage I watched my wife throw the last of the carcass in the microwave and pick the meat off.  When I said something to her about that observation she said "well, you never cooked a chicken like this before!"  I can't tell you how many thousands of chickens or chicken parts I've cooked over the decades.  These were definitely the best.

Below is a picture of the chickens and our picking them apart WAY before dinner.  Like I said, we couldn't keep our hands off them. 

I smoked this recipe yesterday for my visiting daughter and her fiancé, both 30 years old.  Both my daughter and her fiance' are excellent cooks.  He noticed the additional flavor of the pink salt with the first pick of juicy white meat he tried as we were carving up one of the birds.  Then, while eating the chicken for dinner and watching the new season of BBQ Pitmasters, her fiancé says to me out of the blue "this is the best chicken I've ever tasted."  I had a little, my wife had a little, my daughter and her fiancé, both very athletic, finished the rest of the bird completely!  I suspect the second bird will disappear today.

I did change the recipe above to only 1/2 tsp Prague #1 Pink Salt.  That is plenty.        
OK now I'm confused (happens a lot lately) your original recipe called for 1/2 tsp. #1cure. At the end you said you changed to 1/2 tsp.????

I will be using your recipe soon, if it's as good as I think it will be, I shall claim it as mine :>)......
Well partner I tried your brined beer can chicken yesterday. I made a few changes /additions to the brine and (stuff happened so they stayed in the brine for 48hrs.!) used an orange juice/apple juice/ spiced rum spritz ( this was/is good stuff). I was a bit concerned because I cooked them yesterday froze one and put the other in the fridge for today. Well we just finished dinner and I'm here to tell ya that this was the juices chicken I've ever made or eaten for that matter. I normally spatchcock chickens and will try this brine with that process next time.

I even gave you the proper credits for the recipe :>).

Also yesterday I had some buckboard bacon in the smoker (first attempt at this) and spent this morning slicing and freezing the BBB, snuck a few pieces, was really good. If all goes south I've got a freezer full of food.
Happy to put help put smiles on your faces at the table.  Also glad you put your own twist on the recipe.  I smoked enough meat on Memorial Day that we're still eating on it out of the vacuum sealed bags.  Just might have to do this chicken again this weekend. is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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