WSM, Beer Can Chicken, No Water Pan

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One of the weaknesses of the WSM, as has been discussed many times in great detail, is its inability to get crispy skin on chicken. I've tried running the unit full blast, temps of 350 at the lid, no water with lots of hot coals and still no crispy skin. The best I can achieve is a less rubbery skin. I do like the smokiness though and I cannot replicate that on my Weber Genesis Gold C gas grill, even using packets of wood chips.

I want to try something this weekend and I know it borders on grilling - that being no water pan. I want the temp at the lid to be about 400, the same as my gas grill when I cook beer can chicken on it. I plan on using a large foil pan with the beer can chicken will sit and applying some light hickory smoke. I'll also likely brine the bird first since I love how moist the chicken turns out in combination with the beer can.

I'd like to get people's thoughts on this and if anyone has tried it. Thanks. /infopop/emoticons/icon_cool.gif
I'd atleast maybe put a drip pan just big enough for the bird to keep the dripping's from falling into the coals. Although that could be a good thing too. It should actually create more flavor by dripping into the coals. But it will also cause flame up's. But if your cooking on the top rack it should be plenty high enough to prevent the flame ups from scorching the chicken.

Give it a try and let us know how it turns out.
Smoking poultry (no mater the cooker) leaves the skin rubbery or tender but crispy. You did say you liked the smoke flavor you got smoking and did want to lose that.
The better choice may be to smoke and pull the chicken 10? early. At this point grill it off and glaze at the last possible point.
Cooking at 400? will more than likely not give you the smoke flavor you are looking for.
I've been experimenting with this in my highly modified ECB (no WSM until xmas /infopop/emoticons/icon_frown.gif ). So far the best result, not perfect yet, has been to start with a full chimney of lump fully lit. Stabilize the heat at the grate at 300 then put the bird on breast up. This is directly on the grate with no water pan. No brining. Prep is rub down with olive oil, salt, pepper and or spice to taste.

Cook until breast temp reaches 140 then open up the lower vent(s) and let the cooker temp rise until the breast temp hits 165. No turning no basting no peaking. Takes about 2 hours to cook. Cooking direct does give you a different flavor vs. cooking over a pan plus it smells sooooooo good while cooking.

I'm finding that the lower initial temp lets the meat take on some smoke flavor while rendering out a lot of the fat below the skin. The final rising temps crisp up the skin. I'm still palying with when to start raising the temps and what temp to pull the bird. The temp in my cooker when I pull the bird is usually around 400

Another thing I'm doing is putting a fist sized chunk of smoke wood on top of the chimney of coals about 5-10 minute before they go into the cooker. I'm not sure why but I think pre-burning the wood gives a better smoke flavor with the chicken.

Flare ups have never been a problem even doing two birds at a time. I'm not sure about the WSM but the way my cooker is set up the top grate is about 18" above the coals so burning the side closest to the coals has not been an issue.

Hey folks, thanks for the replies. What I am trying to get at here is a combination of grilling and smoking. i.e., higher temps of grilling with the smoke. As most people who do beer can chicken on a regular basis can verify, the skin from a kettle or gas grill comes out much better, but without the smoke flavor (especially on the gas grill).

I'm going to try the "no water pan" grilling/smoking experiment this weekend, probably while the Red Sox are beating the Yankees on Saturday. /infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif I'll report the cooking results.
Cooking results: mixed. No different than using an empty water pan. Skin was edible but not crispy. I used one full chimney of hot coals run full blast with the colas stacked on one side of the ring. I could not get the temp higher than 325. Next time - 2 full chimneys to get the temps up to 400.
Here is what I do with very good results. Get yourself some dividers made from weber for indirect cooking. Use 25 kingsford on each side and drip pan under chicken. See first picture. After the coals are started and poured out put the lid on close bottom vents and keep top open. Stablize temp at 350. See second picture. Put chicken on and leave for an hour and a half and check for doneness. The most I have had to cook a roaster at 6 pounds was 2 hours. See thrid pictures. I really call this another way to use the smoker as a grill as my 18" will not fit a chicken standing on a beer can, use some wood chips for smoke and you will not taste a differnce from smoker or grill.


Hmm, interesting. I used a full chimney of coals but could not get the temps up. It was probably because I had them stacked on one side of the charcoal ring and I had the bird on the other side, placed on the bottom grate. Also, you got your WSM up to temp before putting the bird on. I'll try that next time, Dan. Thanks.
I have found that the WSM holds a consistent temp longer without much adjusment. /infopop/emoticons/icon_smile.gif
Thanks Dan,

I have an 18" Weber kettle as well as the WSM. But I've never done beer can chicken on either.

When I do, I'll try it your way on the WSM.
I'll also likely brine the bird first since I love how moist the chicken turns out in combination with the beer can


Here's a great tip to help with crisping up the chicken skin. After brining or seasoning let the chicken sit uncovered in the refrigerator overnight or at least several hours. The water moisture in the skin evaporates and with the higher cooking temperature you get a much better skin.

This tip is modified from a Cook's Illustrated article on High Heat Roasting a Turkey from one of last years issues. Worked great on the turkey and it works great on chicken.
After I brined the bird overnight, I rinsed it, patted it dry and let it sit in the fridge for 4 - 5 hours in hopes it would dry the skin out a bit. It didn't work.

The key, in my opinion, is to get the temp up as high as possible inside the WSM. That requires 1.5 - 2 chimneys of charcoal run full blast. As I stated earlier, I could not get the temps up past 325 with one chimney's worth of coals with all vents wide open, and therefore, I got the less-than-crispy (but still edible) skin.

Next time: more charcoal spread out over the entire ring (instead of being piled on one side).
I usually don't eat the skin on poultry, but I think the next time I do chickens only, I will try this, if only for research purposes:

Taking a cue from the Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe, I will cook with a dry pan, and, after lighting with two Weber chimneys-full of Kingsford, I will put the chickens on immediately-- when the initial, just-assembled cooker temp is average 450*. It usually takes 15-20 minutes, after reducing the bottom vents down to about half, to get the cooker in the 325* range. I'm thinking that 20 minutes may have the same effect on the skin as the turkey recipe.

I think the key here also will be not to load down the cooker with chickens-- maybe only do 2 or 3-- in order not to have that initial high temp drop too quickly. Plus, if I do it right, I just may have enough fuel left to do something else low and slow afterwards-- BBs maybe.

I really like the skin, so please post your results.

I think you may be onto something here, especially if you let the birds dry out some in the refrigerator first.
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