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Buccaneer Chicken

You’ve heard of pirates called “buccaneers.” What you may not realize is that they take their name from the French-Caribbean word for smoke, boucane. That’s the origin of this dish, Buccaneer Chicken, and it uses a smoking fuel that may surprise you: sugar cane. The result is a much herbaceous, lighter-smoked flavor.


More Chicken Recipes:


Buccaneer Chicken

Recipe Notes

  • Yield: Serves 4
  • Method: Hot-smoking
  • Equipment: 7 one-foot sections of sugar cane pressings or whole cane


  • 2 chickens or 4 Cornish game hens, spatchcocked
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 1 tablespoon cracked or freshly ground black peppercorns

For the marinade:

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with the side of a knife
  • 1 bunch of chives or 4 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 to 6 scotch bonnet or habanero chiles, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced (for spicier chicken, leave the seeds in)
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 3 branches of thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice berries
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup white rum
  • 1 cup vegetable oil

Recipe Steps

Step 1: Generously season the chickens on both sides with salt and pepper.

Step 2: Make the marinade: Place the garlic, chives, chiles, onions, thyme, and allspice in a large bowl and stir to mix. Arrange half this mixture over the bottom of a baking dish just large enough to hold the chicken. Arrange the birds on top and top with the remaining garlic-chive-onion mixture. Pour the lime juice, rum, and vegetable oil over the chicken. (Alternatively, marinate the birds in a large resealable plastic bag.) Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours, turning the birds a couple times so they marinate evenly.

Step 3: Set up your smoker following the manufacturer’s instructions and preheat to 275 degrees F. If using a charcoal-fired smoker, place 1 sugar cane section on the coals. Arrange the remaining sugar cane sticks on the grate in parallel rows (3 rows). You’ll smoke the chicken on top of them.

Step 4: Remove the chickens from the marinade and drain well. Arrange them on the sugar cane sticks on your smoker. Strain the marinade into a saucepan and boil for 3 minutes.

Step 5: Smoke-roast the hens until bronzed with smoke on the outside and cooked through (to an internal temperature of 165 to 170 degrees F). This will take about 2 hours. Start basting the hens with the boiled marinade after 30 minutes; continue basting every 10 minutes.

Recipe Tips

Serve with Sauce Chien (“Dog Sauce”) spooned over it.

You can buy fresh sugar cane sticks online here.