Sunday, April 12, 2009

Beer Can Chicken

Here's a very surprising and effective way to prepare a succulent and moist bird. It is basically a roasted chicken prepared in a way that assures a degree of near perfection in flavor and texture. The basic version of this recipe requires a roasting hen and a can of beer. However to add extra flavor, also use a good herbal or spice rub. Salt and pepper or mix up something fancy. The selection of beer is not crucial, but as with wine, never cook with one you wouldn’t consume. In fact white wine is an effective and delicious substitute for the beer. Folks who prefer to avoid alcohol may choose to use non-alcoholic beer or seasoned canned chicken or vegetable broth. Pretty much anything you want can end up moistening your chicken. What's important is that there is a good source of liquid as the chicken cooks. In fact, you don't even need to use a can. One-pint mason jars work quite well.


    1 whole 5 to 6 pound roasting hen
    1 can of beer
    1 cup spice or herb rub, either should contain plenty of garlic

Important Tips: Before starting, make sure the can of beer fits inside the chicken. Also, make sure that the place you are going to cook this bird is tall enough for a chicken to sit up in. You don't want to move the bird to the roaster only to find that the chicken doesn't fit.

To maximize the flow of moisture from the can to the bird, start by cutting the top off the can with a can opener. Next get rid of half the beer from the can somehow. Be creative in deciding how to do this. Then add 1/2 of your spice or herb rub to the can and give it a quick stir. The can is now ready. 

Apply about half of the remainder of the spice or herb rub to the inside of the 
chicken. Put a little olive oil or chicken fat on the otside of the beer can, then place the beer can on the grill right where you want the bird to be. Or, if you will be cooking in an oven, place the can in a small baking pan. Place the chicken up on a platter or cutting board and then lift it from the bottom with the legs towards you. Slowly and gently sit the chicken over the can. Try not to force it or put too much pressure on the bird to get into position. You might need to press it down a little, but you shouldn't have to force it.

Work the remainder of the rub in, under the skin as much as possible. Just because you put rub in the beer doesn't mean that it will season the inside too much. The spice in the can adds flavor but not like direct contact. Beer can chicken can be cooked in an oven or indirectly over charcoal. On the grill, this means that the fire will be to the side or around the chicken. If you have the ability to put the fire on a grill (either gas or charcoal) on two sides then you won't have to worry about turning the bird. If you are going to have the fire on one side you will need to rotate the chicken 180 degrees every 30 minutes while it cooks.

Transfer the bird to a 350 F oven or close the lid on your grill. Maintain a temperature in your grill or oven at 300 - 325 F.  Depending on how even your heat is you shouldn't have much to do now but wait for your chicken to cook. Time isn't important to chicken, temperature is. When this bird reaches an internal temperature of 175 degrees F your bird is ready. Measure the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh, being careful not to touch the bone with your thermometer. Remove from the oven or grill and let it rest for about ten minutes before you begin carving.  A 5 to 6 pound bird should take about two to three hours to cook. Once the chicken has rested at least 10 minutes it is ready to carve. Typically there isn't much (if any) liquid left inside the can. Lay the bird down and remove the can, gripping it with a pair of tongs. Once the can is removed, it is just like carving any other chicken.

C0mments:  This may be one of the most delicious and moist chicken preparations I have ever tasted.  Of course, I also frequently enjoy a product of the brewer's arts, so perhaps I am a little accepting of beer. The chicken has  an excellent flavor and actually does not taste of beer, more of the herbs and garlic in the rub.  It plates well with roasted root vegetables and kale slaw, accompanied by a good IPA or porter.

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