Beer Can Chicken

by Doc-G on December 22, 2007

This is a little exercise that I recently undertook as a result of numerous BBQ books urging me to stick a half empty can of beer up a chicken’s butt and smoke it (well kind of)!

Beer can chicken is something that I first heard about from Steve Raichlen’s BBQ Bible books but I see it now in Aussie publications, most notably Kim Terakes’ recent book, ‘The Great Aussie Barbie Cookbook’ but I have not heard of anyone making it and my mentioning it to other people has resulted in blank stares as though I was some crazed, meat eating fundamentalist (maybe….just maybe I am!). The principle is that by putting a canister of liquid inside the bird, the steam created keeps the meat moist throughout the cooking process whilst still allowing the skin to crisp on the outside whilst also allowing the liquid from the can to also flavour the meat. It can also be done in the oven but the recipe I used also called for the use of smoke which adds another flavour dimension. This recipe was the basic beer can chicken recipe from Steve Raichlens book (imaginatively titled!): Beer Can Chicken.

So for this recipe, you need:

1 Chicken (preferably corn fed or organic)
1 Can of Beer (I used Carlton draught in this exercise only because I couldn’t find a suitable Coopers (local South Australian brew) equivalent but you can also use any other type of liquid you can think of. I am thinking of using Coca cola for the next ‘chook’ I cook like this).
Spice Rub (see attached recipe)
Vegetable Oil

Optional Extras
Smoke pellets or Wood chips
Beer can chicken stand
Extra beer (to taste!)

Spice Rub
1/4 cup Salt
1/4 cup Paprika
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
2 tbspns Ground Black Pepper

First make the spice rub by putting all the rub ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. The next step in this recipe is the reason why I like this recipe so much. So first, you open the can of beer and drink half of it. And here lies the only problem with the recipe, you can only drink half of the can! This is the reason for the extra beer (for consumption during the preparation, cooking and eating of the chicken)! Then you place the can into the beer can chicken stand which will provide a stable platform for the can and the chicken during cooking and put 1 or 2 teaspoons of rub into the beer and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of rub inside the chicken and rub it into the inside of the chicken (pic 1). After this, you rub a little vegetable oil ALL over the chicken and place the chicken over the beer can and onto the stand (pic 2). Sprinkle the spice rub over the chicken and ensure that the chicken is evenly coated all over with the spice rub (pic 3). I use a four burner gas BBQ with an in built smoke box so for my BBQ, I then set the two outside burners to low and also turn on the burner for the smoke box. In this case I used Jack Daniels smoke pellets (pic 4) but you can just as easily use soaked wood chips (use according to manufacturers instructions. I waited until the temperature gauge on the outside of my BBQ reached 180 degrees centigrade and then added the smoke pellets. To test for doneness, I use an internal thermometer which I either stick down into the centre of the breast or down through the thick part of the thigh (pic 5). This is connected by a wire to a box outside the BBQ and allows me to monitor the internal temperature of the chicken without having to constantly open the lid of the BBQ. Then I simply put the chicken with the temperature probe into the BBQ and shut the lid and essentially wait until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches around 80 degrees centigrade. During the cooking process, the only ‘technical’ thing you need to do is ensure that the temperature of the BBQ or oven is maintained at 180 degrees centigrade. Other than that you will have just over an hour to drink some beer before serving up the chicken.

I actually carved the chicken whilst it was still on the can and as in my case the chicken was stable because of the beer can chicken stand. Without one of these, I would recommend you remove the can before carving, taking care as the liquid inside the can will be very very hot. I served the chicken with a simple green salad and a bottle of Rymill 2007 Sauvignon Blanc (although it goes perfectly well with more beer) and I have to say that it was not only worth the effort but also lived up to all that has ever been written in praise of such recipes. Not only was the chicken was perfectly cooked through but all the meat was moist and delicious. The spice rub gave the recipe not only a needed salty taste but with the simple spice blend gave the chicken complementary flavours which when combined with the effects of the smoke were simply divine.

Pic 1.

Pic 2.

Pic 3.

Pic 4.

Pic 5.

Pic 6.

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