October 29, 2012

What in the World is Beer Can Chicken?

Photo: Beer Can Chicken Blog
We've got a fun post on the Local Beer Blog today. Eric Moore runs the Beer Can Chicken Blog, but if you're like me, you've probably never heard of beer can chicken. So what the hell is it? Basically, you stuff a chicken with a can of beer and throw it on the grill. Here's Eric to explain...


The first two questions people usually ask about beer can chicken are:

1. "Why would you want to do that?"
2. "How does it work?"

But for the readers of this particular blog, I’m betting there is a third question lurking in the back of your minds…namely, what if we want to rock this recipe using some tasty local brew? You know, a beer that actually tastes like something?! The answers will be revealed readers…along with some tips for how you can use a bottled micro-brew for your chicken, if your favorite small-batch, local beer is not available in cans.

Let’s start with the first question: "For the love of God, why would you do that to a chicken?"

People have been making beer in the rear chicken for years, mostly because it's fun way to make moist, tender chicken on the grill in a fashion that might make your grandma blush. If done correctly, the can holds the chicken upright on your grill, the beer bubbles and steams the white meat from the inside, while the vertical incline of the bird lends itself to a nice, crispy sear on the outside. 

Here is the basic process – boiled down to the bare essentials. You can find a more detailed recipe on the Beer Can Chicken Blog.

First, some crucial tips: 
  • You are playing with fire, so please exercise caution.
  • If using canned beer, be sure to open the can first, and drain or drink about 1/3 of the liquid before cooking. If you don't open the can it may explode!
  • After cooking, be careful. Be prepared with sturdy grilling tongs, protective grilling gloves and a cutting board close to the grill – when you take the finished bird off it’s going to be very hot, and the beer inside will be boiling. If spilled it can scald you!

Ok, here’s how it works:

  1. Prep your chicken, just as you would for any baked or barbecued bird. Use a nice marinade or rub and let it sit in the fridge overnight for the best flavor. If you don’t have time, just apply a light coating of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Remember, do not cross-contaminate cutting boards, knives or anything with raw chicken, wash those hands and kitchen surfaces early and often.
  2. Get your grill ready. You want indirect, medium heat. Ideally, you want the chicken perched above an aluminum drip pan, with heat off to either side. Add some extra beer or water to the pan to prevent flame ups.
  3. Insert can. Now that you've got your coals or gas grill going, it's time to beer can this chicken! With the giblets and everything removed from the bird, place the chicken cavity over the top of the can, slide it down firmly, and place the whole thing over your drip pan on the grill. There are two ways to use the can on the grill. The best (and easiest) is to buy a beer can chicken rack. It’s a gizmo that provides a stand for the can, so your bird won't fall over on the grill. If you feel like going cowboy, you can also just perch the chicken on the can solo, arranging the legs and can like a tripod on the grill. It can be done!
  4. Turn that sucker. You will probably want to carefully rotate the bird with your tongs a few times over the course of an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the temperature of your grill. If using charcoal, you may want to stoke the coals with fresh ones right after you put the bird on. That will give you enough heat to get the job done. If you have a lid and enough clearance, closing the lid will make speed up the process, but you can also put a tent over the bird with a big sheet of aluminum foil in a pinch.
  5. Is it done yet? Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temp of the chicken. You want the dark meat to register 165-170F, and the white or breast meat to register about 160-165F. Have a cutting board on a table nearby. When the chicken is done, remove the bird to a cutting board and stand it upright to cool. Don’t remove it from the can or carve until it’s cooled for about 20 minutes. It might take a little effort and a clean kitchen towel to twist the bird off the can - a second pair of hands helps! Then just lay it out on the cutting bird to carve and enjoy! 
A variety of vertical roasters (a.k.a. "beer can chicken
devices") will allow the microbrew enthusiast to use
bottled beer for a rich, local brew flavor. Throw in a few
cloves of garlic, fresh herbs, or seasonings to add even
more spice to your beer can bird!
"But wait!" you might ask. "What if I want to use tasty micro or regional brew in a bottle instead of some canned crap from a dirty warehouse in Milwaukee? To answer the lurking third question we raised up top, take a look at the picture provided and you will see a few beer can chicken stands – also known as vertical roasters – allow you to use any kind of beer you want. For that matter, why not use wine, ginger ale, iced tea, or cola? These liquids all work. The only limit is your imagination, and of course, the beer in your fridge!

So, that’s a super-accelerated tour of the beer can chicken process. There are many other variations, spices, rubs marinades and tricks to discuss, not to mention duck, turkey and goose. Check out the Beer Can Chicken Blog when you have a minute, and until you do, enjoy a nice hand-crafted local brew for us!


About the guest blogger: 

The Beer Can Chicken Blog is a site dedicated to “Promoting Beer Can Chicken Awareness." For the past two years, its mysterious blogger in chief, known only as Erock, has tested recipes, techniques and pushed the very limits of Beer Can Chicken knowledge to its wildest extremes. Recipes, pictures and the insane ranting of this culinary lunatic can be found at: http://beercanchickenblog.com.

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