Beer Lesson: Beer Can Chicken

October 2013

It is inevitable that after a shindig or backyard barbecue, my fridge will be stocked with the odd can of Colorado craft brew that I just don’t love. Of course, there is no way that I could pour it down the drain (that’s sacrilegious), so I’m always looking for recipes that use beer like this edamame risotto or beer-battered zucchini. There is one beer-y recipe that is a classic: Beer-can chicken.

While it might seem intimidating, this is a darn simple way to roast a chicken. You’ll find a myriad of recipes online, but this is my go-to riff.

Ingredients:

1 can beer (a Colorado craft brew, of course)

1 whole chicken (look for a smaller bird, around 3 pounds)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons spice mix (This is a choose-your-own adventure moment. I like using Savory Spice Shop’s Panhandle Chicken Fried Steak Seasoning)

salt and pepper, optional

Instructions:

To begin, you should pour out or drink half of the beer. This is uber important because the liquid will boil and sputter and spill throughout the cooking process. If you have too much liquid in the can, you’re likely to soak your grill or burn yourself. Be safe: drink (a little) up.

Start your grill. Use indirect heat, if possible, or turn off a burner. You’re aiming for 350° to 375° (this ensures a roast, not a char).

Remove giblets from chicken cavity (if any). Season your chicken with the oil, spice rub, salt, and pepper. Here’s where things get tricky. Place the beer can on the counter. Now, place the chicken on the can so that it is upright. (You may have to stuff the can into the cavity, depending on the size of the chicken.) The legs should be pointing down so that you can use them as additional support if the chicken is unruly.

Place can—with chicken—over indirect heat. Grill for about 60 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165° (make sure to stick the thermometer in the fattest part of the thigh). Remove the chicken from the grill with care: There is still boiling hot liquid in the can, so DO NOT tip the bird. I like to use tongs to transfer the bird to a roast pan with high edges. Then, I carry it back to the kitchen.

Allow the bird to cool slightly. Carefully, tip the bird backward and use tongs to remove the can. (Note: This is, again, where a roasting pan is wise; the hot beer will spill out of the neck cavity when you move the chicken to its side.) Carve and serve.

A few tips:

1. Some beer-can enthusiasts swear that the beer choice makes a difference in the bird’s taste. I’m not so sure, as I’ve used options ranging from a stout to a PBR and achieved the same effect.

2. Hate beer? Need a gluten-free option? No worries. Use this same recipe, but substitute a can of soda (root beer is delicious) or chicken stock instead.

3. I consider this a three-meal bird: The first night I serve it sliced with my favorite green bean recipe. On day two, I make pulled chicken tacos. On the third day, I use the carcass to whip up a batch of chicken stock, which I use for soups or that edamame risotto I mentioned above.

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