Cooking With Beer: Beer Can Chicken

July 12th, 2010 · 2 Comments · Beer & Food

One of my favorite things about living in Seattle (aside from the beer) is the fact that the weather almost never gets too bad to throw something on the grill. But, when nice summer weather rolls around it is not uncommon for me to grill 3 to 4 times a week sometimes. Meat + grill = good. Get it? Of course, the grilling experience isn’t complete without a beer in your glass.

I’d always heard of this mysterious thing called “Beer Can Chicken”, but up until a couple of years ago I’d never had the pleasure of trying it. The idea is you take a can of beer, stick it up a chicken’s butt (preferably a dead chicken), and throw it on the grill for a while. My friend Colin (now of the Mop, Sauce and Two Smoking Barrels BBQ Team) introduced me to it after cooking a couple birds up on his smoker, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Unfortunately, I’m limited to having a gas grill at my home, but the results are still impressive. The idea is to cook the chicken with indirect heat at a low temperature for a long period of time. The beer helps to steam the inside of the chicken, while the outside of the bird gets nice and crispy. On my gas grill, the use of “smoke bombs” help to create some of that smoked flavor you’d get from a full-blown smoker.

What you need:
A whole chicken, about 4 to 5 lbs
Spice rub (optional)
1/2 full 12oz can of room temperature beer
Olive oil
Wood chips

For the beer, any 12oz can will do. I use a can opener to open up the top all the way. Make sure to only use about 1/2 the beer (or a little less) when you throw it on the BBQ. You can use any bottled beer as well, as long as you have an empty can to put the beer in. In my most recent attempt I used Deschutes Black Butte Porter.

Start off by soaking a few handfuls of wood chips (I use mesquite) in a bowl of water for about 30 minutes. Right before heating up the grill, take a layer of foil and make a pouch containing a handful or two of wood chips. Then, poke a few holes in the top. It should look something like this. I use 2 of these “smoke bombs”.

To prepare your chicken, remove the innards, rinse with water and dry with paper towels. Give the chicken a rubdown with a small amount of oil, and then add your spice rub all over the bird, making sure to get some under the skin as well. If you don’t want to use a spice rub, you can’t go wrong just using some salt and pepper.

Next, put your beer can on a solid surface (I use a large cutting board, so I can transport to the grill easy) and slide the chicken cavity right over the can. Alternatively, you can use a “beer can chicken holder”. Either way works just fine.

Before lighting the grill, put your smoke bombs underneath the grate on top of the bars right above where the flame will be (see picture to the side). You’ll be cooking the chicken over indirect heat. So, if your BBQ has front and back burners you will want to light the front burners and plan on putting the chicken on the back (or the other way around, if you desire). Put the burner on high and close the lid. After about 10 minutes or so your smoke bombs should start smoking. At that point, turn your burner down until you can maintain about 275 to 300 degrees F in the closed BBQ (about “medium” on my gas grill). Carefully transfer the chicken and can to the grill using the chicken’s legs to balance.

Close the grill and cook until you reach an internal temperature of about 165 degrees in the breast, about 75 minutes give or take about 15. Rotate the chicken about halfway through the cooking, but other than that try not to open the lid in order to keep as much smoke in there as possible. When you remove the chicken from the grill, let it rest about 10 minutes prior to carving it up.

And, there you go. That’s beer can chicken. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do! Any true BBQ experts can feel free to throw in suggestions/comments.


2 Comments so far ↓

  • Rick

    Love Beer Can Chicken!

    Be sure to use a can that doesn’t have a plastic lined inside (it’ll melt). I like to use cans from soups or vegetables…

    Happy Grilling!

  • Dan

    I love to make beer can chicken. Whole family loves it too. I’ve experimented using with many different beers.

    I recommend cherry or apple wood for a milder smoke flavor.

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