Beer-can chicken is a fun way to cook a whole chicken on a grill. It’s more than just a novel trick, and it will impress your non-epicurean-minded friends. The purpose of the beer-can is to add flavor and retain moisture throughout the entire bird. Different beers bring their own unique flavors. For instance, stout beers contribute a malty taste whereas lighter beers give more subtle flavors. If you are completely against the beer idea, you don’t have to use it. Sodas also work but they will make the bird a bit sweeter.
A common problem when grilling is that cooking with dry heat can yield a dry chicken, especially when it comes to the white meat. While brines, marinades, and bastes are all very good solutions to this unappetizing problem, none are as impressive as the beer can method. Besides, once you have the chicken propped up on the beer can, you can anthropomorphize to your hearts content. Or not.
This method allows you to skip most of the prep-work associated with cooking chicken. All you have to do is dust the chicken with a few herbs and spices and put it directly on the grill. Then, grab a drink, sit back and let the grill do all of the work. You do need to keep an eye on the grill in order to maintain the proper temperature (not above 375). This is easily done by adjusting the vents on your grill.
1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds)
1 can of beer
2 bay leaves
You can use any kind of rub or combination of spices you want, these are just suggestions.
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Light your charcoal grill with about 4 quarts, or 50-60, briquettes.
- Combine all the rub ingredients and sprinkle over, and inside, the chicken.
- Open the beer and drink about a quarter of it, the rest is for the chicken. Use a church key can opener to cut a few more holes into the top of the beer can. Crumble the bay leaves into the beer can. Slide the chicken over the beer can so that the chicken stands upright. I normally leave a bit more beer can sticking out, but the lid of my grill wouldn’t allow for the extra height.
- Once the briquettes begin to develop a layer of thin, gray ash spread half on either side of the grill so that there is an empty space in between. Put some foil there (this will catch the drippings and not dirty your grill).
- Place the chicken upright in the center of the cooking grate with the wing-sides facing the piles of coals.
- Cover and roast for 65 to 85 minutes. Test after an hour by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh. If the thermometer registers 170 to 175 degrees, it’s ready.
- Remove the chicken, keeping it upright, and let it rest 10-15 minutes. Lift the chicken off the beer can, carve, and serve.