Beer Can Chicken can be a fun and quirky way to get tasty results: tender, moist, flavorful chicken. It's quirky because the two-thirds full beer can goes into the chicken's cavity or butt area while cooking. Not everyone wants to see a beer can chicken at the actual dinner table, which is understandable. That may be a little to bounty hunter/cave man for me. I'm after the cooking method rather than visual results.
The first time I gave some to my parents, my Mom called a day later. "What did you DO to that chicken?" she marvelled in hushed tones, adding it was "so good." She's had a lifetime of great chicken via my Dad, the BBQ Master. I held her compliment (said quietly into the phone so as to not rock the marital boat) in high regard.
Oscar and I were assigned entree duty for a potluck for twenty-two people. We decided on beer can chicken over A16's meatballs, or any other dish. The chicken won out because I knew it would hold at room temperature. Keep in mind estimated versus actual eating time can be a huge unknown when going to house parties. Our entree had to look and taste good for at least an hour and a half, and I wasn't sure how many people ate red meat. Plus, cooking beer can chicken gave us a good story to tell, which helped because I barely knew any of the other potluck guests.
We were one of the first to arrive, and took the foil off of our platter. The plump, moist chicken looked pretty good, and I did a garnish of purple cabbage leaves, with alternating orange and citrus slices underneath the chicken. There was good variety, too: pulled chicken bites, wings and legs to choose from. Something funny happened as the other dishes were put out. Everyone brought store bought chicken, including a KFC carton and roaster from Cala. Even a salad was, you guessed it, Chinese chicken salad, in a plastic to go container. I imagined a voiceover that said in soothing tones, "Chicken, the safe, safe entree for San Francisco dinner potlucks."
"Oscar, I can't believe it! We are the only ones who made our dish," I whispered to him on the deck, adding slightly panicked, "I think our chicken needs salt."
"There's salt here, if people want to salt, let 'em do it," he said. I picked another piece of chicken off our plate and was convinced it needed salt. I never found any salt, but our beer can chicken display kept getting smaller and smaller, so I stopped worrying. There were only a few pieces for us to take home. I was glad I stuck to my guns and cooked four rather than three beer can chickens.
Beer Can Chicken Recipe-loosely adapted from http://www.barbecuebible.com
1 can (12 ounces) Tecate beer (feel free to substitute other beer)
1 chicken (31/2 to 4 pounds)
2 tablespoons Barbecue Rub (recipe below) or your favorite commercial rub
2 teaspoons avocado or vegetable oil (Note avocado oil works well at high temps)
1 lime per bird
You’ll also need: A hotel or sheet pan to place the chicken on. A large cast iron skillet will also work.
Heat oven to 450 degrees.
Pop the tab off the beer can. Pour one third of the beer (3/4 cup) into a bowl, or reserve for another use (drinking it is of course a great way to go). If cooking the chicken on the can, using a church key-style can opener, make 2 additional holes in its top. Set the can of beer aside. Remove the packet of giblets from the body cavity of the chicken and set aside for another use (cat food!). Remove and discard the fat just inside the body and neck cavities. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water and then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Be sure the skin is dry, so that it will brown evenly.
Sprinkle the rub under the skin, inside the body cavity and 1/2 teaspoon inside the neck cavity of the chicken. Drizzle the oil over the outside of the bird and rub or brush it all over the skin. Sprinkle the outside of the bird with 1 tablespoon of rub and rub it all over the skin. Spoon the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of rub into the beer through a hole in the top of the can. Don’t worry if the beer foams up: This is normal.
Hold the bird upright, with the opening of the body cavity at the bottom, and lower it onto the beer can so the can fits into the cavity. Try not to laugh at how floppy the bird may initially be. Pull the chicken legs forward to form a sort of tripod, so the bird stands upright. The rear leg of the tripod is the beer can. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 a lime over the top of the bird. Stuff the half lime in the bird's neck. If cooking on a roaster (which I don't feel is needed): Fill it with the beer mixture and position the chicken on top, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Tuck the tips of the wings behind the chicken’s back. Cook the chicken until the skin is a dark golden brown and very crisp and the meat is cooked through (about 180°F on an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh, but not touching the bone), one hour to one and a half hours. If you see white foam at the bottom of the chicken while cooking, do not worry. Also, if the chicken skin starts to brown too much, loosely tent the bird with aluminum foil.
Take the chicken out of the over and allow to rest for ten minutes or until cool enough to handle. Carefully lift it off its support. Take care not to spill the hot beer or otherwise burn yourself. Halve, quarter, or carve the chicken and serve.
All-Purpose Barbecue Rub
1/4 cup coarse salt (kosher or sea)
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup blend of sweet or hot paprika, cumin, oregano, and chipotle
2 tablespoons freshly ground white pepper
Put the salt, brown sugar, and other ingredients in a small bowl and stir to mix. (Your fingers actually work better for mixing the rub than a spoon or whisk does.) Store the rub in an airtight jar away from heat and light; it will keep for at least 6 months. Makes about 3/4 cup.