The best chicken you will ever taste cooked on a BBQ sat on top of a half-full can of beer!
Beer Can Cooking
It’s not clear who dreamt up the idea of cooking a bird either chicken or duck, perched on a beer can but whoever it was I thank them heartily.
This style of cooking, particularly chicken has been a revelation and our family has been doing this all summer, we love it!
The bird has that lovely barbecue flavour with the added seasoning from the rub of your choice, we have own own favourite which you can find here. The bird cooks evenly inside and out with the metal can helping to transfer heat to the inside and the evaporating beer adds more flavour and keeps the meat wonderfully succulent.
Where Did The Idea Come From?
To me, it sounds like the idea of beer can cooking must have come from Australia with their dual passions of barbecuing and beer. But maybe that’s just the influence of advertising and watching Crocodile Dundee films. A bit of Google research provides the following:
“If you thought the science of beer can chicken is confusing, its origin story is no different. It’s difficult to trace the very first cookout or kitchen in which the idea was born, but it most likely happened somewhere in the American South, according to Atlas Obscura. Food writer Steven Raichlen, who’s so dedicated to the grill that he wrote a book called Planet Barbecue!, has been fiddling with the beer can chicken for decades. He first saw the ingenious poultry invention in the 1990s at a Memphis cooking competition but from a Texas-based team“.
Now Try It Indoors Or Outdoors
We Brits have caught on to cooking on barbecues in a big way but we aren’t usually blessed with a long season of good weather to do so. This may alter in the future with climate change but don’t despair because you can now do it in your kitchen oven or the barbecue with a cast iron cooking stand.
It’s probably safer than balancing the chicken or duck on the can and using some kind of prop to stop it from falling over. Plus it saves you the tricky task of removing the top of the beer can.
Which Beer To Use?
We have experimented all summer long with different beers to see which one we preferred.
We tried lager, bitter, cider (not beer I know) and even Guinness. The difference was quite subtle with cider infusing an apple flavour. Personally, my favourite was using a bitter like Speckled Hen or Doombar (UK brands) but I should imagine any dark beer would give similar results.
Alternatives to Beer or Alcohol-Free
- A fizzy soft drink like cola or ginger beer.
- White wine
- Baked beans: Take the label off the can, open the can and use it instead of beer. Once the chicken cooks, bring the chicken juice-soaked beans to a boil in a pot on the stovetop and serve them as a flavourful side dish.
We must try the baked beans, that sounds really nice. That’s something for next summer, barbecue season is definitely over in the UK.
Beer Can Chicken
- 1 whole chicken about 2kg
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or other vegetable oil
- 330 ml beer room temperature, opened and half-full
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt or sea salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- Prepare the grill:If you are using charcoal, put the coals on one side of the grill, leaving another side free of coals. If you are using a gas grill, fire up only half of the burners.
- Season the chicken and rub it with oil:Remove the neck and giblets from the cavity of the chicken, if the chicken came with them. Mix the salt, pepper, and thyme in a little bowl, and rub it all over the chicken. Rub the chicken all over with olive oil.
- Lower chicken onto half-filled beer can:Make sure the beer can is open, and only half-filled with beer (drink the other half!) If you want, you can put a sprig of thyme (or another herb like rosemary or sage) in the beer can.Lower the chicken onto the open can, so that the chicken is sitting upright, with the can in its cavity.
- Grill on indirect heat:Place the chicken on the cool side of the grill, using the legs and beer can as a tripod to support the chicken on the grill and keep it stable.
- Cover the grill and walk away. Do not even check the chicken for at least an hour. After an hour, check the chicken and refresh the coals if needed (if you are using a charcoal grill).
- Keep checking the chicken every 15 minutes or so, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F.
- The total cooking time will vary depending on the size of your chicken, and the internal temperature of the grill. A 4-pound chicken will usually take around 1 1/2 hours.
- If you don’t have a meat thermometer, a way to tell if the chicken is done is to poke it deeply with a knife (the thigh is a good place to do this), if the juices run clear, not pink, the chicken is done.
- Carefully transfer the chicken to a tray or pan:I say "carefully" because the beer can, and the beer inside of it, is quite hot. One way to do this is to slide a metal spatula under the bottom of the beer can. Use tongs to hold the top of the chicken.
- Lift the chicken, beer can still inside, and move it to a tray. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes. Carefully lift the chicken off of the can. If it gets stuck, lay the chicken on its side, and pull out the can with tongs.