The best duck you will ever taste cooked on a BBQ sat on top of half a 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 Duck
- 1 whole duck giblets discarded, skin around the neck trimmed
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt or 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 330ml beer can of your choice ½ full
Season the duck:
- Unwrap the duck, remove everything from the cavity, and pat dry with paper towels. Trim the neck skin just below the nub of the neck left on the duck. Prick the duck skin all over with a paring knife, so the fat can escape. Poke through the skin, but not into the meat. Sprinkle the duck with the salt and pepper, inside and out. (If you have the time, refrigerate uncovered, overnight to 48 hours, for a dry brining effect.)
Sit the duck on the beer can:
- Spray the beer can with a fine coat of cooking spray. (This will make it easier to pull the can out of the duck when it is done cooking.) Set the partially full can of beer on a cutting board, and lower the cavity of the duck onto the can.
Cook the duck:
- Carefully transfer the duck to the indirect heat part of the barbecue. Close the lid and cook until the duck reaches 185°F in the thickest part of the thigh and leg, about 2 hours for a 2kg duck.
Carve and serve:
- Transfer the duck and can to a clean cutting board, then lift the duck off of the can and set the duck on the cutting board. Let the duck rest for fifteen minutes, then carve and serve.