Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible


Basic Beer-Can Chicken

Recipe from Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible Beer-Can Chicken

Okay, here it is. The master recipe for the ur-beer-can chicken, the showstopper that will dazzle your family and friends. If you’ve never made beer can chicken before, start here, and once you’ve mastered the basic procedure, there’s no limit to its variations.


  • Yield: 2 to 4 servings
  • Equipment: 2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory or cherry), soaked for 1 hour in water and/or beer to cover, then drained; vertical chicken roaster (optional)
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  • 1 can (12 ounces) beer
  • 1 chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons All-Purpose Barbecue Rub (see Step 2, below) or your favorite commercial rub
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Step 1: Pop the tab off the beer can. Pour half of the beer (3/4 cup) over the soaking wood chips or chunks, or reserve for another use. If cooking the chicken on the can, using a church key-style can opener, make 2 additional holes in the top. Set the can of beer aside.

Step 2: Remove the packet of giblets fro the body cavity of the chicken and set aside for another use. 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. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the All-Purpose Barbecue Rub 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.

Step 3: If cooking on a can: 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. 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.

If cooking on a roaster: Fill it with the beer mixture and position the chicken on top, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 4: Tuck the tips of the wings behind the chicken’s back.

Step 5: Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.

Step 6: When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals. Stand the chicken up in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook the chicken until the skin is a dark golden brown and very crisp and the meat is cooked through (about 180 degrees F on an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a thigh, but not touching the bone), 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. If using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to add 12 fresh coals per side after 1 hour. If the chicken skin starts to brown too much, loosely tent the bird with aluminum foil.

Step 7: If cooking on a can: Using tongs, hold the bird by the can and carefully transfer it in an upright position to a platter.

If cooking on a roaster: Use oven mitts or pot holders to remove the bird from the grill while it’s still on the vertical roaster.

Step 8: Present the bird to your guests. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes. then 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.

Tips:

Use soda or fruit juice instead of beer.

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