The most basic version of this recipe requires a whole chicken and a can of beer. However, if you really want to add a lot of extra flavor, you should also include a good Spice Rub. It can be basic mixture of salt and pepper or a fancier concoction of additional herbs and spices. It's entirely up to you.
Taste preference is important in selecting beer. Some people are militant about this decision. Many will argue that stout is the only beer for beer can chicken, while others favor any beer but stout.
If you don't like beer, there are other options. Wine has become a popular substitution for this recipe. People who prefer to keep their alcohol far from their food (and themselves) as possible, have started using canned chicken broth with seasonings in it. The flavor combination is entirely up to you. Just make sure there is a good source of liquid to keep the chicken moist as it cooks.
In fact, an actual beer can isn't required for this recipe. It is quite common to see avid grillers using one pint mason jars instead of cans. There are also a wide range of chicken roasters on the market that do exactly what the can will, but at higher cost.
Having said all that, the ingredients for this recipe are:
- 1 whole 5 to 6 pound chicken
- 1 can of beer
- 1 cup spice rub
Tip 1: Before we get started. Make sure that the can of beer fits inside the chicken. You don't want to fight with this over a live fire.
Tip 2: Make sure the place that you set the chicken is tall enough for it to be in a upright position. You don't want to lower the lid of your grill only to find that the chicken doesn't fit.
Cut off the top of the beer can. This maximizes the flow of moisture from the beer to the bird. Most can openers can be used for this task. Next, pour out (discard or consume) some of the beer until the can is half full. How you choose to do this is up to you. Add 1/2 cup of your spice rub to the can and give it a quick stir. The can is now ready.
Take the other half of your spice rub and apply it to the chicken. Don't worry too much about getting it on the skin. Skin won't let flavor reach the meat, so try to work your spice rub in under the skin as much as possible. Get it inside the chicken as well. Just because you put rub in the beer doesn't mean that it will season the inside too much. The spice in the can adds flavor but not like direct contact.
Place the beer can on the grill right where you want the bird to be.
With the can in place it is time to sit this bird down. You will get your hands dirty here. Don't worry about it. I find that it is best if you sit the chicken up on your platter or cutting board and then lift it from the bottom with the legs towards you. You should now be in a position to sit this bird in place. You want to slowly and gently sit the chicken over the can. Try not to force it or put too much pressure on the bird to get into position. You might need to press it down a little, but don't press down too forcefully.
Close the lid on the grill and wash everything. This is my rule with chicken; when the bird is on the grill everything that did or could have touched that bird has to be washed. When the chicken is done and ready to come out, there shouldn't be a single germ left behind.
Try to maintain a grill temperature around 300 to 325 degrees during the cooking time. Of course, you can smoke this bird, but it should be cooked at a temperature several degrees above the boiling point of water. If not, then the liquid in the can won't do anything for the bird. If you decide to smoke your beer can chicken, choose a temperature around 250 degrees.
Depending on how even the heat is you shouldn't have much to do now but wait for the beer can chicken to cook. Time isn't important to chicken, temperature is. When this bird reaches an internal temperature of 175 degrees the bird is ready to come of the heat. Measure the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh being careful not to touch the bone with your thermometer. Once removed from the grill, allow the chicken to rest for ten minutes before carving it (if that's what you want to call pulling apart this fall off the bone meat).
A 5 to 6 pound bird should take you about two to three hours to cook depending on the temperature.
Once the chicken has had time to rest (again, 10 minutes) it is ready to carve. I find that the can tends to get stuck inside the bird. Typically there isn't much (if any) liquid left inside the can. Lay the bird down and pull the can out gripping it with a pair of tongs.
With the can out of the chicken, it is just like any other (just better tasting). Carve it up and enjoy.
Use any leftover that you have to make chicken salad for sandwiches.