Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How to Grill Beer Can Chicken

Written by  Ryan Ranspach
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How to Grill Beer Can Chicken

When I first heard about Beer Can Chicken (back home, years ago), I thought it was a joke. How and why would someone try to cook a chicken on top of a beer can? It just seemed unnecessary and a waste of beer. Even so, some friends and I tried it in college a couple times but with pretty terrible results. Pulling it off requires fairly legitimate grilling skills and patience, two things we had neither of then. I have since learned to cook and have what I would consider above average grilling skills, but I still had pretty much disregarded Beer Can Chicken as a silly novelty. Then my good friend, the owner of Black Dog Farms in southern Ingham County, approached me ealier this year to help organize a summer barbecue. Included on the menu along with smoked pork shoulder, ribs, sausages, delicious sides, and plenty of beer was Beer Can Chicken. I agreed and admitted my ineptness in regards to the final dish, but that I was certainly willing to help.
How to Grill Beer Can ChickenThe first key point in achieving excellent Beer Can Chicken is cooking it at the right temperature, which is 400 degrees over indirect heat. This means that if you're using charcoal, the charcoal needs to be built in banks along the outside of the grill (see picture). If you're using a gas grill, get the grill nice and ripping hot then place the chickens in the middle with only the side burners on at medium-high. It is also crucial to not let the chickens fall over. Most grills are just barely tall enough to place a decent sized bird in, so you'll want to be really careful when putting the grill cover down. While cooking, if you notice more than a very minute amount of liquid dripping out the bottom of the grill, it is probably beer due to a toppled chicken.

For the beer, any cheap beer is fine but as most chefs will tell you, if you wouldn't drink it then don't cook with it. So it's really just a matter of preference. That being said, many microbreweries in Michigan and beyond are pivoting from bottles to cans (clap your hands) both to lessen their environmental impact and, let's be honest with ourselves, to save on production and distribution costs. Ideally, a crisp pilsner would be perfect for this but it seems like there are more great beers available in cans each day, so just go with what you like.

Another thing you'll want to do is use a nice dry rub, both inside and outside the skin, on your bird. Dry rubs are fantastic because they add a ton of flavor without burning like barbecue sauces and oils. Fear not though, you can still baste the bird in sauce at the end of the grilling process and it will come out perfect and crispy. For our chickens, we used a basic but delicious spicy barbecue rub and sauced (the birds) ten minutes before pulling them off the grill.

Here is what you'll need to make delicious and tender Beer Can Chicken this summer for you and the rest of your hungry Rohirrim.

  • 1/3 chili powder
  • 1/4 brown sugar
  • 1/4 salt
  • 2 tbs black pepper
  • 2 tbs cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbs paprika
  • 3 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 sweet onion (placed in neck of chicken to keep steam in during grilling)
  • 1 whole chicken (Mert's Speciality Meats are my favorite.)

Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Massage the chicken inside and out with the rub. Let it stand for 30 minutes prior to cooking.

Drink a third of a beer and place red pepper flakes and smashed garlic cloves in the can. Place the chicken over the can and balance the bird on the beer can and the two legs of the chicken. Cover the neck using the piece of onion to keep in the steam.

Grill on Indirect heat at 400 degrees for 65-75 minutes depending on size of bird. Brush bird with Open Pit sauce during the last 10 minutes. Let rest for 10 and then carve the chicken and serve with plenty of cold beer.