Beer Can Chicken is great football-watching, sweat-pant lounging, lazy Sunday fare. The cooking method is slow, but it takes little to no messing with. After 2 hours of indirect heat on the grill, the bones fall out and the meat is melt in your mouth tender. It goes great with any side, and you can season to your liking. Nothing better to kick off the playoffs!
Two important factors to this dish are small chickens and cheap beer. Get 3 to 3 1/2 pound birds – anything bigger will dry out. They also won’t fit in my grill….and that is kind of important. As for the beer – don’t go buying some highfalutin craft beer (it will not increase the flavor of the chicken), and don’t spent much money. You want full flavor (not light beer) – we tend to go with Bud. You will be required to drink (or dump out, if that’s the way you feel about it…) 1/4 – 1/3 of the beer before you put the chicken on it. So make sure it’s a beer you don’t mind drinking.
Choose your dry rub. We like a little spice around here (that’s a joke – we like ALOT of spice around here) so I go with a house blend Cajun seasoning. Feel free to make your own blend, or use your favorite store-bought. You can’t go wrong here – lemon pepper, Cajun, Italian herbs, or just a simple salt and pepper – any and all will be great. The key to the seasoning is making sure you get plenty under the skin, as well as on top. Run your finger under the skin on the breast and thighs, and rub in a spoonfull of spice onto each piece. Then use another couple spoonfulls on the outside (including in the cavity). I like to do this in the morning, to give the flavor time to set in.
Next is the beer. Remove (use your chosen method) about 1/4 to 1/3 of the beer from the can. The beer will boil/steam and fill your bird with moisture. If the can is too full, you may end up with boiling beer touching the meat – which isn’t good. Some people like to put some of their chosen spices, or aromatics (carrots, garlic, onion, etc) in the can. I don’t do this….but feel free to! Now to get the chicken on the can….spread it’s legs apart and just slide it on. Sounds kind of gross, putting a beer can up a chicken’s butt. But I promise, she won’t feel a thing. Once the bird is comfortable on the can, pull the leg bones around to the front. This will help stabilize the set-up (read : do this so your chicken and beer don’t fall over half-way through cooking).
Every grill is different, and I can’t give you detailed instructions on how to use your grill. So use what you already know about your grill (temperatures, number of burners, hot spots, etc) and take what I have to say with a grain of salt. I start my Weber (with 2 burners) on high. After if has fully heated up (about 10 minutes), it is ready for the chicken. I turn the front burner completely off, and turn the back burner down to medium (or just under or over medium, depending on the temp outside). The chicken will go over the off burner (indirect heat). Put the breast side facing away from the heat source. Get her on, and close the lid. Open the lid just slightly and give it a peek – make sure the bird has clearance (isn’t touching the lid) and hasn’t fallen over. Now close the lid and walk away! Go watch the game, drink a beer, and hang out with your family.
The chicken will take 2 – 2 1/2 hours to cook. I like to give mine a peek after an hour, then every 20 minutes or so, until it’s done. You will know it’s done by checking the leg bone. Give it a wiggle – if you think “oh crap, it’s about to fall off!” then you are good to go! Use tongs (maybe 2 sets) to pull the bird (and beer) off, and place it upright on a cutting board. Wrap it loosely in aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 20-30 minutes before you cut it up. Be careful when handling the set-up – the beer can is HOT. And the beer inside is boiling and full of chicken drippings – so please refrain from drinking it (yes, I’m talking to you Dad!)
For our sides tonight, we are having Jalapeno Cornbread and Broccoli Cheese & Rice Casserole. Other good accompaniments would be hashbrown casserole, baked potatoes, steamed broccoli, baked beans, or macaroni and cheese.