Beer can chicken is a chicken cooked slowly on a barbecue standing up perched over a can of beer. While this sounds like some bizarre hillbilly cooking experiment, this is actually a very sound culinary technique that actually roasts better than in an oven. The first reason is that this allows the bird to be cooked standing up, so all sides receive the same amount of heat, assuring even cooking. And the can of beer performs an absolutely critical role; providing a constant source of moisture inside the chicken throughout the cooking process. So this avoids the ever-present problem of dry breast meat, which I addressed in that earlier post. And finally, cooking chicken on a barbecue will provide some smoke flavour to the chicken. Like in my previous roast chicken post, this technique will also work with other birds, however your barbecue will need enough clearance underneath the lid to be able to cook larger birds.
1 medium chicken, about 1.7 kilos
1 can dark beer
Set up your barbecue for indirect cooking. This procedure will vary depending on what type of grill you are using. When I posted about BBQ brisket I described how this is done for a charcoal grill and suggested that a gas grill might be more troublesome. For this application, a gas grill will work just as well and the set up would be easier. Since the cooking time is shorter you shouldn’t need to worry about running out of gas and a gas grill has the added benefit of being easier to control the amount and location of heat. For a charcoal grill, set up coals on the outsides of the grill and place a drip pan in the centre, underneath where the chickens will sit. You will most likely not need to add another batch of coals as they should last to some degree for the entire cooking time needed. But you should still keep an eye on things because conditions can always vary when using charcoal. On a gas grill, put a drip pan under where the chicken will go, and do not light that section of the grill. Usually you will only need to turn on one section of the grill to generate sufficient heat (though this may vary depending on your specific grill). On a gas grill, remember that there are often small racks above the main cooking surface - these will need to be removed.
Combine the spices to make the rub. Again, I am not really giving you any proportions, but paprika should make up a large component. Lightly coat the chicken with olive oil, then coat with most of the rub, leaving about a teaspoon aside. Massage the rub into the chicken on all sides and some inside the cavity. Then take the dark beer (in most cases, darker beers are better for cooking as they have a lot more flavour to impart) and empty half the can (what you do with that half is up to you!) Then add the reserved teaspoon of the rub to the half-full beer can. It will foam up a bit but that’s OK, it will subside. Then, when the coals are ready, add a foil-wrapped packet of soaked wood chips (on a charcoal grill, split the wood chips into two packets and add one to each side) and prepare the grill for cooking. Then insert the beer can into the cavity of the bird and stand it up on the grill over the drip pan. You will need to push the legs forward so the two legs and the base of the can form a tripod that will allow the chicken to remain upright. Then close the lid and leave it alone for about 1hour and 15 minutes. For a chicken of the size called for, this should be enough time to cook the bird through. Carefully remove the chicken to a platter, still standing up, tent with foil and all the chicken to rest for about 10 minutes. Then, using tongs, remove the can. The liquid that remains in the can makes a nice gravy for this dish, though it may be a little thin for some tastes. Carve the chicken (check my roast chicken post for instructions) and serve with a side dish of your choice and the gravy.