To keep a whole bird moist, try getting the chicken drunk while grilling.
No, getting your chicken drunk does not mean feeding a live chicken booze, although some might think that an entertaining endeavor until the ASPCA comes calling. Actually, what you’re about to learn is something no live chicken would ever tolerate. That’s right folks, we're talking about beer can chicken, a.k.a beer butt chicken.
Why Beer? What Kind Should You Use?
Who came up with the idea of taking a chicken and sticking a full can of beer where the sun don't shine? Your guess is as good as anyone's, but the practice does wonders for chicken. The liquid keeps the meat moist and tender, while the yeast and hops help crisp up the skin. As for what kind of beer, the best advice is don't use a beer you wouldn't drink and steer clear of dark, stout, or bitter beer. Other than that, use your imagination and experiment.
Beer can chicken is best on a charcoal grill. You can use a propane grill, or even cook it in the oven, but for the absolute best flavor, break out the charcoal. Besides, it's easier to add beer-soaked hickory chips to the fire for true smoked chicken flavor. For the best results and for the sake of time, marinate hickory chips while waiting for the charcoal. Just spread hickory chips out in a pan. Pour a mixture of 1/2 cup beer and 1/4 cup water over the chips and let soak until ready to grill.
Make sure the beer can is open, and only half-filled with beer. Some recipes recommend cutting off the top of a beer can. Class, can you say, "Accident waiting to happen?" The safer option is to punch holes in the top of the beer can, being careful not to spill the remaining beer.
Make Your Rub
You can spice beer-can chicken virtually any way you like. Rubs are best, especially the simple kind. Combine salt, sugar, paprika, black pepper, garlic, and onion in a small bowl. Coat the entire chicken with oil. Sprinkle the rub over the chicken, spreading it evenly. Use your hands, rather than a spoon or spatula, to rub in the spices. It’s a little messy, but the result is far better than just spreading. You can also add spices and flavorings to the beer. Have fun experimenting with flavors like lemon, chili pepper, or Italian seasonings.
The Coals Are Ready, Time to Start Cooking
Once the coals turn gray around the edges, the grill is ready. Take your hickory chips out of the beer bath, shaking off any excess moisture and toss them in. While waiting for the coals to start smoking, stuff the beer can into the large cavity of your fryer. The easiest way is to lower the chicken onto the can so nothing spills. Also, you can use a vertical roaster to keep the bird from toppling over.
When you put the bird on the grill, keep it away from direct heat. Roasting takes between 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the size of your bird. After an hour, you may need to add a handful of fresh coals to the fire to keep the temperature consistent. If the skin gets too crispy too quickly, wrap the bird in a foil tent. Since the beer helps steam the chicken, it doesn't need basting.
Serve It Up!
Once the bird’s internal temperature reaches 180 degrees at the thigh, it’s done. Use heavy oven mitts to remove it from the grill. Be careful removing the beer can, so as not to spill boiling beer on your hands, arms or other body parts. Once you remove the fryer from the roaster and take out the beer can, you can carve and serve it however you like.
For an added touch, serve with small dishes of your favorite BBQ sauce, ranch, or honey mustard dressing for dipping.
Try it and tell us what you think! What do you suggest for side dishes?