Nothing says American like the image of a whole bird, beheaded and de-feathered atop a can of Budweiser. Combining an alcoholic beverage readily on hand and the inexpensive ingredient of chicken, the new-classic recipe for Beer Can Chicken is as simple as it is delicious. And it’s versatile too.
When I told my German colleagues last summer about this concept, they were baffled. Mostly by how the chicken stood up on the can. I assured them that this was actually quite a high brow dish these days, with wine being substituted for the beer and a grill pan in place of the can, and not something made only by rednecks from the backwoods of South Jersey where I grew up. With the cred of Steven Raichlen behind me, eventually they were cajoled into taking my word for it. (My disposable charcoal grill tray wasn’t going to cut it for this recipe.)
But now with my lovely little Weber in the backyard, I decided to inaugurate the grilling season with this tasty dish. Since it takes about an hour or so to cook, it’s perfect to make when catching up with an old friend over some drinks before dinner. A friend recently gave me the Weber’s Real Grilling cookbook, so I figured I’d try my take on their recipe. (If you happen to get your hands on the cookbook, don’t let the horrible photos scare you away). Of course the bird was too large for the grill, a common problem. I managed to shove it down enough on the cylinder that holds the liquid and removed a top rack to get the lid closed. The initial shot of oil dripping from the skin shot the temperature up to three alarm. But soon the heat was controlled, and in about an hour, we enjoyed a juicy, flavorful and healthy dinner. Make sure to use a meat thermometer to ensure your chicken is fully cooked (170-180 degrees is recommended).
Grilled Whole Chicken Infused With Beer, Rosemary & Thyme (a/k/a Beer Can Chicken)
Serves 2 with plenty of leftovers.
1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs), rinsed and innards removed
Olive oil to coat the chicken
For the rub:
1 tsp Kosher salt (preferably David’s)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried thyme (or fresh if available)
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
For the infusion:
1 bottle of beer (Magic Hat Vinyl was used for this recipe)
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 sprigs of rosemary
1/2 tsp of dried thyme or a few pinches of fresh
Juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
First make the rub. Combine the salt, paprika, pepper, thyme, rosemary and lemon zest. Lightly oil the chicken on all sides. (I prefer lemon oil, but you can be creative here.) Put the rub all over the outside and inside of the chicken.
Pour out (or drink) half the beer. (Like with virtually all recipes using alcohol, the better the beer, the more flavor it will impart. So use what you like to drink.) Add the rosemary sprigs, a few dashes of thyme, the garlic and lemon juice to the beer can or whatever roasting tool you have. Then place the chicken on top of it. Then put on the grill over medium indirect heat. Then wait.
Don’t open the grill a lot as the heat escapes and cooking time will increase, but if you’re causing a fire, then by all means put it out before have a charred bird. When the temperature is about 170-180 degrees, you’re done. Let rest for 5-10 minutes and watch spilling the hot liquid if using a can.
Serve with, or on top of, a salad of your choosing. I like arugula, blue cheese and dried cranberries with balsamic. Or a fresh mozzarella and tomato salad is always nice. You could also try some grilled veggies, lightly sprinkled with oil and herbs that can cook while the chicken is cooking -either around the bottom of the chicken roaster if you have one or separately if there is room on the grill. Anything that is fresh and in season will be delicious with this easy dish.