Beer Can Chicken - the backyard barbecue classic
- 3 quarts water
- 1/3 cup table salt (3/4 cup kosher salt)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 (5-pound) roasting chickens
- Brine the chicken: In a container large enough to hold the chickens, dissolve the salt and sugar. Submerge the chickens, cover the container, and brine the chicken for 4 hours to 8 hours. Remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. (No need to rinse - the salt in the brine isn't overwhelming.)
- Sit the chicken on the beer can: Spray the cans with a fine coat of cooking spray. (This will make it easier to pull the can out of the chicken when it is done cooking.) Set one of the half-full cans of beer on a baking sheet, and lower the cavity of the chicken onto the can. The chicken should sit all the way down on the can, with good posture - the chicken should be sitting with its spine pointing straight up, and the tail and the knobs of the drumsticks should be touching the baking sheet. (If the chicken isn't sitting all the way down, grab the can and the chicken and wiggle them around - the edge of the can is probably caught on the spine of the bird.) Repeat with the other can and chicken.
- Set the grill up for indirect high heat (450°F+): Set the grill up for indirect high heat, and add the smoking wood to the grill. For my Weber kettle, I light a chimney starter full of charcoal, wait for it to be covered with ash, then pour it in two equal piles on the sides of the grill, and put a drip pan on the charcoal grate between the piles. I put the smoking wood directly on the coals, then I put the grill grate back in and brush it clean with my grill brush.
- Grill-roast the chicken: Carefully transfer the chicken to the indirect heat part of the grill grate. (If you have a helper, have them walk with you to the grill. Ask your helper to carry the sheet pan while you walk with them to the grill, holding on to the chickens. Then, have them hold the pan while you lift the chickens and cans onto the grill.) Close the lid and cook until the chicken reaches 165°F in the thickest part of the breast meat, about 1 hour and 15 minutes for a five pound bird.
- Carve and serve: Transfer the cooked chickens and cans to a clean baking sheet, and bring them back into the house. (Again…see if you have a volunteer to help.) Lift the chickens off of the cans and set the chickens on a cutting board. (I grab the can with one set of tongs, the backbone on the top of the bird with another, and lift the bird while pulling down on the can.) Discard the warm beer and cans. Let the chicken rest for fifteen minutes, then carve and serve.
- There are all sorts of vertical chicken roasting gadgets you can buy to make this easier. They add stability to the process, with a wider base to support the chicken. But, c'mon, you have to do it the original way, at least once.
- Now, I like this chicken. It's very good, and grilled chicken is much better than oven roasted chicken. But, for the ultimate chicken, see my rotisserie chicken recipes.
- Grill (I love my Weber kettle)
- 2 (12-ounce) cans of beer, half the beer removed (ahem)
- A probe thermometer (like my favorite, the ChefAlarm) makes it easy to tell when the chicken is done cooking - run the probe wire under the grill lid, away from the coals, and wait for it to hit 165°F.
- 2 fist-sized chunks smoking wood or 1 cup of soaked wood chips (I used cherry, but I also like apple, hickory, and oak with chicken.)
- Container to brine the chickens (I use an 8-quart food service container, but a stock pot works fine.)
- Cooking spray
- Prep Time: 4 hours
- Cook Time: 75 minutes
- Category: Sunday Dinner
- Method: Grilling
- Cuisine: American