Grilling a Beer-Can Chicken
What says “grill master” more than grilling a whole chicken sitting on top of a can of beer that is infusing flavor and moisture into your bird? Beer-can chicken is often overlooked on the menu, but it’s a fun and proven way to grill a tasty whole chicken. Grab a whole chicken from the grocery store and beer or even some root beer or soda and get that thing on the grill for a guaranteed successful meal. This is an easy method for grilling a flavorful and tender chicken that keeps all eyes on the grill, and provides that “wow” factor for any cookout you host.
Sure, it’s called “beer-can chicken,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use beer. There are tons of flavorful canned beverages out there, if you are so inclined to something else. Any soda will make your chicken pop, or even an empty can with a little water and garlic. Beers like imperial stouts, pilsners, or lagers are great, but some other fun ideas include orange soda, cola, or root beer. Regardless, pick your favorite beer or soda. The first key to sitting your bird on top of a can is to make sure you start with room temperature beer or soda. You want that liquid to steam and if you start off with a cold beverage, it just might not get hot enough. Second, don’t use a full can. It takes a lot of heat to get that liquid to steam, so empty at least half the can prior to inserting it into the cavity of the chicken.
Two Recipe Choices:
For those of you who choose not to grill with beer, the first recipe choice offered here is a BBQ root beer chicken. This flavorful bird has a classic BBQ dry rub on the outside and root-beer-infused sweet flavor and moisture on the inside. The bird is brushed with any BBQ sauce you like toward the end of the cooking. After cleaning out the chicken, mix these dry ingredients together and heavily apply this simple BBQ dry rub all over the bird.
Place the chicken on top of a can of root beer and grill as instructed below. If root beer isn’t your thing, orange soda can be substituted in this recipe.
The second recipe is more of a classic beer-can chicken that has a spicy dry rub applied to the outside. A classic pilsner or lager is used to provide moisture and flavor to the bird. The ingredients for the spicy dry rub recipe are as follows:
Clean out the bird and heavily apply the dry rub all over the outside. For an extra pop, a poultry butter injection inside the bird is fantastic. Most grocery stores sell a food injection needle set. Melt some butter and inject it into the thickest part of the breast and into the legs and thighs. The buttery flavor can’t be beat.
Now that you have applied your dry rub to the chicken, set up the grill for indirect heat. For indirect heat, place charcoal on half the grill and cook the bird on the other half, above an aluminum tin to catch drippings. Grilling the chicken at a more moderate temperature reduces the chance of scorching the bird on the outside and undercooking the inside. On a gas grill, ignite the burners on only one side to medium high heat. You want the grill to be at about 400-425 degrees for grilling a beer-can chicken.
It’s easiest to insert the can into the bird right at the grill to avoid it tipping over inside the house. The legs of the chicken extend down toward the grill and the can is inserted into the cavity between the drumsticks. After the grill is pre-heated, set the chicken, neatly propped up on top of the can, on the indirect heat side of the grill and close the grill dome. After about 45 minutes, check the internal temperature of the bird. The chicken will be done when the internal temperature is 165˚F. It should take about 1 to 1-1/2 hours to fully cook the bird, depending on your grill temperature.
Once your chicken reaches 165 degrees, you’ll need to remove the can and the chicken from the grill. Take some extra care to safely remove the bird from the grill. Use grill tongs placed in the neck cavity to secure the bird from the top while carefully holding the bottom of the can with some oven mitts or pot holders. The can will be hot and you can burn yourself and you don’t want to spill any liquid from the can. Get a solid grip on the can with your oven mitt / pot holder and slowly pull the chicken off the can with your tongs, then place it on a plate or cutting board. Leave the can on or near the grill and allow it to cool. Bring the bird inside for a quick 10-minute rest followed by carving.
Beer-can chicken is a fun way to grill an entire chicken. The method places the bird in an ideal position for grilling, while providing a flavorful, inventive moisture source underneath. Try experimenting with any soda or beer you might like. You’re guaranteed a juicy chicken with a unique grilled flavor.