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Beer Can Chicken


This is a method that provides a succulent chicken – with crispy skin.  It can be done in a grill or in your oven.  But I like grilling- and this is the perfect way to cook chicken on a gas grill, or even the Big Green Egg. When it comes to chicken in the Green Egg, you will see some call for a low-and –slow method – but I like crispy chicken skin- so you want temperatures above 350 for this method. You will also want to use indirect heat for this.

There are stands you can purchase for beer can chicken- they cost anywhere from five bucks to forty bucks at fine stores. They all cook the same. You can balance the chicken on a beer can- but these stands make the bird and beer more stable in the roaster- and safer to remove. Spend the five bucks- you won't regret it. 

It doesn’t matter which beer you use – the purpose of the beer is more to steam the inside of the chicken than it is to impart a flavor. Some use soda (cola, seven-up) and some will spend money on a fine can of beer.  Note the alcohol will burn off so even if you have friends of Bill dining with you, this will be just fine. To be fair- some will be picky about the beer they use for this, and that is fine also.



One 12-ounce aluminum can of beer

3 1/2 pound whole chicken

6 sprigs of Rosemary or Thyme

1/4 cup Kosher Salt

2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For rubs I use the classic

Equal parts salt, paprika, brown sugar, and 1/2 part of ground pepper. Make this up ahead of time. Some like variations of this- adding 1/4 part of dried dill and 1/4 part dried mustard seed.



For grilling- you want to use an indirect method to grill the chicken. For a gas grill this means having the adjacent burner on high- and the bird next to it.  On larger gas grills you can set it up in a three zone manner (high heat, medium heat, and no heat). For a charcoal grill – indirect heat means setting up two or three zones- one zone with 2/3 charcoal, one zone with 1/3 of the charcoal, and one charcoal free.  You grill on the free area. For the oven, no need to worry – just set the oven at 350 degrees, but before you pre-heat it make certain you have the oven racks out so you can fit the beer can chicken in (learn from my experience – it is easier to take grill racks out of the oven and store them when the oven hasn’t been turned on- ouch). Make certain your grill will hold your chicken on the roaster, in the beer can device- if not, then use your oven or buy a new grill (you deserve one).

As with most whole chickens, this works best if you prepare the chicken a day or three ahead of time (salted chicken kept in the refrigerator). But if you forget to prep your chicken a day ahead of time –this method will still work. Take out the giblets, the neck (or some you have to cut the neck) and remove the extra fat from the body cavity.  Then rinse the entire chicken under cold water and pat completely dry with paper towels. Using your finger – slide under the skin on each of the breasts (there is a natural opening on the cavity between the meat of the chicken and the skin- the finger gently pulls the skin away from the meat). Turn the chicken over and gently dissect the skin from the meat on the thigh.  This is not a rough move- this is gentle probing. To keep the pockets open gently put a sprig of rosemary or Thyme into each of these pockets.

Remember, that raw chicken potentially has a lot of bacteria, so all surfaces it touches will need to be cleaned with bleach and should be considered contaminated – as well as all the utensils you use for this. Make sure the skin and inside are as dry as possible. Salt the bird generously – and let the salt soak in a bit. This is where you leave the bird uncovered in the refrigerator for a day, or even up to three days. But if you don't, let this salt soak in for a bit - uncovered in the refrigerator. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator and dry it again. At this point add a thin coat of olive oil on the bird - this will help keep the skin crisp. From here you can put a rub on the bird- or just a bit more salt.



Pour out one half the content of the can – and punch a couple more holes in the top of the can to facilitate the steam (can opener or an awl will work). Place the can into the rack and the bird onto the can.Put the entire device into a roasting pan and into your grill, oven, or smoker. After fifteen minutes check the skin- if it starts to burn turn down the temperature a bit.

Cooking the bird  takes about 15-20 minutes per pound. A spot thermometer works best (160 in the thickest part means you are done) to check the doneness. 


Taking this out requires two insulated gloves- and care. Remove the entire roasting pan with the chicken and allow it to rest on the counter top for at least five minutes.  Use oven mitts to remove the bird off the roaster/can holder – sometimes using tongs to hold the beer can.  Be careful- the liquid is hot (when it is cooled down) carefully toss it.


Serves two really hungry people - or four people  as you should serve some great side dishes, like green beans with mustard sauce.

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