Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (mostly) on Sundays. Enjoy!
Beer Can Chicken Barbecue Recipe
It’s getting to that time of year where, here in the UK, we get sufficiently long breaks in the rain to light and cook on a barbecue. Now we’re into May, any Englishman worth his salt leaps grill-wards at the first sign of cloud unless of course, we have the option of being in a traffic jam on the way to an already overcrowded beach, of course, that would take priority; So it pays to have a plan. I do love a traditional meze style meal, with sausages, bits of chicken and burgers. It’s a standard for a reason, but I also like to pull off a bit of a showstopper now and again as well. It’s nice to bring something to the table with a bit of theatre and, frankly, nothing says showmanship like a dead chicken with a beercan up its bum.
The beer can chicken is a classic American dish and, like coca-cola ham, it’s nowhere near as stupid as it sounds. All you need is a whole chicken, a grill that you can do in-direct grilling on and your favourite BBQ rub.
In terms of rub, in (this article about preparing to BBQ) you’ll find my personal favourite Southern American style rub. Do feel free to experiment, if you’ve got salt, pepper and paprika in there then you’re on the right track.
It’s also worth getting some dry wood chips to smoke. What we’re going to do here is effectively hot smoke the chicken, so a nice woodsmoke gives it a lovely edge.
With barbecues and chicken, I like to be careful and so I always use a remote probe thermometer to check for doneness. A rule of thumb is about 2 hours, but as you can’t really set the temperature on an indirect grill, if you don’t test temperature you’ll need to keep checking for when the juices run clear.
Stage one of the process starts the day before. Get your whole chicken and untie any string from it, if it came in a little tray, save that. Get your hands between the breast and skin and gently loosen the bond so the skin pulls away easily.
Use a teaspoon to tip rub into the gap so it sits under the skin and next to the breast. Then rub seasoning all over the skin, including legs and wings. Put in a bag and back in the fridge until you’re ready to cook (few hours at least ideally).
Next day set your grill up for indirect grilling with coals around the edge of the barbecue but none in the middle. Soak your woodchips in water. Put a metal tray in the middle of the grate under where your chicken will be.
When the coals are hot, put them round the edge, or use baskets if you have them. Gently pour water into the metal tray. Drain the water from the woodchips and bring them out to the grill area.
Take a 330ml can of beer (I use 0% beer as I don’t drink) and pour a third away. Put half a teaspoon of rub into the can. Carefully, like, really carefully, stab the lid of the can a few times with a knife.
Now, holding the chicken upright take the upright beer can and shove it right where the sun doesn’t shine (for the challenged, the big hole near the legs not the small one near the wings).
Carry the whole thing out to the grill. Sit the bird on the grill using the beer can and drumsticks as a tripod to hold the chicken upright. Put the probe of your thermometer in now if you have one.
Sprinkle the wood chips on to the coal and put the lid on, cracking the top air vent to keep the heat low.
In the intervening couple of hours make a quick coleslaw by shredding red cabbage, white cabbage and carrot in a food processor and dressing it with a mix of mayonaise (some), dijon mustard (a bit), cider vinegar (lots) and salt and pepper.
Make a potato salad if you must.
Once the chicken hits temp or juices run totally clear take it off the barbecue. Be careful here as the beercan will not want to come out and it’s full of red hot beer. I use two sets of tongs, one to hold the beer, one to raise the chicken.
You now have a lovely hot smoked chicken with your choice of rub, a lovely scent of woodsmoke and a fabulous moist quality to the meat due to the beer evapourating slowly as it’s cooked.
Leave it 10 minutes under foil to rest and then regale your guests with your tasty centrepiece.