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The origin lore of beer-can chicken varies, but most agree that chicken made by propping on top of an open can of pale ale has been a tailgating favorite for years. I can only imagine the moment when drunken football fans, ravenous from loading up all that beer into their 4×4, drinking up an appetite for barbecued chicken when they realized that they left the grill grate in the garage next to their walk-behind mower. When contemplating their only supplies: a raw whole chicken, burning embers and the beer in hand they came up with this. Who knew that a desperate cooking method would create a meal that was seemingly prepared by grill masters? High five me, bro!

The components are few, the technique is simple, the result is evenly crisped skin with oh, so juicy meat.

dry rub ingredients

Preparation requires only canned beer and a spiced dry rub.Store-bought versions are readily available and I encourage you to keep them on-hand for a crunchtime moment. Homemade, despite taking more time, is worth the effort and you can store it for later. Recipes for dry rub are plentiful online. We found the Ultimate Dry Rub from a preferred grilling cookbook, calling for many seeds, spices and seaonsings; the recipe is below.

ready for grilling

With ingredients and equipment gathered, smear the spice rub over the entire chicken.

Half in the can

One half can of beer per bird. The other half goes to you and your other half. It’s a start. Insert the half-full can of beer – the optimistic can if you will – into the leg end of the chicken. Admittedly, a gross step. Place the bird-perched beer can on the grill. Now you can move onto the other parts of your meal.

grilled vegetables and bread

While the chicken cooks on indirect heat, use the direct heat to char vegetables and toast thick olive oil soaked sour dough slices. We grilled avocado to spread onto the grilled bread. Beyond delicious.

cut and serve

After a ten minute post-grill rest, a sharpened boning knife and kitchen shears will help you cut up the whole chicken into serving pieces. It kind of falls into pieces without much butchery. We opted for 4 pieces rather than 8. So much easier.

grilling perfection

Does not work with a red solo cup.

succulent beer-can chicken

Before grilling, assemble all of the ingredients for your grilled meal. Beer-can chicken doesn’t require much tending, but because it’s cooked over indirect heat, you might want to use the direct heat burners for cooking chicken dinner accompaniments. If you do this, account for a few extra minutes for the chicken to reach optimal temperature as the lid will be not be down for the entire cooking duration.

preptime: 45-60 min servings 6-8

  • 2 whole chickens
  • 2 cans of beer
  • dry rub (prepared or homemade, below)
  • foil pan for drippings
  1. Pour out (or drink) half of beer.
  2. Prepare charcoal grill for high, indirect heat and fit with grill pan (for a charcoal grill, bank coals on 1 side of grill and put drip pan on empty side; for a gas grill, leave 1 burner turned off and place drip pan over unlit burner). Add water to pan to a depth of 1/2 inch.
  3. Season chicken with dry rub.
  4. Place cavity of chicken, legs pointing down, onto open can so that it supports chicken upright. Place can, with chicken, on grill over indirect heat (and above drip pan).
  5. Grill chicken, covered, until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of thigh registers 165°, 45–60 minutes. (If using charcoal, you may need to add more to maintain heat.)
  6. Let chicken rest 10 minutes before carving.
  7. Serve with pan drippings.

Ultimate Dry Rub

preptime: 15 min servings: 2/3 cup

  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  1. Stir peppercorns, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until toasted, about 2 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Put into a spice grinder with next 6 ingredients and pulse until finely ground.

crunchtime warp:

  • Make extra for leftovers, or prepare just one bird to save a few moments of preparing a second bird.
  • Do-ahead dry-rub, store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

recipe provided from Bon Appetit’s The Grilling Book and provided by your friends at crunchtimefood.com


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