Beer Can Chicken

June 13, 2008

I had altogether too much fun making this meal. Maybe it’s because my brain is fried from too much studying. Or perhaps my threshold for finding comedy is extremely low, after listening to legal lectures for hour after droning hour. Whatever it was, these grilled chickens were a real riot.

First, the whole project was like a Jeff Foxworthy bit, only backwards. As in: You know you’re not a red neck when you insist that your beer can chicken is organic. You know you’re not a red neck when you grill your beer can chicken on your gas Weber, which resides on your condo’s roof top deck, which affords a Chicago skyline vista. And you really, really know you’re a not a red neck when your beer can chicken requires trips to several stores because the first couple you tried don’t even sell beer in cans. So, right, I’m not a red neck, then.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the method.)

Embarrassing yuppie status aside, beer can chicken is hands-down the most amusing cooking technique I’ve ever seen. I mean, Blais’ liquid nitrogen ice cream on the Top Chef finale the other night was cool and all, but it had nothing on this whole-chicken-perched-vertically-on-a-beer-can thing.

Each time I opened the grill, I would burst out in laughter. First, the chickens looked like they were doing a mini-conga line across the grill-when I had them “facing” the same direction. After I turned them to “face” each other (because the wings on the chicken facing out were getting burned), they would alternately look like Sumo wrestlers, two dudes doing the Pee-Wee Herman dance, or a couple of lovebirds (ha!) leaning in for a smooch.

All that hilarity aside, though, I embarked on this beer can chicken with a serious mission. I wanted to see how the Zuni Café method-the most juicy, delicious, succulent chicken roasting method-translated to the grill. So I rinsed, dried and salted my chickens a day before grilling them (Judy Rodgers recommends you do this 1 to 3 days in advance of cooking). As the grill preheated the next night, I took the birds out of the fridge, patted them dry one last time, and tucked several sprigs of thyme between the skin and breasts of both chickens. Next, I cracked upon a couple cold ones, drained them of half their liquid each and slipped a couple thin lemon wedges, a peeled garlic clove and some peppercorns in each can. Finally, the chickens, er, assumed the position and I placed them-in all their upright glory-on the grill, in a disposable roasting pan to catch the juices. We cranked up the front and back burners of the grill and cooked the chickens over the (turned-off) middle burner for about a hour and a half.

The results? Good. But I have to confess that they were nothing spectacular and they certainly weren’t as juicy as a Zuni Café-style chicken roasted in the oven (a result that surprised me, because the first thing you hear about beer can chicken is that it’s mind-blowingly succulent). If we make these again, it would probably be more for the laughs or the novelty. Which could very well be worth it. Am I missing something? Does anyone out there have beer can chicken wisdom to share?

More on the Zuni Cafe Chicken here.

8 Responses to “Beer Can Chicken”

  1. Ali Says:

    You know you are not a redneck when you blog (and take pictures) of your beer can chicken! I for one thought the beer can chicken was delicious but that may be because I am partial to miller light. in a can.

  2. Hillary Says:

    My boyfriend would love this! I really need to make a beer can chicken for him one of these days. Thanks.

  3. tracy Says:

    Love it! My husband bbqs one of these a couple times a year…it is really fun to do and has great flavor. We usually use a nice flavored beer like Kilkenny and a good spicy rub for the outside.

  4. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink Says:

    Ali: Ha! Be honest — you thought we had a few screws loose when you arrived and saw these chickens on the grill. But, like a trooper, you gave it a shot.

    Hillary: Go for it! It’s really fun.

    Tracy: Yes, I think I’d try a rub next time, rather than the scaled down Zuni recipe (just salt and pepper). Do you have a recipe for the spicy rub?

  5. RecipeGirl Says:

    Sounds like a fun one to do on our beach vacation. Humor for the family, mostly!

  6. Michael Says:

    You’re braver than I am. I would never have had the nerve to cook chicken on a painted surface like that. It’s apparently what everyone recommends, but I just can’t do it.

    That said, I have been tempted to try grilling a whole chicken, because it just seems to taste better when cooked whole.

  7. Kristin at The Kitchen Sink Says:

    RecipeGirl: High comedy indeed! I hope you give it a try.

    Michael: I was worried about that too and thought about wrapping the cans in foil. But there were so many recipes out there that I decided to go for it. I think if we did this again, we’d buy one of the commercially available stands that emulate the can set-up.

  8. Andrew Says:

    Hi, This does look like a lot of fun. I’ve never done a beer-can chicken but it’s been something I’ve wanted to try. I love the pictures!

    I was thinking to increase the moistness you might want to try a short brine. It’s pretty amazing how juicy brined meat turns out. The leftovers are even better.

    I did a quick search and found this neat website on tips for brines:

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