In my opinion, cooking is as much about good taste as it is simplicity. I love inviting folks over to dinner—to dig into good food, a few beers, and good conversation—knowing often that my guest’s perception on the actual time and difficulty spent cooking said delicious food is much loftier than what actually occurred. Call it my cook’s secret.
The truth be told, I’m always looking to prepare simple meals when it comes to entertaining. After all, part of being a good host means spending time with your guests—not stuck in the kitchen or outside by the grill.
Since it’s summer, and the beer is domestic, light, and cold, I often enjoying pairing up a bit of the beverage with my outdoor soirees. The main course? Beer can chicken.
Often emulated but rarely perfected, this is one of those techniques that embody cooking with what you have on hand. No need to fuss with a laundry list of ingredients or complicated processes.
The Internet is alive and well with theories and myths regarding this beloved dish—some singing its praise, while others claim it’s dangerous and not worth the hype. Me, I just go about things in my own way. If it tastes darn good—go for it!
1) Start with a young, tender chicken. Nothing more than 3–4 lbs. Wash it clean and pat it dry prior to prepping anything else.
2) Don’t waste the beer. The truth of the matter is too many folks pull a cold beer out of the fridge, open it up, and stuff the bird on top. I prefer to drink most of the beer—leaving about an inch or two in the can—and letting it come to room temperature prior to stuffing the chicken on top. Too much beer, when cooked over too low of heat, means the chicken will never “steam” in the beer—which most folks believe is the secret to this flavorful bird.
3) Season simply. It’s a simple recipe remember? I coat the bird in a drizzle of olive oil and season her liberally with a creole blend seasoning. Salt and pepper would work just as fine too. Of course if such culinary simplicity is simply beyond your grasp (all you want-to-be foodies), you can dress her up with whatever you’d like. Just remember: A meal is only as good as your ingredients—so why not limit those ingredients?
4) Spend five bucks and pick up a stand/cradle made specific for this technique. The cradle allows you to perch the chicken a little higher on the can—which means more heat can get around the bird—and it also keeps the chicken an inch or two higher from the heat source, providing for more even cooking.
5) Now just when I’ve spent all my time talking about simplicity I’m about to involve a “French” cooking technique known as trussing. In all fairness, the French perfected roasted chicken centuries ago, so why not use a bit of that knowledge? I like to use a bit of butcher’s twine to tie the drums together, followed by tightly folding the wings underneath and securing everything at the top of the bird. It’s a modified version of the French technique, which I find unsurprisingly much less complicated. This will ensure the white and dark meat arrives at the proper temperature in as close to the same amount of cooking time as possible.
6) Smoke ’em if you got ’em. I prefer to smoke my birds over indirect heat, flavored with a bit of hickory of course, on a komodo-style cooker. You can always get a similar result using a charcoal or gas grill. I like to cook mine a bit hotter than most, as I find it will actually get the beer up to a temperature where in theory it can help “steam” while also providing a deliciously crispy skin.
Beer Can Chicken
Prep: 10 min
Cook: 60–75 minutes
Total: 1 hour 10 min– 1 hour 25 min
▪ 1 3-4 lb. young chicken, washed and rinsed clean
▪ ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
▪ 2 Tbsp. Creole seasoning
▪ 2 cloves garlic
▪ 1/2 lemon
▪ 1 can beer, open and with a many-a swaller taken
▪ Beer can chicken stainless stand
▪ Butcher’s twine
1. Prepare a charcoal smoker or gas grill for indirect heating/smoking over medium heat, about 350–400 degrees.
2. Meanwhile, coat chicken in oil, and evenly rub the Creole seasoning into the chicken, including the cavity. Stuff cavity with garlic and lemon, and place the bird on top of the beer on the stand. Secure by tying the legs together with butcher’s twine.
3. Smoke the bird, rotating on occasion, until the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F.
4. Tent with foil and allow the bird to rest for 20 minutes prior to cutting and serving.