Growing Up Into Beer-Can Chicken

July 2, 2009

So I wanted to do a barbecue recipe this week since it’s just before the 4th of July, and when I thought about my favorite bbq recipes, top of my list was the beer can chicken my friend Bret made for us several years ago on the grill in his backyard in Sag Harbor. It was not only hilarious to watch it being made, but the beer can really does make it juicy and delicious. If you can’t try this recipe at home, Hill Country barbecue restaurant on 26th Street has beer can hens on its menu, and they are tasty!

Bret, take it away:

My friends know that I’m not exactly a foodie.  It’s not that I don’t like food (you can’t get to be my size without a certain significant caloric intake), but for many years I didn’t appreciate a really well-prepared meal.  Growing up, my diet consisted of peanut butter and jelly, hamburgers, French fries, Yodels and other basic items.  When I went to a Chinese restaurant as a child, I would order lemon chicken “hold the lemon” (which was essentially chicken McNuggets).  I didn’t like pizza until college (and then I sure made up for lost time) and my relationship with vegetables has been rocky at best.

Because the motivation to have a great meal eluded me, I never took the time to learn to cook.  An oven was a dark, scary place where you put ingredients and never really knew what would emerge. When living alone, my diet consisted of anything I could order at a restaurant or whatever I could boil, toast, microwave or pour from a cereal box.

A lot has changed.  Thanks to my wife and some other good influences, now I eat all kinds of food and love a good meal.  I’m still not the healthiest eater, but I throw some fruit and vegetables into the repertoire when I can.  And I still don’t like to cook, but I love to bbq.  (Here’s a shout out to my Aunt Jane and my recently departed Uncle Charlie for the bbq they got us 8 years ago, which is truly one of my favorite things.)  Somehow, being able to see the food and check it up-close during the cooking process takes away some of the mystery and fear.  Plus, if you’re bbq-ing it usually means the weather is nice, you’re outside and likely having some wine, beer or cocktails with friends and family.



Which brings me to my favorite summer bbq item – the beer-can-chicken.  Many years back, my friends Jim and Amy gave me “Beer-Can Chicken and 74 Other Offbeat Recipes for the Grill” (from Workman Publishing, where Jim used to work).  The book has 12 versions of the beer-can chicken, but I’ve only ever tried the basic one.  All I can say is that you have to see it to believe it and everyone loves the experience.  The short story is that cooking a beer-can chicken essentially involves these steps:

1)    pop the tab off a 12-ounce beer can, empty about half of it and make two extra holes in the top of the can (my personal view is that the cheaper the beer, the more it adds to the entire aura of the experience; you can use soda or fruit juice instead);
2)    prepare the 3 ½-4 lb. chicken by removing giblets and fat from inside, rinse the inside and outside of chicken with cold water, dry with paper towels;
3)    sprinkle 1 teaspoon of a bbq rub inside the body cavity and ½ teaspoon inside the neck;
4)    drizzle vegetable oil over the outside of the bird, rubbing/brushing it all over the skin and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of rub and rub it over the skin;
5)    add 1½ tablespoons of rub into the can of beer and don’t worry if it foams;
6)    spread the legs of the chicken, inserting a can of beer into the “cavity” of the upright chicken and placing the chicken and can onto the bbq in the position of a tripod with the beer can serving as the rear leg of the tripod;
7)    tuck the tips of the wings behind the chicken’s back;
8)    bbq using indirect heat, cooking until the skin is a dark golden brown and the meat is cooked through (about 180 degrees in the thickest part of the thigh).  If you are an advanced bbq-er, you can use a smoker but I don’t.  Keep the cover of the grill closed; the bird sometimes gets pretty burnt on the outside, but to avoid that move the chicken even further from direct heat.

It takes about an hour and half and in the meantime there’s always fun and excitement (at least for kids and me) to see the bird sitting upright on the grill perched on the beer can.  Getting the chicken and can off the grill and then dislodging the chicken from the can is part of the experience and usually requires an extra set of hands, tongs and/or oven mitts.  (Be careful because any beer left in the can is very hot.)  It’s been a while since we made it, but we never get bored of it.  Enjoy!


Thanks Bret! Hope you all can enjoy it at your barbecues for the 4th…which is Addison’s actual birthday. Two years old already…

Happy Birthday Addison!

Happy Birthday Addison!

I’ll be taking Thursday night off for the long weekend, so this is the last post for the week. Cheers to you all — have a great long weekend! Back with more great stuff next week — don’t forget, if you want a daily email, sign up to the right where it says “Subscribe to Family Favs by email.” Easy or what?!


One Response to “Growing Up Into Beer-Can Chicken”

  1. […] right in these very pages. Check out the Times article here. And then read Bret’s post here.) Anyway, everyone knows that tasty meat on the grill means one thing: marinade. Here our own guest […]

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