I will never forget the first time I ever had Beer Can Chicken. I thought it was the wildest thing I had ever seen. We were at a backyard barbecue with good friends. I looked out onto the back patio, where the man of the house was checking on his smokey chicken. Oh my word – the chicken was standing up on the grill!. What in the world? I had to ask, what was supporting the chicken like that. Our friend smiled and said it was a can of beer. Seems he had been barbecuing chicken with a can of beer shoved into the cavity for years.
Since that time, I’ve had this style of barbecued chicken at least once each summer. Sometimes it’s just the roasted chicken with a can of beer. Sometimes the chicken gets a good rub. There are times, like this evening, when the chicken gets “the works” – a can of beer, a great rub and an awesome barbecue sauce.
I’ve served Beer Can Chicken with fried potatoes, Ranch Beans, grilled corn and an assortment of standard barbecue sides. It’s great with mashed potatoes for a deviation from the usual side dishes. Anyway you slice it, dice it or serve it up, this chicken is always moist and flavorful.
One of the things that makes beer-can chicken so easy is my a rack designed to help support the whole chicken in a standing position. Sometimes the chicken is so top-heavy that it’s necessary to tie the body in place on the rack. This really helps when moving the chicken’s placement on the grill, turning for even smoking and what have you. The rack is actually designed to fit inside the chicken, to work with or without a can. However; sometimes when a can shoved inside the cavity, there isn’t always room. In those cases, I use the inserts to prop up the chicken from the outside.
FYI – The Cola Barbecue sauce is awesome – spicy and oh so delicious. The recipe make up plenty – so glad it will keep in a jar in the fridge for several months. Not one drop will go to waste. Baste burgers, grill chops or add to a pull-pork sandwich. I might even make up some of the sauce as gifts. Yeah, it’s that good.
Just a note of humor – we did not have beer in a can when it came time to cook up the chicken. Total panic set in. Hubby calmly asked why we could not use a coke can. In my panic, his suggestion was not registering in my brain. I needed a can of beer, not a can of coke. Hubby looked at me strangely. Are you making a Cola barbecue sauce? Yes. Will that provide an empty coke can? Yes. Can you pour a bottle of beer into the empty coke can? Yes. So what is the problem? Sometimes I just don’t think – I’m glad one of us saw the obvious solution.
Smokey Grilled Beer Can Chicken with Cola Barbecue Sauce
Beer Can Chicken
1 (12-ounce) can beer
1 (3 1/2 to 4 pound) chicken
2 tablespoons Basic Barbecue Rub (recipe follows)
2 cups Cola Barbecue Sauce, for serving (recipe follows)
3 to 4 handfuls apple or hickory wood chips, soaked in water for 30 minutes
Pop the tab off the beer can. Using a church key style can opener, make a few more holes in the top of the can. Pour out half the beer into the soaking water of the wood chips. Set the can of beer aside.
Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and preheat the grill to high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.
Remove the packet of giblets from the body cavity of the chicken and set aside for another use.
Remove and discard the fat just inside the body and neck cavities. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water, drain, and blot dry inside and out with paper towels. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the rub inside the body and neck cavities of the chicken. Rub the bird all over on the outside with 2 teaspoons of the rub. Gently lift skin from chicken, taking care not to tear the skin and rub the meat with a little more of the rub.
Spoon the remaining 2 teaspoons of rub through the holes into the beer in the can. Don’t worry if it foams up, this is normal. Insert the beer can into the body cavity of the chicken and spread out the legs to form a sort of tripod. Tuck the wing tips behind the chicken’s back.
When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss all the wood chips on the coals. Stand the chicken up in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan and away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook the chicken until the skin is a dark golden brown and very crisp and the meat is cooked to an internal temperature of 180 degrees, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. If using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to add 12 fresh coals per side after 1 hour.
Using tongs, carefully transfer the chicken in its upright position on the beer can to a platter and present it to your guests. Let rest 5 minutes, and then carefully remove the chicken from the beer can. Take care not to spill the hot beer or otherwise burn yourself. Quarter or carve the chicken and serve with the Cola Barbecue Sauce.
Basic Barbecue Rub
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup sweet paprika
3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon hickory salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons celery seeds
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir to blend together.
Store the rub in an airtight jar away from heat or light. It will keep for at least 6 months.
Coca-Cola Barbecue Sauce
1 cup cola (recommended: Coca-Cola)
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
3 tablespoon steak sauce (recommended: A-1 Steak Sauce)
1 teaspoon onion flakes
1 teaspoon garlic flakes
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a heavy non-reactive saucepan and gradually bring to a boil over medium heat.
Reduce the heat slightly to obtain a gentle simmer. Simmer the sauce until reduced by 1/4, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Use right away or transfer to a large jar, cool to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate. The sauce will keep for several months.