I know, I know… the name’s not very appealing! But (no pun intended), I can guarantee that tasting a beer butt chicken for the first time will be one of those unforgettable culinary moments. I learned about Beer Butt Chicken (also called beer can chicken, chicken on the throne) in Houston, Texas where I lived for a short period of time. The name says it all; a can of beer up the chicken’s cavity! It is not entirely known how the concept of beer butt chicken came to be. It’s said that a group of guys camping out had a couple of chickens and needed something to hold them up. Having nothing else but beer available, they stuck them up the chicken’s cavity and those babies stood upright.
The beer and herbs work as a kind of broth which reacts with the chicken, cooking the inside without drying it, meanwhile the skin (on all sides!) is able to crisp. If you do not like beer, you can use any juices or liquids like pineapple juice and of course wine (I’d choose white). Although the beer and chicken legs work together to form a tripod, you could still run into a mean problem where the chicken keeps tipping over. And with the popularity of this cooking method, there are now many products on the market that can help solve this problem (in the US, I’ve not found any here in the UK).
Pictured above is a small turkey I made recently. Though it makes for a more tender turkey which is normally too dry a beast for me, I still prefer the results with chicken! Chicken or turkey aside, I like to pair this with garlic sauce, hummus, Arabic bread and tabouleh. For the Arabic bread, I recommend you steer clear of them cardboard pitas and find a Lebanese specialty store in your town. Or you can bake your own little pillows of goodness by following my recipe here!
Get ready for a very flavourful, tender and juicy chicken folks! Yehaaaw!
- 1 beer can- make sure the can fits in the chicken cavity and is of the
- taller variety which can hold up the weight better
- 5 garlic cloves, of which 3 are smashed (who cares if you peel them
- they go in the can) and 2 are pressed in a garlic press
- 1 onion, quartered
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 lemons, 1 juiced and the other sliced thinly
- 1 kg/2 lb 4 oz whole chicken
- 125ml/4 fl oz/1/2 cup melted butter
- 1 tbsp seven spices or lavender pepper
- 1 tbsp sea salt or to taste
- 1 small potato, washed
- 1 baking tray
- Gas or charcoal grill- make sure the chicken fits upright with the
- lid down. Otherwise, your chicken will take ages to cook
- 2 people to separate the cooked chicken from the can
- Depending on your choice, preheat a grill to high, preheat a charcoal barbecue until the charcoal is burning white or turn on a gas barbecue. Alternatively, you can also use a preheated oven at 180C/350F/4G. The only remark about using an oven, is it will require a good clean afterwards and the chicken is being cooked in an upright position and will sizzle and splatter in all directions.
- Using a can opener, go around the edge of the top of the can to remove it so that the opening is wide enough to insert the aromatics. Pour out half the beer into a glass and enjoy sipping on it as you get on with the important work.
- Into the beer can throw in: 3 cloves of the garlic, onion, rosemary, bay leaves, and lemon juice.
- Mix the seven spices with the salt and then place the chicken on a baking tray. Remove the giblets from the chicken (I add them to the beer can but you can throw away if you wish) and rub the chicken all over with the spice mixture, not forgetting the cavity.
- Then randomly “implant” the lemon slices under the skin all over the different sides of the chicken.
- To the melted butter, add the garlic, salt and choice of spice mixture and mix well to combine. With the help of a basting brush smother the chicken with the butter mixture.
- It’s best to assemble the chicken into position over or just near the grill or on an open oven door or very nearby to ensure that the chicken does not tip over during transport. So, move the baking tray with the beer can (standing!) and chicken (lying) to the grill or if using the oven, open the oven door and use the door as a quick working space. I recommend you cook the chicken in the baking
- tray (on the grill too!) and the purpose of this is threefold: it offers a levelled base for the chicken to stand on, it also catches the drippings ensuring your chicken legs don't catch on fire and finally you can make a killer gravy from those lush drippings.
- With the beer can standing upright over the baking tray, gently slide the chicken cavity over the beer can and make sure the two legs are facing forward; creating a sort of tripod and securing the chicken in a standing position. Keep your hands on standby as you release them away from the chicken just in case it tips over. Once the chicken is standing gently insert the potato into the top neck cavity to seal it off and help contain the steam inside the chicken and ensure a very juicy bird.
- Cook the chicken for about 1 hour and 20 minutes in a closed barbecue or oven or longer (about 2.5 hours) on an open grill or until the internal temperature of the chicken scales 80C/165F on a
- meat thermometer. Really the cooking time is going to vary and will depend on your altitude and strength/calibration of your grill/oven. So, best indicator of readiness is to use the meat thermometer.
- THIS STEP REQUIRES TWO PEOPLE! Once the chicken is cooked, one person needs to get the cooking gloves on (preferably them silicon ones, if you have them) while the other needs to grab
- the tongs. The person wearing the cooking gloves needs to gently lift the chicken away from the beer can as the other person with the tongs grasps the beer and keeps it secured down or pulls (very gently) in the opposite direction. The chicken is very tender so this will happen quite easily and the chicken is likely to tear apart if you’re not gentle. Transfer the chicken to a serving plate, carve and enjoy!
- You can discard the can or keep the juices and use a bit of the seasoned beer to deglaze the chicken renderings in the baking tray and create a gravy.
- WARNING: IN CASE YOU ARE ALREADY DRUNK, BEER CAN IS VERY VERY HOT!