I'm on an email list with Cook's Illustrated. Each week I receive a missive from the good folks at the Test Kitchen with recipes and tips. This past week the featured recipe was for Beer Can Chicken. I've avoided this preparation in the past because I thought it was an overly complicated and precarious way to cook chicken. I couldn't have been further from the truth.
Beer can chicken requires a chicken, some of your favorite rub, a can of beer, a heat source and some wood chips for smoking. Nothing more than that. Bring both the beer and the chicken to room temperature. Next rinse your chicken thoroughly and pat it dry. Cover the body of the chicken with a dry spice rub. You can make your own or purchase the many, many spice rubs that can be found at your grocery store. Put some into the cavity of the bird and even tuck some between the skin and the breast meat. Don't forget to pierce the fat parts of the body of the chicken to allow the fat to render out more easily. Your chicken is now ready, time to prepare the beer. First, either pour our or drink a 1/4 of a cup of the beer. You don't want your beer boiling over during the cooking time. You'll need to open two more holes in the top of can to allow more steam to escape up into the cavity of the chicken and...bonus.... you'll get to use the weirdly named tool, the Churchkey.
As to the quality of the beer, cheap or expensive, it doesn't seem to matter. Actually you can use soda, lemonade or any other flavorful liquid you can put in a can. Cook's Illustrated tried other liquids and suggests beer first, then soda or lemonade. They also suggest breaking up a couple of bay leaves into the beer.
Before we turn the heat on, we've got to get our other flavor element prepared. Wood chunks or chips to help smoke our bird. I'm using apple wood chips in two little smoker pans. I'm using a gas grill that has three burner elements. You can see above I've got smoker pans on each side of the chicken. I also have a drip pan directly beneath the bird to catch any fat or juices. We're cooking chicken with indirect heat so the middle burner is turned off and the surrounding burners are set to medium. Place the can of beer in the middle and carefully insert the can into the cavity of the chicken. Use the legs and the tail nub as a tripod to balance out the chicken. Shut the lid and let it cook at roughly 300 degrees for a little more than an hour depending on the size of your bird. Mine was over four pounds and it went about an hour and fifteen minutes. Test the temperature of the thigh meat. When it reaches 170 to 175, it's done. Here's the trickiest part of the whole deal. You need to remove both the chicken with the can still inside so you'll need a good sturdy set of tongs and something that is heat resistant so you can take chicken off the heat to rest. Fifteen minutes to allow the juices to resettle in the bird and again, mindful of the hot can, remove the beer can from the chicken. Serve immediately.
What you'll be serving is incredibly moist chicken with deliciously crispy skin with tons of flavor. It's that simple and so good they will think you are a grill master. Plus all the kids can brag about having had Ass Can Chicken.