Some say it’s nothing more than a grilling gimmick, that beer can chicken. Those Negative Nellies complain that the beer does nothing to keep the bird moist, the can-filled cavity inhibits even cooking and a perfectly good brew goes to waste. I don’t know about all that. My beer can chicken always turns out super juicy (okay, I’m sure my herbed butter has a little something to do with that) and I’ve never had a problem with uneven cooking. I firmly believe the heat generated by the aluminum can actually helps the inside of the bird cook in tempo with the outside. Additionally, because the bird’s propped up the entire time, the skin gets crispy and brown all around. But the real reason I cook beer can chicken is because my kids love the pomp and circumstance surrounding it. The quirky can stand invites curious questions and hands-on involvement. My youngest daughter gets into mashing the fresh herbs with the room temp butter and all three of them welcome the mess that comes with messaging the mixture all over the bird. One I’ve positioned the bird on the can, they then like taking turns making the bird “dance.” It’s a show that cost me little to nothing and one they’ll remember for a lifetime. And whenever I get them involved in the cooking process, they tend to complain less and eat more.
One note on the recipe. Fresh herbs make a huge difference. If you have to substitute dried herbs, adjust the amounts from tablespoons to teaspoons. So in place of 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, you would use 2 teaspoons dried basil leaves.
Beer Can Chicken Recipe
1 4 1/2- to 5-pound whole chicken
4 tablespoons butter, softened
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 12-ounce can beer
Place a large, disposable aluminum pan in the center of the grill under the grates (to catch drippings and prevent flareups); add 1-inch of water to pan. Prepare grill for indirect cooking over medium-high heat. Very thoroughly pat chicken dry, inside and out, so the herb butter will stick to the chicken; set aside. In a small bowl, combine the softened butter and next 9-ingredients (through cayenne pepper). Using your fingers, gently loosen skin from chicken and rub herb butter evenly under skin, in the cavity and over skin. Using a can opener, remove entire top of beer can; pour out (or drink) 1/3 of the beer. Place cavity of chicken, legs pointing down, onto beer can; pull legs forward to form a tripod. Place chicken over drip pan and grill, covered, until golden brown and cooked through (about 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer inserted at the inner thigh), about 1 1/2 hours. Add water to drip pan as necessary to prevent burning. When done, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before carving. Makes 4-6 servings.