Beer can chicken is a new craze embraced by backyard chefs everywhere. The concept started out as a way to death with the common complaint that chicken tends to dry out on the grill. Even bone-in cuts with the skin on can still lose a lot of juice before it cooks all the way through.
The old way of dealing with this problem was to brine or mechanically enhance the meat. Unfortunately, brining takes time, and if you want to have juicy chicken on the grill for supper, you have to set it up the morning before. Honestly, not a lot of people want to add “Brine a raw chicken” to their morning to-do list. Especially when somedays getting the coffee made and the kids out the door on time is nearly impossible!
So-called “Enhanced Meat” involves piercing the meat with dozens if needles that inject brine solution and chemical preservatives, into the meat. What you end up within the end is mushy meat with a 27-syllable chemical flavor that doesn’t always taste like chicken!
How Do You Set UP Beer Can Chicken?
As the name implies, “Beer Can Chicken” is essentially a whole bird with a beer can inserted into the cavity. The can helps it stay standing on the grill, and when the beer inside starts to simmer it adds steam into the equation.
Most people will use a can opener to remove the top, which reduces the chances of a boil-over, while also making it easier to add special seasonings to the brew. Though there are some beer cans that are hard to open this way. Not to mention the risk of a metal shard finding its way into the meat.
To safely address this concern grill accessory manufacturers offer special stands that are meant to fit neatly inside the cavity of an average size broiler-fryer chicken. Some even have a sturdy base to help hold the chicken in an upright position. It’s also a great option for adding seasonings to the brew, and don’t think that you absolutely have to use beer. In fact, things like lemon & lime soda will work just fine if you happen to have an aversion to alcoholic beverages.
What Kind Of Grill Features Do I Need To Make Beer Can Chicken?
Beer can chicken needs to stand up to cook proper, which means that height under the lid is essential. If you have a grill without a tall lid, much of the heat from the flame will escape into the surrounding air. When the lid is closed the heat swirls and builds up around the bird.
This helps cook through to the bones inside the meat, while also holding in the steam from the beer can, to keep the chicken moist. While it’s okay to open the lid from time to time to check the chicken, it’s even better to insert a probe thermometer into the thigh meat. This allows you to monitor the temperature of the meat as it cooks without affecting the internal dynamics inside the grill.
Ideally, you want a grill with a thermometer in the lid, while you keep some type of remote probe thermometer in the thigh meat of the chicken. This gives you a clear understanding of the relationship between the hot smoky air and the bird as it cooks. You should never take the chicken off the heat until it reaches a minimum temperature of at least 165-degrees Fahrenheit.
At the same time, a grill that’s capable of creating two or more heat zones is also a plus. When the bottom of the chicken is exposed to prolonged high heat, it can cook the base through and even burn it before the meat in the leg quarters. With a charcoal grill, there is also the concern that the liquid in the beer can boils over and splashes down on the burning coals.
That’s not to say that you can’t use charcoal, you just want there to be enough horizontal area on the grill grates that you can start a fire on the right side of the firebox while placing the chicken on the left side. You can do something similar with a gas grill that has multiple burners with their own independent control knobs.
A grill with a large drippings pan is also handy. If the liquid in the can boil over the juices will have a productive place to go. This could really be an issue for charcoal grills that don’t have a dripping can or removable ash pan. Charcoal kettle grills usually don’t have any sort of drippings pan. Yet you can use them for beer can chicken by making a ring of coals, with an open middle over the lower damper or ash can port. This will give any boiled over liquid a place to go, without putting out the coals.
Best Charcoal And Gas Grills For Making Beer Can Chicken
Can I Make Beer Can Chicken In A Smoker?
When you stop to think about it, beer can chicken plays really well in vertical smoker cabinets, wood pellet grills and barrel grills with an offset smoker box. If you do use a vertical cabinet to make more than one beer can chicken, make sure to set them up so that if one bird boils over that it isn’t washing over a bird that’s below it. If your smoker comes with a water pan, be sure to load it up with the same liquid you use in the beer can. This will maximize the steam.