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The trick is to smoke the meat and not make the meat smoke

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Beer Can Chicken

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This recipe is a real conversation starter. A chicken cooked on the grill perched on top of a beer can. The fact that it’s easy to do and the end results are awesome helps make it one of my favorites. The theory behind this is having the chicken sit on a half filled can of beer helps keep the chicken moist while it is cooking. Steven Raichlen didn’t invent Beer Can Chicken (BCC) but he certainly helped popularize it through his BBQU TV shows and books. He actually has an entire book devoted to Beer Can Chicken. There  are variations using tea, tonic (soda for those of you outside of Massachusetts), wine etc, etc,, The grill accessories manufacturers have also jumped on the bandwagon with all kinds of products to hold the chicken and in some cases the beverage of choice.
 
I’m going to be somewhat vague about the specifics. Several visitors to this site have emailed me to say it is cruel to put pictures of this food up without giving the recipe. Well I always list where I got the recipe, but it is not fair to the original author to give away their work. Buy How to Grill. I guarantee you won’t regret it.
 
This recipe is popular enough that many grill accessory manufacturers have jumped in to provide BCC holders. Doing a Google search for “Beer Can Chicken Stand” (in quotes) turned up over 900 hits, including some recipes. The holder I use is the Weber Poultry Stand. It consists of a base that serves as both a drip pan and a receptor for your beer or other liquid. There is a cover that looks a bit like a salt shaker cap plus fins. The perforations in the cap allow the liquid to vent into the chicken and the fins help stabilize the bird in the upright position. This is a much more stable arrangement than the bird on the can, but does make it less theatrical. Lastly there is a plug for the neck cavity. Everything is non-stick and easy to clean. At $29.00 this stand is not cheap, particularly since BCC was such a hit I needed two. I liked the one item does everything aspect, the neck plug and best of all at the end I’m not wrestling with a hot beer can and tongs. So for me that made it worth the money. Each stand hold 1/2 a beer. Now with two stands with built in beer holders, you could in theory split one beer between the two stands.  Union rules around our house require that the cook be compensated a minimum of 1/2 beer per beer can chicken as a reward.

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To prepare BCC you take a 4-5 pound chicken, wash it and sprinkle the bird inside and out with a barbecue rub. There are recipes for several suitable rubs in How to Grill. You take a half filled can of beer and puncture the top. The fact that the cook gets half a beer per chicken certainly doesn’t hurt its popularity with me. You also put a little of your rub in the beer prior to adding the bird. The chicken is lowered onto the beer can until the legs reach the counter. Then it’s legs are pulled out to form a tripod. The Weber poultry stand I use has a plug for the neck cavity on top of the bird. You could perhaps make an aluminum foil ball to plug this hole or perhaps use a piece of an Apple. The bird is ready to be placed on the grill. Plug the hole securely as there is quite a bit of pressure generated.


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If you plan to use wood chips, you will need to soak them for an hour prior to putting them on the grill. I use Apple or Cherry chips. It takes my grill 10-15 minutes to hit 350 (175 C). So total advanced prep time for me is the hour to soak the wood chips, plus the 10-15 minutes to warm up the grill. Everything you need to do to prep the chicken can be easily done in this same time period. One of the raging arguments is whether to use cheap beer or good beer in your BCC. The cheap beer people say you can’t taste it anyway, so why waste the money? Let me weigh in this way: Part of the fun of BCC is I get half a beer per BCC cooked. I can definitely taste the difference in the half beer that I consume. In college I drank cheap beer but I don’t anymore. So it’s all about me and I pick a beer that I enjoy.

 
BCC is cooked indirectly at around 350 (175 C) degrees. This means the chicken is cooked in an area of the grill where there is no heat directly under the bird. I spoke about indirect grilling in my
WINTER GRILLING blog entry. I will refer you there if you need more info on indirect grilling.  You will want to put a shallow aluminum foil drip pan under the grill grates below the bird. Notice I said under the grates. Don’t set the bird right in the  pan and give it a foot bath in fat.  If this is the first time you have made BCC, you may want to check grill clearances before lighting the grill. I was recently talking to a friend who tried to do BCC on a small portable grill for a tailgating party. He found out the bird sitting on the can was too tall. Once the bird is on the grill the hard work is done. You are shooting for a temperature of 180 degrees (-82 C) in the upper part of the leg near where it joins the body. I use my remote read thermometer to do this, so I’m not constantly lifting the lid to check temps. My thermometer has two probes so even when I’m doing one BCC, I’ll use both. I find inserting the temperature probes for chickens or turkeys to be a bit tricky. Since I have two probes, I use one in each leg doubling my odds that one is right. If one reads high and one reads low, then I use the low one. The recipe give the time as 1:15 to 1:30, I find on my grill it takes a bit longer at 1:45. Your mileage may vary.

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When you take the bird off it needs to rest for about 10 minutes to rest before carving. You’ve made a highly “theatrical” looking meal. Take advantage of this and put it on a nice platter when you bring it in the house. Let your guests see it in this form before you carve it up. Use tongs to help remove the beer can, since it will be HOT. After it has rested, you are in for a moist tasty chicken with crisp tasty skin. This is recipe is relatively quick and easy to do, is a conversation starter and is delicious. Give it a try.


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