As vulgar as it may seem, I’ve always wanted to cook beer can chicken. However, the technique is more than a novelty and actually helps to moisten the meat. It’s also a fun way to use up beer grounds. So next time you reach the end of a can and find it lukewarm, flat, and undrinkable, think beer can chicken.
Beer cans are lined with a Bisphenol-A (BPA) plastic coating. Cook’s Illustrated did some testing to see if it was safe to cook with BPA residue and concluded that “the beer can cooking method is safe.” However, if you are in any doubt, I suggest using a vertical roaster.
For simplicity, I have written a recipe for roasting in the oven, but if you have a barbecue with a lid, I encourage you to have the adventure of grilling this dish outdoors: the fire and smoke will further enhance the flavor.
Although this may seem like a chicken dancing the cancan, it is much more than a novelty. When cooked with care, beer can chicken is tender, moist, and flavorful—a hat-trick of deliciousness I want on my dinner table. Cooking the bird upright allows the Maillard reaction to work its magic on it, browning it on both sides and creating a perfect golden crust.
So next time you find some beer in a can, don’t throw it away! Use this technique to turn it into an impressive party plate. It’s questionable how much steam the beer can actually provides, so I suggest pouring some into the pan, to make sure there’s enough steam to help keep the chicken moist.
Season or marinate the meat the day before, or at least four hours before cooking. Either way, take the chicken out of the fridge four hours before you cook it, so it’s not too cold when you come to cook it. This will reduce cooking time and help it cook more evenly. The back of the oven is the hottest, so have the chicken breasts facing forward for most of the cooking time, turning only if you need to brown the breasts more. This will help keep them moist.
I created a marinade rub with used coffee grounds, but you can of course grill the chicken with a little oil and sea salt before cooking, or even use any marinade of your choice.
beer can chicken
for the chicken
¼-⅓ beer can x 500ml
1 whole chicken
For the spent ground coffee (optional)
2 teaspoons of spent coffee gardens
2 teaspoons of sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 clove garlicpeeled and shredded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon molasses, maple syrup, or honey
At least three hours before cooking, mix all rub ingredients (if using), then massage chicken inside and out.
To cook, remove all but the bottom rack from the oven and heat to 210C (190C fan)/400F/gas 6½. Season chicken with sea salt and oil, or your choice of marinade.
Take a heavy roasting tin or enamel dish and pour the beer into the center of the pan. Carefully lift the chicken onto the empty tin and slide the tray into the oven. Roast for 50-60 minutes, until the juices run clear, then let rest for 15 minutes while you make the sauce with the meat juices and leftover beer.