Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Beer Can Chicken
We wish we could share the sweet, smokey smell...
This beer can chicken is, in my opinion, the best chicken we've ever made. It is our crispy, buttery, smokey, succulent, sizzling chicken masterpiece and it literally stands on it's own. The perfect chicken.
We had tried Beer Can Chicken once before but we rushed it and hadn't done enough research. It came out kinda dry and none-too-flavorful. It was ok, certainly not great.
This time, we did it right and followed all the necessary steps, starting with brining the chicken (1 roaster chicken - ours was 6.5 lbs.) in a brine of ~2 quarts water, 1/2 cup kosher salt, a few big tbls of sugar, a bunch of ground black pepper and crushed bay leaves, a long pour of soy sauce, and many shakes of Texas Pete's hot sauce. Certainly that could have brined overnight, but we only had the day to do it - so it got a few precious hours in the bath.
An hour before we were ready to put the chicken on it's perch, we prepped some hickory chips to add that wonderful smokey flavor to the gas grill... a few big handfulls (maybe 2-3 cups) of the wood chips got a soak in a bowl-full of 1/2 beer and 1/2 water.
Additionally, we made a "rub" of sorts that would be multi-purpose... The rub consisted of pretty much equal parts: ground black pepper, kosher salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and a mix of dried oregano/basil plus a little bit of cumin. To that, we added much MORE than an equal part of smoked spanish paprika.
After an hour we drained that beer/water, added the chips to two separate small aluminum trays and placed those trays under the grill grates - on top of the burner-protectors. Then we fired up the grill, started melting a stick of butter in a saucepan on low, and took out the chicken.
After draining the brine, we thoroughly rinsed the chicken with cold water. Then, after using paper towels to dry inside the cavity, we squeezed in the juice of 1/2 a lemon and tried to swirl the juice around as best as possible. Then we scooped in a couple spoons of that pre-made rub... and dried off the exterior with paper towels, prepping it for a massage.
On a big plate, we began brushing on some of the melted butter (be sure to save at least 1/3 of it!) all over the chicken - top, bottom, back, front. Then we sprinked and rubbed in that spice mix - spreading it all over the buttered chicken as best as possible. We ended up shaking on a little extra salt/pepper/paprika on some spots that needed extra attention. Then we got out a beer can...
A 16oz Miller High Life can, to be exact! After washing the outside of the can, about 2/3 of it went into a frosty glass for the chef, leaving 1/3 of the beer in the can. I used some scissors to cut away most of the top of the can, leaving a large opening. The last of the rub (a couple big spoons), the rest of the butter, and the juice of the other 1/2 lemon were then added to the beer in the can and swirled together. This left the can about 2/3 full of liquid - you wouldn't want to go any higher than that with the liquid.
Finally, put the can on the plate, and slide that chicken right down onto it. Et voila!
By now the grill is HOT and the wood is smoking, so we reduced the heat on the two outer burners and turned the middle burner OFF - and placed that chicken right down onto the grill, supported like a tripod by the beer can and the two legs. Monitor the temperature to try to bring it down and hold at 350. Eventually, after lots of playing with it, we had it steady at 350 but you'll have to watch it at first as everything adjusts. Yer looking at about 18-20 minuts/pound of chicken - but really the important thing is ~170 for the breast and ~180 for the drums.
We left that cover on and took maybe one little peek halfway through - we wanted that smoke to be stuck in there (as much as possible on a gas grill) and we knew we'd be rewarded... from about an hour in, the smell of the smoke and the chicken cooking right on the grill and the beer/butter/lemon was wafting through the air and tempting our appetites.
Ours was ready in just under 2 hours and we carefully removed it to a platter, still standing up, with two sets of tongs for it to rest for ~15 minutes. After that, with one set of tongs holding the chicken and the other gripping the bottom of the beer can, we slid that sucker off and onto a cutting board to be carved.
It was delicious... like we said, smokey and sweet, a little lemony, crispy skin. The extra paprika had burned in the places where it was a little too thick (as you can see by the before and after pics), but no big deal. TENDER breast meat, hints of lemon and sweet smoke - possibly the best we've had. Dark meat that had that dark-red smoked appearance and the texture of butter. Crispy skin and meat falling off the bones... Wonderful! Can't wait for leftovers tonight!