I've received a couple of complaints about my posting frequency lately. What follows is what happens when I post just for the sake of providing content, and not because I'm particularly inspired to write about something.
In other words, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it!
Today's entry is a recipe I just developed for cooking with beer that I found to be worth repeating and recommending. Basically, there's little to this recipe that's original or unique, other than maybe the combination in which the techniques were employed, but it's damn good chicken.
Jeff's take on Beer Can Chicken:
To do this right, you're going to need a charcoal grill. I like my old weber kettle, but any decent grill should work for this one. Also, for fuel you need to use natural lump charcoal. No one likes the chemical taste of briquettes man. I like to kick up the smoke on any grill recipe. If that's up your alley, grab a chunk or two of your favorite hardwood before you start too. Chunks, not chips.
First, you need to mix up the dry rub. The recipe for the rub is way more than you'll need, so have a good airtight container ready to store the rest for future use. My recipe is based on Hugh's Dry Rub Recipe, with minimal additions or substitutions. Here's mine:
1/2 cup paprika
3 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons ancho powder
5 tablespoons ground black pepper
6 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons onion powder
6 tablespoons salt
5 tablespoons dried ground mexican oregano
With the exception of maybe one or two things on this list, you could probably whip it up with stuff you already have laying around your spice cabinet. If you do need to buy anything, my advice is this: Don't cut corners on your paprika. Maybe it's the Hungarian in me, but the range in quality of the paprika out there is huge. Also, freshness matters a lot, so it's best not to just use that little red and white tin from the back of your pantry that only comes out once a year to garnish deviled eggs. This is the main ingredient of the rub, you don't want to start off on the wrong foot. Check out European specialty stores for the good stuff. I've had some luck at Edelweiss here in Portland. I also added ancho powder to the list, it's another ground dried chili (poblano) that has a flavor distinct from cayenne or paprika blends. It's tasty. I omitted thyme from Hugh's recipe, and doubled the oregano to make up for it. I also made sure to specify Mexican oregano. It tastes a lot different, and I think the difference works a lot better with grilled meats. Anyway, that's that. Just mix it all together real good and store it somewhere cool and dry.
For the birds, there's really minimal prep other than the dry rub. Pull out the giblets, rinse em off in cool water, pat them dry with a towel (the chickens, I don't care what you do with the giblets). The only extra step I recommend before applying the rub is to peel a bunch of cloves of garlic, and insert them under the skin of the bird over all the best pieces of meat. I put a couple over each breast, as well as some in the thigh and drum areas. Once the chickens are looking nice and lumpy, apply a nice thin coating of peanut oil all over the inside and outside of the chicken. It will give it a delicious golden skin, and it lets the dry rub stick. Now that you've greased up your bird, you're going to want to apply the rub. Don't roll the chickens in it. It will be way too much. Apply a bit here and there and just rub it in, making sure not to miss any nooks or crannies. Do the inside surfaces of the bird too, if for no other reason, then because it's fun to wear your food like a puppet once in a while. After this step, wrap the chicken(s) in saran wrap or tightly seal in a ziplock with the air pushed out. Refrigerate for at least an hour or two to get the flavor to penetrate.
Now the fun part, and the only reason this post is even remotely appropriate for a beer blog: you need one half empty can of beer for each chicken you're cooking. To be honest, it doesn't seem to matter too much what kind of beer you're using, so I suggest something that's good enough to drink, but not too expensive to waste half a can of inside a chicken's ass. I used Dales Pale ale from Oskar Blues. I don't think it's the best Pale Ale in a can, but it was on sale for a couple bucks less than Caldera. Now a lot of guys will tell you to slide the chicken down on the can and you're done. I like going a step further. Get a bullion cube, crush it up, and stick that in the can with the beer first. The idea is that the grill will get the temperature in the can hot enough to start boiling the liquid, which will steam the chicken from the inside, as well as flavor it a bit.
Once the chicken is properly flavored by the rub, get your charcoal ready. Don't use lighter fluid, this isn't amateur hour. I like using a charcoal chimney. Once you use it a few times, it actually pays for itself in lighter fluid savings, it gets the coals evenly heated and ready to cook with fast, it wont make your food taste like ass, and (to date) we've never sent our troops overseas to secure charcoal chimneys. Once your coals are ready to cook with, lay them out for cooking with indirect heat. On the kettle, it's traditional to lay them all out on one side and place the meat on the other, but I do a little ring around the perimeter, it makes sure all the sides are getting exposed to similar heat.
While you're doing all that, you're going to want to soak your hardwood chunks in water (or beer?) for about half an hour. You want them to smolder, not burn. After half an hour, let them dry just a bit. You don't want to extinguish the coals with a dripping chunk of wood, that would be stupid.
You can prop the chickens up two ways. The tradition way is to make a tripod between the legs and the can. This works, and I did it with one of the chickens in the photo, but you have to be careful with birds cooked in this manner. If they fall over, beer spills all over, and it's a huge mess. The other option is a little stand that you can get at any place that sells BBQ equipment. It holds a beer can, and provides a wide base to support the chicken. You can see the stand under the other bird in the photo. I would have used the stand for both chickens, but I only have one, so I made do.
Position the chicken in the center of the grill away from coals, take one or two chunks of soaked wood and lay them on the coals, and shut the lid. Don't peak for at least an hour unless either of the following happens: the smoke escaping from the grill is thick and white instead of thin and blue, OR there is no smoke coming out of the grill (assuming you're trying to get some smoke flavor in there). If there's too much smoke, it's not going to taste right, and it's indicative of the wood chunk igniting instead of smoldering. If that's the case, move it away from the coals, spritz a little water on it, and soak it better next time. If there's no smoke, you might have to add another wood chunk because your first one burnt out, or maybe it was too wet or had insufficient contact with the coals to start smoldering.
A four pound chicken should probably take at least an hour and fifteen minutes. A bigger bird will take closer to an hour and a half or more. What you'll find though is that it's hard to overcook a chicken using this method, so it's safe to err on the side of "well done". To be sure it's done, stick a quick read thermometer in the breast (160 degrees), and the thigh (180 degrees). Once you hit those targets, you're good to go, regardless of how long it took you to get there.
Let the chicken rest away from the heat for ten minutes, and dig in!
PROTIP: This last time, I made an extra chicken. The next day, I pulled all the meat off, piled it in a pot with some more Dales Pale ale and some salsa, and simmered it up to serving temp. This is the stuff that the burritos of your dreams are made of.