The history of the Beer Can Chicken (BCC from here on out) is a modern legend of the BBQ world. This unique BBQ method first began to show up at college tailgate parties in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, yet a definite point of origin is unknown. The BCCs popularity was first spread by tailgaters and soon picked up by competition BBQ teams. As the BBQ teams followed the competition circuit across the U.S., more and more cooks picked up on this exciting new cooking method. Most BBQ cookbooks include at least one drunken chicken recipe and author Steven Raichlen wrote an entire cookbook on the subject titled BEER-CAN CHICKEN. There are hundreds of internet videos and websites dealing with the subject.
There is not one, single, accepted name for the BCC. Names vary from State to State and even backyard to backyard. Here are some of the most popular names, found in cookbooks and on the web: Drunken Chicken, Beer Can Chicken, Dancing Chicken, Chicken on a Throne, Thirsty Bird and Beer-Butt Chicken. There are many more interesting and “adult-themed” names out there, but we’ll leave that for you to look into if you so desire.
Ok, that seems like that’s about enough of the history lesson. You have probably heard about or seen a BCC, if not tried one or cooked one yourself. If not, today’s post should get you started.
While not totally necessary, I would recommend getting a BCC stand. These can be picked up at the big box hardware stores, bbq stores or online and generally run around $5. Less if you wait till the end of the grilling season (End of the grilling season? Grilling season doesn’t end, especially not here in Texas! But stores think differently and after Labor Day mark down lots of their grilling inventory). Here are two versions that I have picked up over the years.
Now don’t just plop your bird down on top of a can of beer and expect to get some great results. There’s a little more to it than that…like opening that can of beer for starters! Can you imagine the results of that? Can of beer under pressure heating up until it explodes, sending chicken parts and shrapnel everywhere? So, you want to open up that can of beer and dispose of half of it, I recommend drinking it, but you do what you want. Next get a church key, or a very sharp knife, and being as careful as you can, cut two extra holes in the top as seen in the following picture. (Yes, yes, I know those aren’t beer cans. All I had in the house was bottled beer, so I improvised.) Now that you have a half full can of beer with two extra holes in the top, pour a bit of your preferred rub, whatever you are seasoning your chicken with into the can.
Time to move on to your bird. Remove any packet of organs from inside the bird. Wash your bird and pat dry with some paper towels. Either using your fingers or a spoon, separate the skin from the chicken breast. You are going to want to season the chicken with your rub of choice between the breast and the skin. Once you have finished that, rub a small amount of oil over the bird and apply your rub to the outside. Now place your bird onto the beer can and you are ready to start cooking. You can see from the following picture that we seasoned up our birds two different ways. One was Dizzy Pig’s Swamp Venom. It’s a Cajun rub similar to Tony Cachere’s, but unlike Tony’s it actually has some kick to it. The other was seasoned with a mix of Stubb’s and Salt Lick, two bbq joints in Austin.
To cook your BCC, you are going to want to set up your grill/smoker for an indirect cook. That means that the chicken will not be exposed to direct heat. If using a gas grill, you will want to light the burners on one side and place the BCC on the opposite side. For charcoal, light your charcoal and then place it on one side of the grill and the BCC on the other.
For an indirect cook on a BGE, or other Kamado style cooker, light your lump charcoal and then install the placesetter legs up and then set the grate on top of that as seen in the next picture. You can see I also have some aluminum foil on my placesetter. This is just to catch the drippings from the chickens so that clean up will be easier. You can also see a probe with a wire on the bottom left hand of the picture. That is a pit probe and will give me accurate temperature readings through out the cook, without opening the grill, and will even transmit it up to 100 yards away.
You are looking to get your grill stabilized at around 350 to cook your BCC. This isn’t a low and slow cook, you are not shooting for 250. Chicken does not have a lot of fat and collagen that needs to break down like a brisket or a butt, so going 250 is not going to do you any good. So crank that heat up. I didn’t bother to time these BCCs, but you can expect them to take about an hour and half to an hour and forty-five minutes depending on your grill. But NEVER cook to time, especially with chicken, cook to TEMPERATURE! Make sure that you hit 165 in the thigh at least and that all the juices run clear. You do not want to mess with under cooked chicken. You can see in my picture that there is another wire running into one of the chickens. That’s another temp probe so I can monitor the temperature.