Beer Butt Chicken

by Nancy Ellison
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chickenbeerWhat? Where?

My personal trainer, Antony, likes two things in life: Picking up girls and cooking.

Re: picking up girls… his technique of choice is to borrow a baby from one of the female trainers and take it to the park. “Babies are chick magnets,” he declares. I suggested using puppies. He said with a sigh, “People are quite willing to give you their babies for the day, but they will not part with their puppies!”

Re: cooking … Antony is, guess what, Italian and Mama’s youngest, so he gets the good stuff. But, being a bachelor he personally confines most of his own cooking to what’s easy – and BEER BUTT CHICKEN is easy. Apparently it is also rather wonderful, and I am going to try it!

Since I got his recipe while doing 3 miles on a stationary bike I went to the net to see what’s what, and clearly the world loves BEER BUTT CHICKEN and not just because people feel like naughty 12 yr olds when they say it, nor because it sounds like an answer to a Newlywed Game question, but because it is friggin’ brilliant!

beercanchickenAKA Chicken on the Throne, Beer Can Chicken, or the more explicit Beer Can in the Butt Chicken, there is little doubt that no matter how you call it, this beer infused chicken will be tender, juicy, (ahem) sloshed, and happy. (Apparently Steven Raichlen wrote the original book all about it, called Beer-Can Chicken: And 74 Other Offbeat Recipes for the Grill.)

Prepare this dish in a smoker, in an oven, or on the grill; you may never go back to the old sober approach to roasting fowl.

This dish is clearly self-explanatory so let’s start with the beer.

First you open a can of beer - your choice – and down about half of it. (So far so good?) Use a can opener so that the can is wide open.

Prepare the chicken as you would for roast chicken. The net offers a variety of dry rubs and clearly one could play with flavors, but the most common rub is Texas style, consisting of paprika, light brown sugar, a bit of chili powder, cumin, mustard (optional), powdered garlic and onion, salt and pepper. An optional choice and one that I adore is to rub the chicken in melted butter inside and out, and then do the dry rub evenly over the bird saving some to sprinkle inside the cavity. Another is to add a bit of Hickory Liquid Smoke or Hickory Smoke Infused Oil to the bird – unless of course you are using a smoker or charcoal fired grill.

One recipe suggests adding rosemary, minced shallots and lemon juice to the beer, while another suggests adding fresh garlic, cayenne, diced onions etc. This is all clearly a matter of taste, but the important thing is the beer. The yeast in beer apparently interacts with the chicken skin making it extra crispy while keeping it juicy on the inside.

chickenbeercookedPlace the chicken on top of the beer can… or in other words shove it up the chicken, … OK. (You gotta problem with that?)

I have an outdoor grill that will serve nicely, but a smoker sounds even better. But for most who must rely on their kitchen ovens, you will still end up with a fine, tasty dish.

Some care is needed in maintaining balance so the chicken becomes a tripod with can and legs equally distributing the weight. Place it in a roasting pan to collect drippings, though Antony with his pot mitts is adroit at just balancing it on top of a hot grill.

I have discovered that there are a variety of Beer Butt Chicken holders that can be purchased online, that makes the balance easier, (Folks, there is a universe of Beer Butt Chicken marketing going on out there) but most people seem content to do without. After watching a few videos, it appears easy enough to insert the beer can into the vertically held chicken. There is a bit of wobbling but it can be done. Some care is necessary, however.

Roast at around 350 degrees F until internal temperatures reaches 180F in the thickest part of the thigh or about 1 ¼ to 2 hours, depending on size of chicken.

Carefully remove the chicken being sure to wear mitts. Do not spill the beer, as it will be very hot. Let the chicken rest for about ten minutes.

Serve warm.


Nancy Ellison, award winning photojournalist and celebrity portraitist, has authored fourteen books of photographs, including "Romeo and Juliet: The Love Story in Dance" and "Starlet". Her newest book, "Wagner's Eternal Ring" was published in September 2010 by Rizzoli.    

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