One of my favorite smells in the world is when a barbecue is fired up and it gets even better when you add some wood for smoking to the mix. I got to enjoy this smell last night, when we made Beer Butt Chicken. Now I know the name sounds funny, at least that’s what I thought when I first heard it, but in my humble opinion I think this is one of the best ways to cook a chicken! Because of the placement, the beer evaporates up into the chicken. This makes the meat incredibly moist and tender.
How do you make this delicious chicken? Well, it’s really simple! You start with a whole chicken. You will need to make sure the inside of your barbecue is tall enough to be able to accommodate a chicken standing on end. The chicken has to be able to stand on end for this to work. Resting on its side just won’t do for this! This bird needs to stand at attention!
Cooking this chicken can be as easy as setting your chicken, bottom side down, over an open can of beer. We’ve done it this way, but it can be challenging to get your chicken to balance and remain upright. This is why we bought one of the available racks for just this cooking technique (see photo). These racks are not very expensive, but they do help with balancing the bird and keeping it in place. These racks can be purchased at Amazon.com.
Before putting my chicken on the rack, I decided to cover it inside and out with some of my dry barbecue rub (see previous blog post for recipe). You also want to pull out any of the organs that are inside the bird. You don’t have to season the bird like I did, but this jazzed up the flavor quite a bit. You could even just salt and pepper it.
Now for the beer! Cooking with beer is like cooking with wine, if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it! You’re imparting the flavor of the liquid to your food, so if you want your food to taste good you want whatever liquid you’re using to taste good too!
So get that bird over the beer and let’s get grilling! You’ll want to cook the bird using indirect heat, so you’re going to scatter your coals to either side of the bird. We also chose to incorporate some smoke, so we soaked apple wood chips in water prior to barbecuing and sprinkled those on top of the coals. Our grill also has a side smoke box, so my husband also added some coals and large chunks of apple wood in there. If you’re adding smoke to the mix, don’t overdo it with the coals and get your grill too hot. You want this to be a bit of a slower process. The smoke will help in the cooking process. Your cooking time will depend on the size of your bird. If the process is taking more than an hour, you will likely need to add a few additional coals to each side of your grill to keep the heat up. We cooked about a 5 pound bird and it took about 1 hour 45 minutes. Our grill has a thermometer and the temp stayed close to 300 degrees. You want a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast to register at least 165 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can see if the wings or legs pull easily away from the bird. This is a clue that it is cooked. I highly recommend a meat thermometer though! You certainly don’t want to serve undercooked chicken and chance salmonella poisoning! You can find meat thermometers to purchase at Amazon.com. I love my digital thermometer where I can set the desired temperature and an alarm goes off when the meat has reached that temp.
Chicken, like beef, needs to rest a bit after cooking. Once you pull your bird off the grill, let it sit for 5-10 minutes before carving. This allows the juices to distribute throughout the meat and they won’t all run out when you cut the meat. Be careful pulling the bird off the rack or can. Any liquid remaining in there will be very hot!
I hope you enjoy Beer Butt Chicken as much as we do! It’s always a hit with our friends and family!