Let the grilling begin: Beer Can Chicken

I am ready for summer!  As I write this it is cold and rainy outside, but we have actually had several nice balmy days lately.  Add to the balmy days a mostly re-done patio and the outside just beckons to be enjoyed.  Alex and I re-did the patio over Christmas and have been steadily finishing it up since then (my family has a tradition of starting large projects over the holidays).  The one big thing the patio is currently missing is a built in grill with prep counter space.  However, over the holidays our sewer line to the city went and so we got to replace that instead of paying the contractors to build our grill.  Oh the joys of the being homeowners!  But, I think it might have actually worked out ok because I didn’t really know what we wanted as far as grilling goes.  So, my dear readers, this summer is going to be dedicated to me researching and doing lots of grilling to figure out exactly what we want (and hopefully by the fall we will have saved up some more money for a new grill).  My skills with the grill are severely lacking and from my brief research foray yesterday there seem to be lots of options for a new grill along with tons of “must have” accessories.  Our current grill is the very basic Weber with absolutely no frills to it at all.  It is a charcoal grill and we use a chimney to get the charcoal going.  I intend to grill as much as possible without buying anything extra for it (since it will be hopefully up on Craigslist in the fall).

So my first project was beer can chicken.  I had heard of it in passing and the reviews were fantastic and it seemed like something that required no serious grilling ability or accessories, just a chicken and a beer can.  So first rule of grilling: it seems to take about 45 minutes to get the charcoal going.  So start it about an hour before you need it (just to allow for it being windy and hard to light).  The chimney is pretty self-explanatory.  You put newspaper bunched up in the bottom (but not too tight: the fire needs air!) and then fill up the top with charcoal.

Use a lighter to light the paper and let it go for a bit.  Check on it every 15 minutes or so to make sure the fire is still going and to check on the coals.  The charcoal is ready to use when it is light gray on top.

While your charcoal is getting going, you can work on prepping the chicken.  Take the chicken out of its wrapper and wash it thoroughly with cold water.  Then dry it off with paper towels or an old dish towel (I keep my old dish towels around for this specific purpose.  The towel does much better than paper and it is one less paper towel in the trash.)  Rub olive oil all over the chicken and then rub it down with this mixture of spices which I varied from here:

1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2teaspoon ground coriander
1/2teaspoon ground cumin
1/2teaspoon ground black pepper

Then take a can (I used an empty soda can) and fill it half way with your liquid of choice.  You can use beer, wine, soda even.  I used white wine because I had an open bottle in the fridge and no cans of beer.  Insert the can into the cavity of chicken (basically up it’s butt, I know, I know, insert crass joke here).  Place the chicken and can on a small cookie sheet and it is ready for the grill.

Hopefully now your coals are nice and gray-colored and ready to go.  Take them and pour them out on each side of the grill leaving  the middle section open.  The chicken cooks by indirect heat so you don’t wan the coals directly underneath the chicken.  The place the chicken on its cookie sheet in the middle of the grill.  Place the lid on and open the air flow.  Set the timer for 45 minutes (my chicken was about 3 pounds).  Then check it to see what temperature it is by placing the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast.  My research varied as to whether it needed to be at 160 degrees or 180 degrees.  I aimed for somewhere in the middle.  The other clue that the chicken is done is that the juices that run out when you stick in the thermometer will be clear.  It turned out quite well especially since the chicken had been in the freezer for several months!

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