Friday, August 16, 2013

The Most Fun You Can Have with a Chicken
What’s cooking? Beer-Butt Chicken

The thing I miss most about spending the summer in New Jersey is outdoor cooking. Condo/apartment living means no grilling. And since I usually hand off that job to my husband, it also means I do all the cooking. Not so terrible, really, but I do miss that grilled flavor. So periodically, I persuade my son and daughter-in-law to let us come out and grill at their house.

The last time I did that, I’d had a hankering for beer-butt chicken. If you don’t already know about beer-butt chicken, LISTEN UP. Because it’s the best way I know of to get a moist, flavorful grilled chicken with almost no work. You hear that, folks? Almost no work. The vertical roasting position gives you an even covering of crispy skin, while the beer bastes the meat from the inside to infuse the entire bird with flavor. And the Kitchen Goddess has outdone herself on the spice rub.

But at the kids’ house, we got so caught up in the cooking process and getting the rest of the meal together and admiring my completely adorable granddaughter, that I forgot to take any photos.

Calling it an opportunity, I tried again. But even your own darling children will start to object if you keep calling with, “Hi, I’d like to come out and take over your kitchen.” So this time, I decided to see if beer-butt chicken could be cooked in the oven. Honestly? It turns out that an oven works amazingly well as a substitute for the grill. This time, I remembered to take the “before” photo, but by the time we were ready to eat, I was totally focused on getting the meal on the table, and forgot again to do the “after” shot. Grrrr...

Her “before”  shot  notice how the can and legs form a tripod.
Finally, a couple of nights ago, I tried again. Bonanza! In the meantime, I’d added smoked paprika to my larder, so I used it instead of regular paprika, and while I won’t say it’s a must, the smokiness does come through to nice effect. And the bird posed charmingly for her portrait, don’t you think?

The “after” shot. Yum! Just be careful removing the can – it's hot.

Kitchen Goddess note: While this spice rub is glorious – a slightly sweet, smoky taste with a tiny kick at the end – the technique will work if you just want to squeeze a lemon on the bird and sprinkle it with fresh thyme or rosemary or both. Get the picture? Try for an Indian flavor by substituting garam masala and ginger for the cumin, brown sugar and chili powder; or bring back the brown sugar and add five-spice powder for a Chinese take. Have fun with it!

Beer-Butt Chicken, Texas Style

Serves 4.

For the spice rub:
1 tablespoon chili powder (or ½ tablespoon chili powder, ½ tablespoon Penzey’s BBQ 3000 powder)
2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika (or sweet paprika, if that’s what you’ve got)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or substitute ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper)

1 3½ -4 pound chicken, giblets removed and reserved for some other use*
1 12-ounce can of beer (whatever brand you like)

In a small bowl, combine all rub ingredients well.

Rinse and dry the chicken. If it came with neck attached, you may want to cut off the neck. (Presentation is more attractive without the neck, and what little meat is there is hard to get. But if you have a cat...) Place the chicken in a pan with enough lip that the spice rub doesn’t get all over the place. Sprinkle half the spice rub all over the chicken, as well as in the main cavity.

Pour half the beer into a glass. Pour the remaining half of the spice rub into the can. Position the bird on top of the can so that the can is inserted as far into the main cavity as it will go.

For grill: Pre-heat the grill with all burners on until it reaches medium/medium-low (about 350º). Cooking should be indirect, so once the interior of the grill has reached 350º, if you have 2-3 burners, turn one off; if you have 4 burners, turn 2 off. Set the bird and can onto the “off” side, positioned so that the legs and the beer can create a tripod, with the breast of the bird facing the heat. Close the top to the grill and do not open it for 1 hour. At the end of an hour, check the meat by piercing the thigh with a sharp knife. If the juices run clear, the bird is done; if not, close the grill top and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes.

For oven: Pre-heat oven to 350º. Set the chicken in a large enough pan to catch the drippings, in the center of the oven, positioned so that the bird’s legs and the beer can create a tripod. Close the oven and do not open it for 1 hour. At the end of an hour, check the meat by piercing the thigh with a sharp knife. If the juices run clear, the bird is done; if not, continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes.

*The Kitchen Goddess has long been a fan of chicken livers and gizzards. If you, too, are in that camp, you can save a teaspoon of the spice rub, roll the liver and gizzard in it, and sauté them in a tablespoon of butter while you wait for the chicken to cook. Swoon-worthy.


  1. Lee Stokes Hilton.. It has been a long time, imagine my surprise at coming across your blog which I am enjoying immensely..Enjoy "my" city in Texas.... Ellyn

    1. Hi, Ellyn! It has only taken me 2 weeks to figure out who wrote this post! I'm a little slow. :-) So good to hear from you. And I'm thrilled that you like the blog. Come back any time...L