August 25, 2008

The "Beer Butt" Chicken

We have been eating the "beer butt" chicken regularly for two summers now. Last night I introduced it to friends who also raved about it. It's so easy! I am going to share my recipe so that more people can enjoy this amazing way to prepare chicken.

Jill's "Beer Butt" Grilled Chicken Recipe

Use a grill with a tall enough lid to cook a chicken standing upright, like my Weber kettle grill.


1 can beer
2 bay leaves, crumbled

Dry Spice Rub (Use this one or your personal favorite)

1 tablespoon sumac or za'atar or 1 teaspoon each
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground sea salt (WARNING: do not use salt on kosher chickens)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Soaked pieces of fruitwood

Mix the spices in a small bowl. Wash, dry and season the chicken generously inside and out with the rub. Work the mixture well into the skin and under the skin wherever possible. Stand upright in a bowl and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak pieces of fruitwood in water (I use apple wood Rik trimmed from our trees). Light the charcoal. I use a full chimney starter placed over the lower rack in my grill.

Pour out half the contents of a 12-oz. can of your favorite beer. (It's okay to drink it.) Punch two more holes in the top of the open can. Crumble the bay leaves into the beer left in the can. You can also use fruit juice or wine instead of beer, and an clean, empty metal can from another beverage.

Place the chicken's large cavity over the beer can and stand upright on the grill over indirect heat. The bird’s legs create a pedestal. To prevent flare ups on the grill place a disposable aluminum pan on the lower rack under the bird and add 1/4 cup of water.

Place coals on two sides of the barbecue grill. Cook chicken in the center with legs facing the coals (not back and breast).

(I believe this can be made on a gas grill. On a three-burner grill, light the two outside burners and place the chicken in the center over the unlit burner. On a two-burner grill, light one side and place the chicken over the other, unlit burner. Turn the chicken halfway through the cooking time.

I've also made it in the oven. Stand chicken in an oven-proof pan and add 1/4 cup of water. Cook at 350° until done.)

Cook for about 1-1/4 hours. The chicken is done when it is dark golden brown and the temperature measures 180° degrees in the thigh with an instant-read thermometer. Take off the grill and place on a heatproof cutting board to rest for 5-10 minutes. Remove the beer can from the chicken with tongs. (Be careful, the aluminum can and the liquid in it are very hot and can burn you.) Carve and enjoy!

My recipe is adapted from the version by America's Test Kitchen. Rik was watching TV one weekend afternoon and yelled for me to come see this amazing beer butt chicken demo. And here is the original recipe by Rick Browne from his book "Grilling America" (2003 ReganBooks).

PS Last week Rik found this great "beer butt" chicken cooking gadget that eliminates the need for a can and does a better job of balancing the chicken on it's legs. Ours is non-stick, not stainless steel, and we only paid $5 at TJ Maxx for it. Such a deal!

1 comment:

  1. bjohanna8:03 AM

    She's right -- it's yummy. Good enough that I briefly entertained the idea of getting a grill.