We really like beer can chicken, where you prop a whole chicken on a half-full can of beer or some other liquid enhanced with some aromatics. You also rub the chicken with a dry rub to make it extra yummy. It’s a rather foolproof method for chicken because you cook it using indirect heat. The chicken sits off to the side of the hot element (or if you have a charcoal grill, away from the live coals) so you don’t need to worry about flare-ups. Flare-ups are the bane of chicken grillers. With this method, you can set it and forget it for about an hour.
I have a can holder that provides a bit more support so the bird doesn’t tip over. It’s not that hard to balance the chicken on the can (you shove the can up the bird’s butt and balance it on its legs and the can) but the can holder makes it really easy. Here’s what it looks like without the chicken and can in place.
You can find these in kitchen stores and any store that carries a lot of BBQ accessories.
Though beer can chicken is traditional, many other liquids are used to add flavor and moisture. This recipe is from Beer Can Chicken and 74 Other Offbeat Recipes for the Grill by Steven Raichlen. Raichlen is one of the giants in the field of BBQ and grilling. I have a bunch of his books and they are all fantastic: comprehensive, detailed, and full of delicious recipes. The North Carolina pulled pork recipe I posted a couple of years ago is from his excellent BBQ USA. If you are into grilling, BBQ, and live fire cooking, you need his books. I met him here in Boulder during a book signing, and he’s a real nice guy too!
This recipe calls for peach nectar but I didn’t have any. I used guava nectar. That works too. So, feel free to substitute apricot, guava, or mango nectar instead of the peach in both the can liquid and the sauce. The sauce reminds me of the duck sauce we used to get when we ordered spareribs at the Chinese restaurant. It’s pretty sweet but totally addictive. It would also be delicious as a glaze on salmon.
Peach Nectar Chicken
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
12 ounces peach nectar (or some similarly fruity nectar like guava or mango)
1 3″ cinnamon stick
1 chicken, 3 ½ to 4 ½ pounds
2 cups of fruity wood chips (applewood or grape prunings)
Place the wood chips in a bowl and cover with water. Soak for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.
Combine the brown sugar, paprika, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon, and cardamom in a small bowl and stir to mix.
Measure out ¾ cup of peach nectar into a small saucepan for the BBQ sauce. Make 2 extra holes in the top of the can with a church key type opener. Put the cinnamon stick in the can and set aside.
Remove the giblets from the cavity of the chicken. Blot the inside and outside of the chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of the rub in the body cavity. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon of the dry rub in the neck cavity. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of the rub on the outside of the chicken. Spoon the rest of the rub into the can. Place the chicken on top of the can. If using the can stand, put the can in the stand, then the chicken on the can. Tuck the wings behind the chicken’s back.
If using a gas grill, turn one or two elements on to high and leave one element off. That’s where the chicken will go. If using a charcoal grill, get a batch of coals hot and when they are glowing, push them all off to one side. Drain the wood chips and put in a metal pie plate covered with foil and punched with a few holes or the smoker box. Place the chips on the hot side of the grill to get them smoking. Once the chips get smoking and the grill is hot (350-400°F), reduce the temperature to medium so you maintain the temperature, and place the chicken on the side of the grill that is off (or without any coals). Cover and cook for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours until the internal temperature in the meaty part of the thigh registers 180°F. While the chicken is cooking, make the Peach Barbecue Sauce.
Peach Barbecue Sauce
¾ cup peach nectar (that you put in the saucepan above)
½ cup ketchup
2 Tablespoons peach or apricot preserves
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon dark rum
½ teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
¼ cup water
salt and pepper to taste
Put all the ingredients except the salt and pepper in the saucepan with the peach nectar you reserved from above. Heat over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until thick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature with chicken. Store any leftover sauce in the fridge for up to 1 week. Reheat before serving.