the other 4th of July celebration: beer can chicken

While the United States celebrates Independence Day on 4th July, a shrine to patriotism and the red, white and blue, there is a small festival held in Denmark on the same day in honour of Max Henius, a Danish American who discovered the process of fermetation and established one of the first schools of brewing in the USA. What a clever man and in his honour, I give you beer can chicken . . . (or as a friend so elegantly put it "chicken with a beer up its ar*e" , , , charming girl. But something to really celebrate. Cheers!

A chicken sits somewhat inelegantly on an open can of beer, a style of cooking which keeps the chicken succulent and tasty, with the dry spice rub giving an extra layer of flavour. The chicken can be cooked on the barbecue or in the oven . . . you have a bit of a toss-up between extra flavour on the barbie or ease in the oven, (I find the chicken is less likely to topple over! You can actually buy special stands which help to prop up the chicken and prevent any barbecuing mishaps.)

Only one other thing to bear in mind, cooking the chicken on the barbecue like this does keep it moist, but the skin will be much softer and slippier than one roasted in the oven. It just doesn't crisp up. Well, to be more honest, I have never been able to get it as crispy as oven-roasted chicken. But you might have better luck than me.

Serves 4
Skill level: Moderate


1 x 2kg chicken (without giblets)
2 tbsp vegetable oil (sunflower will do)
2 tbsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp dry spice rub (There is a wide variety to chose from proprietary brands, or you could use the version below)
1 x can of beer (cooking lager is fine! Something cheap like Carling or Fosters.)
1 x bay leaf

spice rub:
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika (or half sweet paprika and half smoked)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
¼ freshly ground black pepper
  1. Make the rub by combining all the ingredients, in a small bowl
  2. Rinse the chicken inside and out and pat dry.
  3. Rub the chicken with a little oil and then the rub mix, both inside and out. Season with salt and pepper both inside and out. Set aside.
  4. Open the beer can and empty out half of the beer. (Chef's treat for later?).
  5. Tear the bay leaf into strips and push into the beer can and down into the beer.
  6. Place the beer can on a solid, flat surface.
  7. Take the chicken, a chicken leg in each hand, and place the bird's cavity over the beer can. Adjust so that the chicken is solidly in place over the beer can.(You can actually buy special stands for this to take some of "will it fall over" moments away).
In the oven:
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C / Gas Mark 6.
  2. Place the beer can with chicken on top in a roasting dish, that is deep enough to catch all of the chicken juices and bake for 10 minutes. As you will probably have to put the chicken on a lower level of the oven than you would normally do, the chicken may take a little longer to cook.
  3. After 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 180C / Gas Mark 5 and cook for a further 1 hour and 20 minutes or until the juices run clear; (prick the thigh with a sharp knife or fork to check). Baste every 20 minutes or so with the juices.
  4. Remove the beer can (which will be hot!) and wrap the chicken in foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
On the barbecue:
  1. Heat the grill to about a medium high heat.
  2. Place the beer can with the chicken on the top in the centre of the barbecue, but in an area without coals directly underneath. This chicken is going to cook on an indirect heat. The chicken will look pretty ungainly, but the beer can is acting as a sort of tripod, with the bird balancing on it's 2 legs around the can that the chicken is sitting over, so it gets only indirect heat. If using coals, place the bird in an area without coals directly below it.
  3. Cover and cook over this indirect heaat for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the thigh juices run clear: (prick the thigh with a sharp knife or fork to check). The chicken should be steaming hot and there will be no pink meat.
  4. When the chicken is cooked, remove from the barbecue. Remove the beer can (which will be hot!) and wrap in foil and leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

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