Brining the chicken in beer helps to tenderize the meat and adds a mild but apparent flavour to this crispy, moist beer butt chicken!
I learned about the wonders of the Beer Butt Chicken not long after moving to Texas. In fact, I learned about real-deal craft beer not long after moving to Texas. Man-oh-man that place is magic. We celebrated this cooking style regularly and even took it upon ourselves to up the ante on one occasion, using a giant Foster’s beer can to Beer Butt a turkey.
Why am I putting a beer can up there?
The desired effect of barbecuing a chicken with a can of beer up it’s.. posterior, is that as the beer boils, it steams the internal cavity of the chicken, keeping it moist and adding flavour. The reality of the situation is that by wrapping the beer in a chicken jacket (*shudder*), the beer doesn’t get hot enough to evaporate. So why do we bother? Well.. because it looks awesome! For this recipe you’ll be using the beer for the brine and the can simply as a “tripod”. The tripod setup also situates the correct parts of the bird the proper distance from the burners (dark meat down, white meat up) and allows for air circulation to crisp up the chicken skin.. if you’re into that sort of thing.
So then, without the beer steam assisting us, how do we get some delicious beer flavour into that bird? I’m so glad I asked. We perform another little bit of magic I picked up in Texas – we mix up a beer brine!
Choosing a Beer:
The last time I cooked this meal, I doubled the recipe and brined two chickens in two different beer styles in an attempt to discern any difference between the two. I settled on lighter, sweeter styles in an attempt to complement the sweet and salty rub, using Crosswind Pale Ale (Lake of Bays Brewing) and Hey Dey Hefeweizen (Granville Island Brewing). Both birds were remarkably tender and delicious with hints of the styles imparted to the meat, though on a blind test I’m not sure that I could tell which was which. The verdict? There’s no wrong answer! Let us know what you used and how it turned out!
Add all ingredients to pot except for the beer (boiling the beer will only create a foamy mess and possibly boil off some precious alcohol).
Allow the mixture time to cool, pour into a Ziploc bag and add the beer, keeping the can.
Add the chicken to the brine mixture and refrigerate for 5-6 hrs. Do it first thing in the morning and you'll be ready for supper.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to break up any lumps.
Remove chicken from brine, you can pat it dry but there's no need to rinse it off. I know what you're thinking and no, it won't be "hella salty". Promise!
Rub the chicken all over with the spice mixture, lifting the skin on the breasts and the thighs to apply the rub directly to the meat.. I know. Just do it, k?
Prepare the barbecue for indirect cooking and set it to 350°F (177°C).
Carefully insert the can into the cavity of the chicken and sit it on the indirect heat side of the BBQ. You may want to use a tray underneath to help with the balance.
Cook over indirect heat for 1.5 hrs or until the breast meat is 160°F and the thigh meat is 175°F
Allow chicken to rest for 10 mins before carving so that juices have an opportunity to be absorbed back into the meat.
Cut up and enjoy!
Indirect grilling ( no flame directly under the chicken) is pretty important here as it allows for even cooking and crispy skin. Fat dripping onto a hot burner would scorch the crotch and overcook the bird. If you're unfamiliar with the technique it essentially means you keep your heat on one side and the chicken on the other with the barbecue lid down. This means keeping your coals to one side, if that's what you're using, or simply leaving the opposite burner of if you're using propane or natural gas. Check out AmazingRibs.com for more info or feel free to ask questions in the comments.
It's gonna look and smell great.. but you HAVE to let it rest. With the increased juiciness of this recipe, it will pour the deliciousness onto the cutting board if you don't!