Gas versus Charcoal is an age old debate and I am firmly planted on the side of the charcoal supporters. I have two Weber Kettle charcoal grills, an old 18.5" Silver and the larger 22.5" One-Touch Gold. Years ago I made a beer can chicken on the 18.5" grill and I couldn't get the lid all the way closed without smashing down the chicken. Earlier this summer, I bought the 22.5" grill which has more grilling surface area, obviously, and higher clearance under the dome lid, perfect for beer can chicken.
When I woke up yesterday morning I was not planning on making beer can chicken. But I turned on the Food Network and saw Robin Koury, guest on Bobby Flay's new show 'Grill It', pulling a beer can chicken off of Bobby's big gas grill. I logged onto FoodNetwork.com and grabbed the recipe for her Spice of Life Beer Can Chicken and I knew what I was doing that afternoon. Robin also made a grilled macaroni and cheese that looked amazing, but I digress. Beer can chicken was on the menu at Chez One Food Guy on Sunday and wow was it good!
I planned for dinner around 7pm, so I knew that I would have to get the chickens on the grill no later than 5:30pm. That meant that I needed to start prep work around 4pm which meant I needed to go to the market! I picked up a couple 4lb birds at Whole Foods Market as well as some Hungarian Hot Paprika for the base of the spice rub, and other items for the side dishes. I stopped at my local liquor store to pick up a six pack of beer, in cans, and I was good to go.
I mixed up the spice rub (see below for the recipe of my own version of the rub) and gently separated the skin from the breast of the chickens without removing it. I rubbed the chickens with the spicy goodness under the skin and all over, inside and out of the chickens. I cracked open a couple beers, drank half of each of them, and added a little butter and a little bit of the spice rub to each of the cans before stuffing the beer cans into the chickens rear ends.
While I was preparing the chickens, I lit a full chimney of charcoal and soaked some mesquite wood smoking chips. When the charcoal was ready, I placed a drip pan in the middle of the grill and poured the charcoal onto the sides of the pan, creating an indirect heat source to cook the birds. See all that smoky goodness rising up around the chickens? When the lid goes on these chickens are going straight to grill heaven!
Every twenty minutes I rotated the chickens 1/4 turn to ensure even cooking; this picture here is after just twenty minutes on the grill, look how golden brown they are already! Truth be told, the grill was running a little hot (over 400 degrees) so I closed down the bottom vents to just less than half open which eventually would bring the grill temps down to about 350 degrees, just where I wanted it.
Here are the beautiful chickens in all their spicy goodness, one hour and twenty-five minutes after entering grill nirvana. I pulled the birds off the grill at this point and tented them with foil in the kitchen while I prepared the rest of the meal.
Dinner is served! I quartered each chicken, separating the thigh and drumstick from the breast and wing and served them up with some homemade sweet potato and scallion salad and homemade cucumber salad. Everything was great, except for the mosquitoes. We ate dinner out on our patio while the mosquitoes ate us!
Recipe for Robin Koury's Spice of Life Beer Can Chicken
Spice Rub for 2 Beer Can Chickens
1/2 cup Hungarian hot paprika
4 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
1 heaping teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 heaping teaspoon ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic salt