Monday, August 25, 2008

Spicy Beer Can Chicken

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 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


  1. I have been meaning to try this beer-can chicken method for years now. I am re-inspired by your post. such fun!

  2. I've seen recipes for beer can chicken before but I've never actually tried it. Which is odd considering those are probably of my two favorite things.

    After seeing this, I think I may run out and grab a charcoal grill. NOthing like waiting until the end of August to start grill season.

  3. Hi Alexandra, it's so much fun to make these chickens! And they taste sooo good!

    Hi Jon, haha! Beer can chicken is seriously good eating. This can be done on a gas grill too, if you have one of those. Turn the heat on only on one side of the grill, add smoking chips to a foil packet placed over part of the hot side, and sit the chicken up in a aluminum pie pan (or place a drip pan beneath the grates on the side of the grill that is off - where the chicken will be.)

    Or, buy a charcoal grill and a chimney starter, it's the best way to go in my opinion! I live just outside of Boston and grill all winter long!

  4. I've always wanted to experiment with this, but have yet to do so! You'll think this question is weird, but what do you think would be a good substitute for the beer? I don't drink alcohol, so I don't buy beer, but I've always imagined other things I could use. I'm assuming the beer is for moisture from the steam, with a little flavor, right? I wonder if I could use apple juice or something... On Next Foodnetwork Star, that guy stuffed herbs in his beer can too, that would probably be good too. Wow, this comment is long, I'll stop thinking out loud. But let me know if you have any ideas! Your chickies look great!

  5. Hi Sara,

    A can of apple juice would be a GREAT substitute for the beer! Real barbecue (slow and low) is often basted with apple juice throughout the long, slow cooks so apple juice would be great. I guess you could also try a can of soda - I have no idea what kind of flavor it would impart on the chicken though. Maybe some ginger beer, or ginger ale, or maybe even a coke. That would be an interesting experiment - but apple juice, definitely!!

    In my can of beer I added some of the spice mixture that I rubbed all over the chickens as well as some butter. Adding some fresh herbs to the can is a great idea!

  6. Hi One Food Guy,

    I just found your post today and I am so happy to hear my episode on Grill It! with Bobby Flay inspired you to make your own beer can chicken. Thanks for watching the episode and taking the time to blog about it!!

    Robin Koury

  7. Hi Robin! Thanks for visiting my site! I'm flattered that you would stop by and leave a comment! I've been a big Bobby Flay fan for many years and really enjoy watching him cook on his shows. It looks like you both had some fun!

    Your spice rub is excellent! I modified it a little to give it some extra smoky heat!


  8. I came across your recipe and just wanted to let you know that I have included it in my Cajun Drunken Chicken section of my website. I try all recipes before adding them and your came out beautiful. I loved the spicy rub. The hot paprika really made a difference. Great recipe! Well written and beautiful pictures!

  9. Hi Coshon, I'm glad you liked the outcome of the beer can chicken. I too loved the rub but can't take credit for the base recipe. Cheers!