Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ginger Beer Can Chicken

Roasting a chicken is likely to be the last thing on anyone’s mind while we’re still trying to figure out what to do with all that leftover turkey, so my timing for this post could probably have been better.

Still, this is not about just any roasted chicken recipe. Beer can chicken is one of those culinary staples that most people who cook either have made or eventually will get around to making. Many recipes for beer can chicken are for the grille, some (including mine) are for the oven, but most are similar; you can probably tell from the photo that there just aren’t that many different ways to put a beer can up the back end of a chicken. (I did feel a little intrusive taking this photo, and kept thinking the chicken should really be holding a newspaper.)

Still, wanting to do something different with this fun and interesting cooking method, I made “Ginger Beer Can Chicken.”  Not ginger beer can chicken, mind you, but ginger beer can chicken. It uses the classic beer can chicken approach of baking a chicken with spice rub on its outside and a beverage can in its body cavity to provide a moist, flavorful inside, but replaces the beer with ginger beer and uses a spice rub combination that’s compatible with that.

Ginger beer, for anyone not familiar with it, is a soft drink that’s something like ginger ale but with a much stronger bite and more complex taste and color. (The original ginger beer was an alcoholic beverage, and if you look hard you can still find that, but the soft drink kind is by far the most common now.) Not every store carries it, but finding one that does is worth the effort. I found mine through an on-line search that indicated it’s available in my area at many 24-hour bodega type stores and at Trader Joe’s.

Some general notes before beginning:
  • I admit “ginger beer can chicken” is something of a misnomer, since ginger beer normally comes in a bottle. There are several reasons why I think putting the bottle inside the chicken would not be a good idea, so we’ll be pouring our ginger beer into an empty soda or beer can.
  • It’s possible to purchase a beer can chicken rack to hold both the can and the chicken in place during cooking. This is probably a good idea if you’re cooking it on a grille but, as you can see from the top photo, it’s not necessary for an oven recipe.
  • Be sure to handle the chicken using all the usual safe hygiene practices.
This is an easy and fun method for cooking a delicious, moist chicken. And it may even start some very entertaining dinner table conversations among your family or guests.

Begin by preheating  your oven to 400 degrees. (Be sure the oven rack is low enough to allow the chicken to stand on end while baking.) While the oven is preheating, rinse a four to five pound chicken, inside and out, with cold water, and dry using paper towels.

Prepare a spice rub by combining the following:  2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, 1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon dried sage, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, and 1 teaspoon dried parsley. Rub half of the spice rub under the skin onto the chicken breast meat, then rub the other half inside the chicken’s body cavity. Once that’s done, coat the skin of the chicken with olive oil.

Put 8 ounces of ginger beer into an empty 12 ounce soda can. Cover the outside of the soda can with foil and punch two or three extra holes in the top using a can opener. Insert the can into the cavity (as shown in the top photo) and place the chicken, standing up, in a pie pan (serving as a drip pan) on a baking sheet, using the drumsticks to support the chicken.

Bake the chicken for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 and bake until the internal temperature in the thigh meat is at least 180 degrees (about 90 minutes), basting every 20 minutes or so. After that, remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for about ten minutes.

After the chicken has rested, carefully extract and discard the soda can. While the logistics of removing a hot can from inside a hot, oiled chicken without tearing the chicken and/or spilling the can’s contents into the chicken are often the most challenging part of making any form of beer can chicken, I found a way to make it easy. All that’s required is to punch a small hole in the bottom of the soda can and let the contents drain out. Once the hot liquid is drained, the can becomes much easier to remove using tongs.

You can serve the chicken with cranberry sauce (as in the photo, a recipe I’m putting the finishing touches on and hope to post in the near future), with the pan juices after the fat has been removed using a gravy separator, with a gravy made from thickening the pan juices, or with any other topping you like with chicken.

Want a notebook-ready, cookbook-style copy of this recipe? No problem! Just let me know in a comment or an e-mail and I'll get it right out to you.

I hope to see you again next week. Till then, stay well, keep it about the food, and always remember to kiss the cook. ;-)


  1. MWAH - MWAH. Ben I howled with laughter at this. Not at the recip itself but at the way you put it. And SNAP - my first thought on seeing that first pic was that it ought to have a newspaper!

    The thought of you playing midwife while a chicken gives birth to a beer can really cracked me up.

  2. LOL. You're right. Where is it's newspaper. Poor thing. I've never had beer can chicken, but like you said, I know it is in my future. Thanks for sharing your recipe (and hilarious photo).

  3. Well, ginger beer bottle chicken does sound dangerous....

  4. Thank you, all! It's true, Angie and Merut, about the chicken needing a newspaper. The only other thing I could think of was putting it in little stirrups, but it's probably better not to go there. And, Mary, as for ginger beer bottle chicken, when I hear it put that way it does have a certain Jersey quality to it that I like.