Sunday, 3 July 2011

Recipe: Beer-Butt Chicken

So I bought a BBQ on Ebay.  I really wanted a Weber Kettle but £200 was a bit rich so a few days scouting Ebay led me to a nice Antipodean family in Carshalton who were emigrating and leaving an orphaned grill behind.  £50 - not bad.

Weber Kettle BBQ

Several days spent reading every article on Amazing Ribs taught me many things I never knew about BBQ. You should cook with the lid on, there is such a thing as a BBQ that is too hot, flames are bad and you should not cook whole animals directly above the coals but above and to the side of the direct heat.

I do wonder about the mindset of the first person to jam a beer can up a chicken's backside.  Luckily this approach to cooking a bird has become so widespread that I don't feel playing along impinges my character to any degree.  

I can confirm though that whatever flavour it imparts to the chicken it is a pretty rubbish idea in practical terms as my chicken fell over twice and almost extinguished the coals.  I totally wigged out at this point and needed my wife to calm me down.  Next time I will be using one of these.

The good news is despite all the setbacks it did turn out pretty well with a nice pink smoke-ring under the skin.

The first thing you want to do is rub the chicken all over with a handful of salt (sea salt if you can).  This draws a little bit of moisture out of the meat which should help the skin crisp up.  Wrap it in cling-film and give it a good couple of hours in the fridge.  In the meantime drink 3 cans of the cooking lager you bought so your non beer-geek mates don't drink the good stuff when they come round.  Save one can.

Generic Cooking Lager

Take the chicken out of the fridge and rinse all the salt off.  Dry it with some kitchen roll and put it onto a baking tray.  At this point you want to rub it with a spice mixture.  You need a combination of what I call background notes (half a teaspoon of onion power and/or garlic powder) with some high notes (a couple of teaspoons or so of either Cumin, or Smoked-Paprika or dry Mustard) and another teaspoon of salt.  You could use dry thyme or herbes de provence for a more low-key flavour instead.

Pour away (or drink) half the can of beer.  Now jam that can as far as it will go into the chicken's cavity.  Leave the chicken like this for about 30 minutes at room temperature.

Raw Chicken Balanced on a Beer Can

Set the BBQ up for indirect cooking.  Halve your coals so one half is against each side of the BBQ with room for a roasting tin in the middle.  If you fill this tin with water if will keep the cooking environment humid which will be useful to prevent the chicken burning (as well as catching drips from the chicken).  

If you have a BBQ thermometer you are aiming at a temperature of about 180-190c on the grill.  Place the chicken very carefully on the cooking grate above the water pan.

At this point you have a choice; smoke or no-smoke.  On this occasion I chucked two handfuls of apple-wood on each pile of coals and immediately closed the lid.  There is no need to soak the wood despite what the instructions may say.

I had an organic chicken of around 2.1kg which took around 1.5 hours to cook (a supermarket chicken may take less time).  As it always the case with BBQ you really need to take the temperature of the chicken to see if its done - this should be at least 77c but you will find some conservative sources claiming 83c.  Many sources will go slightly below 77c but I didn't want to take any chances with a whole chicken.

Take the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh (between the thigh and the body).  If you want to be totally ninja then you need a wireless thermometer so you can watch telly and still know the temperature of the grill and the meat (note I had the meat probe in the wrong place - hence the temp plus its in farenheit)

Maverick ET-732 Wireless Thermometer and a bottle of very nice American Craft Beer

And the result...

Smoked Chicken straight off the BBQ

Ready to be carved!

Lunch tomorrow!



Anonymous said...

Think you need a proper stand - keep the chicken from falling over... Something like


Anonymous said...

"I do wonder about the mindset of the first person to jam a beer can up a chicken's backside.
I would wonder about the mindset of anybody that deems jamming anything up a backside a good idea.

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