Beer Can Chicken Revisited: Debunking Myths


Twenty years have handed since a a lot youthful Steven Raichlen ready a beer can hen on the Today Show.  That adopted his New York Times story on beer can hen, and sure, a Beer Can Chicken guide (Workman Publishing) that has offered almost a half million copies.

In current years, there’s been a variety of web trash speak about beer can chicken.   (It feels somewhat like a marketing campaign to disprove the existence of Santa Claus to a child.)

So how does this singular dish—and the notion of roasting a hen on an upright open can of beer is definitely singular—arise right this moment?

But earlier than we study the controversies, first a little bit of historical past.

Beer can chicken burst on the barbecue scene round 1995, and whereas I didn’t invent it (I realized it from a Texas barbecue group known as the Bryce Boar Blazer), I did introduce it to the American mainstream.

The beer can hen naysayers give attention to Four points: cooking dynamics, moisture, taste, and security.

Myth #1: Beer can hen results in overcooked hen.

The thermodynamic points query simply how a lot warmth is carried out by the can and beer to the within of the hen.   Not a lot, claims “Debunking,” which matches on to level out a disparity between the inside temperature of the hen (165 levels F) and the way a lot you need to warmth the outside to get there (180 to 190 levels F).

Well, I gained’t argue with their numbers (the one temperature I search for is 165 levels within the thigh—the indicator the hen is fit for human consumption).   But I’ll say that I’ve nearly by no means eaten an overcooked beer can chicken—certainly, for me, one of many virtues of beer canning is that it’s a way more forgiving cooking course of than straight oblique grilling or spit-roasting. So nota bene: should you are likely to overcook hen, beer canning is for you.

Myth #2: The beer can prevents the Maillard impact (a.ok.a., flavorful browning) from occurring.

As far because the declare that that the beer can prevents the Maillard impact (a.ok.a., flavorful browning) from occurring contained in the cavity—properly, I don’t learn about you, however I search for the browning on the outside.   Dark crisp pores and skin is, in fact, the most effective a part of a roast hen and due to its vertical place and the truth that the pores and skin on the again of the hen roasts in addition to the pores and skin on the breast, beer canning provides you all of the crisp pores and skin you would want for.

I’ve by no means seen a hen brown within the cavity.  In truth, I typically stuff a hen with lemons or garlic or celery or herbs to taste it from the within out.   What issues to me concerning the inside is taste.   I’ll save the Maillard impact—the luscious browning and cellophane crispness—for the pores and skin.

Myth #3: Beer can hen is harmful.

The third “delusion” I’d like to deal with is the alleged “hazard” of beer can hen.   I’ve made tons of of beer can chickens and taught tens of hundreds of scholars and TV viewers to make beer can hen.   Never as soon as have I had or heard of a severe mishap.

Sure, generally a beer can chicken will fall over.   You choose it up with insulated food gloves or tongs and upright it.   Maybe somewhat sizzling beer spill (and perhaps it doesn’t), but it surely’s definitely no extra “harmful” than dealing with a lit chimney starter.

But should you’re nervous about falling hen, merely use a beer can chicken roaster.  It holds the hen upright and the drip pan collections the recent fats.   And must you want to attempt “beer can” hen with wine, cider, or one other beverage, merely fill the chrome steel canister.

Beer can chicken roaster

Another benefit of my beer can chicken roaster is the drip pan on the backside.   Better fats in a drip pan, then flowing freely onto your grill (which it will probably trigger flare-ups) or onto your deck.   (Although widespread sense calls for putting a foil drip pan underneath your hen underneath the grill grate to catch the dripping fats.)   By its very nature, grilling includes sizzling coals, sizzling fats, sharp knives and different pointy implements (to not point out alcoholic drinks).   Yet tons of of hundreds of thousands of individuals do it round Planet Barbecue every day with out harm.   Once once more, I name on widespread sense—should you’re too drunk or in any other case intoxicated to prepare dinner a beer can hen safely, you shouldn’t be on the grill.

As far as “contamination” by the ink on the beer can label, the can itself, or the plastic lining, that is the one factor we did have examined in a laboratory earlier than we printed my Beer Can Chicken guide.   We did intensive testing—not simply on chickens—however quail, duck, and even turkey—not simply with beer cans, however with soda and fruit juice cans.   We wished to see if any residue—from the steel can, plastic liner, or label ink (printed with edible dyes because it seems)—wound up within the meat. In check after check, it didn’t.   If beer firms haven’t embraced the method formally, properly, we dwell in a extremely litigious society.   I don’t think about beer firms object to any further gross sales that will have occurred via beer canning.   In any case, I’ve by no means seen a warning label that reads “don’t insert this beer can in a roast hen.”

Myth #4: Steaming beer doesn’t assist hold the hen moist.

Which brings us to the declare that the steaming beer provides taste and retains the hen moist.   Well right here the parable busters might have some credence.   I’m undecided truthfully and objectively I might inform the distinction blindfolded between a beer can chicken cooked on a can of Budweiser and a second one cooked on a can of Guinness—or for that matter, on a can of Coke.   One factor I can say for sure: the extra beer you drink, the extra pronounced variations appear to grow to be.

Does the steaming beer hold the hen moist?   I wish to suppose so, though different barbecue web sites appropriately state that the evaporation of the beer (i.e., its switch from the can to the hen) is minimal.   Here I have to depend on expertise: beer can hen simply tastes moister than most typical roast hen.   Scientifically, I can’t clarify why.

This brings me to 1 factor beer canning does that different cooking strategies don’t.   It forces you to prepare dinner the hen in an upright place.   This assures uniform browning on the again and sides in addition to the breast.   (Remember all that Maillard impact roasting and crisp pores and skin?)   It can also foster moistness.   I come to this principle after pondering how individuals spit roast hen round Planet Barbecue.   The quick majority of rotisserie masters skewer their chickens perpendicular to, not parallel to the spit.   This means they roast at the very least a part of the time in a vertical place.   I’ve seen the observe in France, Turkey, Thailand, and South America.   It should hold the hen moist.

But all these arguments about physics and chemistry miss a very powerful good thing about beer can hen.   It’s enjoyable!   There’s whimsy and irreverence to roasting a hen upright on a can of beer.   It’s enjoyable to see, enjoyable to do, and enjoyable to serve.

Happily, not everyone seems to be trashing beer can chicken.   New York Times author Sam Sifton (no slouch on the subject of good instances outdoor) included beer can hen in a fairly spectacular summer season feast within the Times Sunday Magazine.

And yearly at Barbecue University, I ask if there’s anybody within the viewers who has by no means seen beer can hen.  Inevitably, a number of college students increase their arms.   So yearly, I add beer can hen to the menu and yearly, the completed hen—neck cavity steaming, pores and skin crisp and brown, meat supernaturally moist—by no means fails to convey smiles to newbies and extremely skilled grillers alike.

So I’m sticking with beer can hen.   It appears cool.   It tastes nice.   And it’s enjoyable.   Santa Claus, your secret is secure with me!

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