I’m cold. I don’t know about you, but I’m damn cold. This winter has been—well, let’s tell it like it is: it’s been hell and that ridiculous groundhog hasn’t even shown up yet. I’m desperate for some heat and you know what they say about desperate times. So in my desperation I’m resorting to warming up my mind, if nothing else, with a hot recipe. Something to get me thinking about sweat, sun, and cold beer. Anyway, where I’m going with this is lighting a cyberfire on a Weber, and cooking up a busted a** chicken. There are other, maybe more politically correct names for it such as “beer can chicken” or “beer up the butt chicken,” but I think my terminology best encompasses the overall experience, both in preparing and eating the bird.
This is my own, award-winning, recipe of busted a** chicken. Yes, I did win an award: third place in the chicken category of the 2002 Jamaican Jerk-Style/Southern Barbecue Cook-Off in Montego Bay, Jamaica. I’m surprised you never read about it. The prize was cash money and, for any doubters, a hand-carved wooden map of the island of Jamaica (see photo below). At the festival, the judge was a Southerner named Rocky and one of my fellow winners was the legendary (in the barbecue world) Big Bob Gibson himself. But enough self promotion and name dropping. Here is the recipe:
1 good-sized chicken (around 4 pounds)
1- 12 ounce can of beer (cheap beer preferred: Schaefer, Miller High Life, or Pabst)
For the rub:
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
4 tablespoons paprika
Mix up the dry rub ingredients. Clean out the chicken, removing any spare giblets or body parts that might be in the cavity. Wash and pat dry with paper towels. Massage the rub into the bird’s flesh and inside the cavity, under the wings and legs making sure it’s properly coated. Let the chicken sit for a half hour or so while you prepare the grill.
Fill up a starter chimney with hardwood charcoal and light it up. If your charcoal is fresh and dry it should take no more than twenty minutes to be glowing hot. While the charcoal is firing up, go get the beer. Make that two beers: one for the chicken the other for you. For the beer you’re going to use for the chicken, open it up and take a few sips until you’ve drunk about an inch of it. If you’ve got an old school can opener make a few extra incisions into the top of the can. If you don’t, you can poke a few holes in the top with a screwdriver or a nail. Whatever it takes to create more openings.
When the charcoal is ready, pull off the grate to the grill and pour in the hot coals. Using a garden trowel or barbecue tongs, stack the coals to one side of the grill. Put the grate back on.
Now it’s time to do the deed. Holding the chicken upright, cavity facing down, slowly impale the chicken on the beer can about two-thirds down onto the can. Place the now busted a** chicken on the grill on the side opposite the hot coals; what they call the “indirect” method. Put the top on the grill keeping the air vents open slightly.
While the chicken cooks, open up the other beer, find a very comfortable seat, and put on some music. Right now, I’m thinking maybe Jack McDuff’s The Honeydripper or Soul Summit with McDuff and the two Boss tenors, Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons. You’d think country would work too, but I’m a city boy. No country for me with the possible exception of the late Charlie Rich and a few others, also now deceased. After about an hour or maybe a beer or two, check on the chicken. Really there’s not much to do there unless the coals are dying down. If they are, you’ll need to add about ten or twelve hot coals to the grill. The whole process shouldn’t take more than two or two and a half hours.
The bird should have a nice dark brown tan by now. Using sturdy tongs, carefully remove it from the grill. Much of the beer in the can should have evaporated; the vapors from those hops and barley seeping into the flesh of the chicken keeping it moist and adding a hint of malt flavor. Still there might be some hot beer left in the can and you don’t want to drop it and have that spill onto you. That would definitely dampen a very relaxing few hours. Let the chicken stand about 15 minutes before carving. If you’re industrious you might want to make up some cole slaw or a pot of greens to go with the chicken. Enjoy.
Alright now. I feel better already just getting that out. They’re saying we might get an inch or two of snow tomorrow. Enjoy the weekend and I’ll return on Tuesday with another Adventures in Chow City.