ONE SEXY BIRD
I’m what you might call a late adopter. Exaltations of new and revolutionary tend to be met with a great deal of suspicion, if not outright derision, in my house. To my mind the tried and true will always win out over the hot and newfangled. Typically, when presented with the latest version of “the greatest thing ever” my gut reaction tends to question if this new thing is so goddamned great why wasn’t it always done that way? I like my world broken in and familiar.
To that end I religiously avoided an e-mail account or even owning a computer for years, using an antique typewriter for as long as I could throughout college (it took professors threatening to dock letter grades if I didn’t get with technology for me to give it up). After that I took a stand against cell phone ownership, finally giving in to appease my worrisome mother on a solo cross-country drive I took in an old Toyota pickup. Years later, Facebook was yet another battle that I lost. And now here I am writing on a blog of my own creation and occasionally twittering like some silly bastard… it could be said that I’m a very weak opponent of progress. But I’m an opponent none the less. And I’ll paint that in a cave.
But my progress aversion isn’t limited to technology alone. Anything new is met with dislike first, questions later. Thus was the case with beer can chicken. I had read about it. Heard about it. Had some of my grill nerd buddies gush about it. All the while I thought, if this whatchacallit beer can in the chicken with the beer can thing was so goddamn good, why wasn’t a chicken born with a beer can in it’s ass? Again the thinking went, if it’s such a superior way to cook a bird, why wasn’t it cooked that way 100 years ago when things were done with craft and skill?
Well I’m not sure. Maybe because 100 years ago beer would have come in a lead can and heating it inside a bird would kill you. But that’s a side point.
Eventually, and as usual, I gave in. It was with great skepticism that I first attempted the beer can chicken several years ago. Admittedly my intention was to prove a point rather than make a delicious bird. Yes, chickens have died in much more noble pursuits. But I was sure I could prove that the beer can was an unnecessary bit of newfanglry that could be dismissed outright with the proof being in my own smoked chicken pudding, so to speak. Looking back, the whole practice makes me feel a little like the old guy who gets cable just so he can bitch about the remote, but I was legitimately skeptical. So skeptical in fact that I made six chickens that day—three different seasonings, each done with and without the beer can.
What happened definitely proved a point, but not necessarily the point I had in mind. The beer can versions were better across the board. Juicy succulent bird flesh dripping with buttery, garlicky, smoky chicken schmaltz, crispy snapping skin, strong hints of hot pepper and smoke. All with the gentle added flavor of beer steam. In short, it’s a damn sexy bird—one with the sort of thigh and breast you should feel privileged to partake in. I know purists might say that smoked chicken should be cooked by smoke and nothing else (read, not with beer steam), and I tend to be smoker strict constructionist. But the quality of bird yielded by the beer can method is tasty enough to open the door to pragmatism. Show me a better bird sans-can and I’ll change back. But as they say no one preaches like the converted.
And I am now quite a thorough beer can chicken convert. They’re quick, easy and require little more than a beer, a chicken and a few choice seasonings. I like to make mine with salt and pepper and then lots of chopped garlic and fresh serrano peppers stuffed up underneath the skin. A good sized bird takes about 4 hours over low heat and provides a nice midnight snack when you’re smoking something much more involved, like a brisket.
Beer Can Chicken
Open a beer. Get your smoker going at about 225 with a rolling oak fire. Wash your chicken inside and out. Season the cavity and skin of the bird with lots of salt and pepper. Mix your serranos and garlic together with more salt and pepper. Seeing as how you should have finished your first beer by now, open a second, drink half of it and insert the remaining half full can into the bird. Feel moderately dirty for a moment. Put the sexy bird into the smoker and let sweet, sweet love happen for a few hours. Open the door, enjoy and eat. Don’t drink the beer from inside the chicken unless you’re one of those chug the bong water types, in which case you’ve got greater issues.
The result is a smoked chicken brimming with bright fresh pepper flavors and garlic with enough smoke for anybody who enjoys tending a backyard pit.